This article summarizes the results of water productivity assessment in 10 river basins across Asia, Africa and South America, representing a range of agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions. Intensive farming in the Asian basins gives much greater agricultural outputs and higher water productivity. Largely subsistence agriculture in Africa has significantly lower water productivity. There is very high intra-basin variability, which is attributed mainly to lack of inputs, and poor water and crop management. Closing gaps between ?bright spots? and the poorly performing areas are the major tasks for better food security and improved livelihoods, which have to be balanced with environmental sustainability.