The United Nations designated March 22 World Water Day in 1993, following the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. Since that time, the annual event grows awareness, education and coordination on water and sanitization efforts around the world. Yet 2016 saw a push towards personal accountability and job creation that has many private and public sector organizations more excited than usual. Not only can clean water improve health, but it can also create revenue for those who maintain well sites.
Therefore, the theme of 2016 (Better Water, Better Jobs) focused on job creation and community development through establishing a clean water supply and sustainable well facilities–giving homage to the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. When everyone is in desperate need of a job, some successful organizations are looking to share their lessons learned.
Sub-Saharan Africa Is A Well Graveyard
According to Forbes, the Rural Water Supply Network estimates that between 30-40% of all wells in sub-Saharan Africa are broken–costing money and lives. Once broken, the World Bank contends more than $1.2 billion has been wasted on non-working wells over the last 20 years. This disuse is primarily due to poor construction and a lack of tools and spare parts, as well as a lack of people who have skills to fix the broken wells. And this is exactly why former water consultant to UNICEF’s Division of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Becky Straw runs The Adventure Project–a nonprofit helping to make districts in India and Africa self-sustaining by teaching people in districts in India and Africa how to repair and maintain their wells.
But what is most important is that it creates jobs and an opportunity for economic growth, which is key to getting individuals, families and communities out of poverty. It further shifts water assistance from traditional humanitarian relief to job training. However, it is important to note the emergence of nonprofits such as The Adventure Project, WaterAid and Charity:Water in past years, as the UN has been greatly criticized for wasting money on job training programs that have not worked–most often in our most vulnerable countries and villages.
Therefore, nonprofits are stepping in to bridge the gap between government and the private sector (which normally maintain working well sites), with the goal of providing the most skills training to the most people. Yet to help communities help themselves, long-term proficiencies and education take time–and resources–including teaching “mechanics” how to build parts.
Pay It Forward
The Adventure Project claims its training model has already led to the creation of 862 jobs. The organization also has a strong record of success on the well front, having fixed more than 64 wells to date, serving over 25,000 people. Further, by requiring that people pay four cents per jerry can, the mechanics earn a living while being accountable to each and every member of the community.
As of two years ago, this process led to one district in India actually becoming self-sustaining. Efforts in Uganda are trending in the same direction, where two years ago only 37% of The Adventure Project’s home district had clean water, and now they have surpassed 50%. The goal is to reach 100% by 2020.
One creative way that the team is standing out from the other nonprofits, though, is the desire and ability to install water meters on each well. This enables women to know that they are getting the amount of water that they pay for and additionally allows tracking of the well functionality. The group has even gone so far as to open-source an Android app to collect data on the water being used, the wells themselves and the number of people using them. The hope is that the hearts and minds of foreigners who want to make a difference no longer cringe at supporting humanitarian aid, but instead donate in ways that create international job development and support personal accountability.