Weekly Roundup – 3/23/13: More than coins in a wishing well
“It will be a huge challenge for human dignity.”
That was Hungary’s UN Ambassador Csaba Korosi, as was quoted by Al Jazeera in an article published yesterday, World Water Day. The story profiled the UN campaign to combine sanitation and water conservation efforts to move hand in glove with one another. Specifically, Korosi was talking about the projection that 65 percent of the world’s population will live in or around cities by 2020, only exacerbating the problem of waterborne illnesses that accompany the estimated 2.5 billion people without basic sanitation.
The theme for this year’s World Water Day is cooperation. And when you consider Korosi’s perspective, there’s really no other alternative but collaboration. Technology and stakeholder partnerships, to say nothing of consumer behavior and deeply entrenched mindsets about how much of the world views water, will have to change.
A very good example of how various players can break a pattern of immobility was the Water Futures effort, which was outlined in an article cross posted yesterday from Business Fights Poverty here on NB. Here are a few more from around the Web that I thought were worth mentioning:
• Acumen Fund is an investor in Pharmagen Healthcare Limited in Pakistan, which supplies 100,000 liters of clean and affordable drinking water each day to low-income residents of Lahore through a network of open water shops. The company is expanding thanks to the investment and is in the process of opening 32 new water shops. Pharmagen charges about $0.45 for a 20-liter container, which is enough for a family of six for two days. Jay Jaboneta, an Acumen Fund Global Fellow and co-founder of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, is working with Pharmagen in Lahore. On Friday he blogged about overcoming deeply hardened points of view for both workers and customers about water as a product:
“In a way, we’re competing against the mindsets of both our employees and target market as the social enterprise model is new to them. Some employees have a hard time understanding why we sell a high-quality product at such a low price. Our target market is not accustomed to paying for water at all.”
• Susan Davis, a founder and current president and CEO of BRAC USA, an affiliate of BRAC has this cautionary tale about water investment in the Harvard Business Review. When the NGO plunged into community-owned tube wells and irrigation pumps in the 1990s, the complexities of the project made it one of the NGO’s “biggest failures.” In just a few years program quickly consumed 9 percent of BRAC’s total microfinance portfolio, encompassing 700 pumps covering 27,000 acres.
“Since water deep in the ground doesn’t belong to anybody, we thought of giving loans to organizations of the landless poor to drill and manage deep tube wells and sell the water to rice farmers, who would in turn benefit from higher yields. … It also meant gauging demand for irrigation with a certain level of precision, which meant accurately forecasting the sale price of rice.”
• Perhaps learning from the BRAC experience, VisionFund International highlighted how microfinance can play an integral in humanitarian development through the example of Rural Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene (RIWASH), a multi-partner project run by charity partner World Vision in Sri Lanka. The effort began in 2010, just one year after Sri Lanka ended its 26-year civil war, and brought together the Canadian Institute for Development Assistance (CIDA), and the Australian Government (AusAID), in conjunction with the Sri Lankan government. The public aspect of the project creating supply and sanitation facilities reading 23,000 people in schools, villages and estates in the impoverished Nuwara Eliya District. Once most of those facilities were operational, VisionFund entered, providing loans to the RIWASH beneficiaries – more than 400 families have received loans to start their own businesses. Those enterprises have not only helped increase in household income, but also help to support the RIWASH project. VisionFund notes the examples of boutiques selling spare parts for household water systems and promoting hygiene by selling soap and shampoo, as the result of the loans.
• For even more case studies, I’d recommend checking out a report from BoP research and analysis firm, Hystra, titled Access to Safe Water for the BoP. Published in 2011, the report outlines how 15 successful water ventures, both public and private, are bringing life’s most valuable resource to those without access. The data are from October 2010 to June 2011, but many of the projects and tactics are still relevant for today.