With 768 million people living without clean drinking water around the world, many people think that we just need more money to solve the world’s water crisis. Currently, about $8-9 billion is spent each year to provide clean drinking water and toilets to communities living without these most basic human needs. Last year, The World Health Organization estimated that it would take $400 billion to get water to everyone around the world, and $2 trillion to achieve universal access to water and sanitation when combined with the cost of maintaining new and existing infrastructures. These, of course, are estimates.
So will more money solve the water crisis? Of course more funding will help us reach more people with clean water, but the investment required goes far beyond a dollar amount. It takes smart partnerships and careful planning to develop projects that offer sustainable programs that empower the local community. This takes more than money; it takes time, and getting all the right people at the table.
Recently, I was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to launch a new project between The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and WaterAid that is making safe drinking water a reality for people living in one of the poorest suburbs of the nation’s capital. Our extensive meetings included people from Coca-Cola and WaterAid from both the United States and Burkina Faso, a local government official, people from our local NGO partner, and representatives from the local water utility company, all together, at the same table. It’s not a surprise that the word "local" comes through three times in that sentence; that’s where and how projects can thrive and people feel responsible; that’s where change happens. At the table in Ouagadougou, our conversations took place in both English and French to make sure that everyone understood their role, and agreed to be accountable for their responsibilities. The investment is not just on the side of the funder, it’s from everyone at the table – the funders and recipients alike.
Our collaboration in Ouagadougou will bring five water standpipes to a community called Balkuy, and our WaterAid team in Burkina Faso, alongside local partner AMUS and water utility ONEA are making good progress to reach this goal. More than 6,000 people will have access to clean, safe drinking water this year as a result of the collaborative project. Given that 1.7 million people achieved access to safe water with the help of WaterAid during the last year alone, I often catch myself referring to this as a relatively small project. However big or small, I cannot begin to count the hours that we have spent on making it a successful collaboration, most especially our staffs and partners in Ouagadougou. I cannot begin to quantify the investment of the collective time, energy, passion and dedication of everyone at the table, but having met the families and children of Balkuy, I can tell you it’s worth every penny.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of WWF.
You can also read this blog post on Coca-Cola’s Unbottled.