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Archives for Water and Sanitation

World Water Day

As the Global Water Coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I spend a lot of time thinking about water and figuring out ways to ensure we help more people have access to more water. It’s not an easy problem and one-size fits all solutions do not apply. Instead, I’ve found that the best solutions require catalytic problem solving and outside-the-box innovations, open collaboration and creative competitions. And it requires taking a closer look at previously overlooked sources of water.

 In Burma USAID and P&G partner to provide clean drinking water and promote sanitation practices for some of the country's most vulnerable.

In Burma USAID and P&G partner to provide clean drinking water and promote sanitation practices for some of the country’s most vulnerable. (Photo: Kelly Ramundo/USAID)

Last week, millions of people globally celebrated World Water Day and one of life’s most basic requirements – water.  A building block of life, water is also at the core of sustainable development and is linked to every major development challenge. The focus of this year’s World Water Day was the nexus between water and energy, underscoring the crosscutting nature of this issue.

World Water Day banner

World Water Day 2014

Today, I am pleased to say we are seeing greater emphasis on this “nexus” approach as more and more people focus on holistic, integrated approaches to water challenges; looking at linkages that include water and energy; water and health; and water and agricultural production and health.

We announced the launch of a couple of brand new efforts that I believe are redefining the way USAID invests in water. I’m particularly excited about the new Desal Prize, an innovative prize we are launching in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (MFA-NL) to identify small-scale, low-cost solutions to brackish water desalination.

Brackish water is what you commonly find in ponds.  It’s thick, it’s murky, and it’s not exactly something you’d want to drink. However, with estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in severe water stress conditions by 2025, brackish water is increasingly being considered a viable source of water for crops, livestock, and even human consumption.

The Prize, which won’t officially open to applicants until May, will award up to $500,000 in prize money and $75,000 in “seed” money to individuals or organizations that develop cost effective, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable desalination technologies that provide safe water for drinking and for livestock and crops in developing countries.

Ten to 12 semifinalists will receive $5,000 as seed money to test or further develop their device. From this group, select finalists will receive an additional $5,000 to continue their project in the field before a judging panel selects the awardee(s) of the $500,000 grand prize.

The Prize is part of the $32 million Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development. Launched at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Securing Water for Food aims to source, incubate, and accelerate innovative solutions to produce more food using less water around the world.

In addition to the prize launch, we also announced the 83 semi-finalists from Securing Water for Food’s first $15 million open call for innovations. The semi-finalists were selected from over 500 applicants from 90 countries, 70 percent of which were developing countries. The 83 semi-finalists are working on groundbreaking water technologies and new financing products to improve water access. You can go to securingwaterforfood.org/SWFF-semifinalists.html to see the full list of semi-finalist organizations. Awardees, who will be announced later this year, will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and business development assistance.

Meeting Water, Food and Health Needs in Kenya

On this World Water Day 2014, I am encouraged by how USAID’s water programs around the world contribute to integrated approaches that meet the objectives of the Agency’s Water and Development Strategy, as well as the Feed the Future and the Global Health Presidential Initiatives. During my recent work in Kenya with the USAID team at Kaputir and Kalimngorok, I was able to see first hand the efforts to strengthen Kenya’s resilience to disease, climate change, drought, floods and water shortages.

Across Kenya, USAID’s AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Plus (APHIAplus) program is working to strengthen and improve healthcare systems. In Kaputir, the APHIAplus Integrated Marginal Arid Regions Innovative Socialized Health Approach (IMARISHA) project supports a health clinic and a Community-Led Total Sanitation project.

Photo Credit: Martin Mulongo

Photo Credit: Martin Mulongo

As I walked up a slight slope to the village of Kaputir, the first thing I saw was the gigantic masonry water tank that holds 13,000 gallons of water situated next to a one-story, concrete block clinic with maternity, pharmacy, consultation and emergency rooms. The front of the clinic has a small porch on which children and adults sit in a long line, partially shaded from the sun, waiting for their turn to receive basic medical care. The clinic staff proudly showed me their microscope, as well as their solar-powered refrigerator used to store medicines and blood samples.

Photo credit: Martin Mulongo

13,000 gallon water tank in Kaputir (Photo credit: Martin Mulongo)

Also as part of APHIAplus IMARISHA, the nearby community of some 6,000 people is working to achieve “open defecation-free” status. For example, the house right next to the clinic is leading the charge by being the first to add a pit latrine; it has a slab covering the hole, surrounded by a thatched fence and a “tippy-tap” handwashing device with water and soap.

In the same community, another project implemented by the Millennium Water Alliance, through their partner World Vision, supports a large water storage project connected to a nearby borehole. The combined efforts of these programs ensure integrated water, health, sanitation and hygiene services, which in turn reduce the prevalence of diarrhea, a major contributor to childhood mortality.

As we drove into the Kalimngorok area, we looked out at the flat, brown, dry landscape with few bushes and no rivers or streams in sight. At first glance, I wondered how one could grow anything here. In the distance I saw a large water catchment, built to capture and store rainwater for both human and livestock consumption and irrigation. A secondary benefit of the catchment is that water has seeped through the earthen floor, helping to restore groundwater underneath. At the base of the catchment, the community has installed a substantial metal pump on a concrete slab to draw water from the restored aquifer. In the surrounding fields, farmers experiment with different crops resistant to drought, using soil tillage techniques to increase the capture of rainwater when the rains arrive.

WFP Irrigation project in Turkana -Kalemngorok

WFP Irrigation project in Turkana -Kalemngorok (Photo credit: Martin Mulongo)

We also visited USAID’s Turkana Rehabilitation Program in Kalimngorok, implemented by the United Nations World Food Program, which integrates rainwater harvesting technology and food production through a range of water management practices. I walked through the fields observing construction of on-farm contour bunds (embankments) that capture rain as it falls on fields and increases yields, and the building of water pans (shallow retention ponds that store water for irrigation and watering livestock).  The program also promotes improved nutrition by establishing fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, diversifies income through bee keeping, and reduces environmental degradation through establishment of micro-catchments.

At both Kaputir and Kalimngorok, I am left with the sobering firsthand realization of the challenges of assisting thousands of people in this arid environment. But I am also left with a sense of optimism. We saw progress in action in capturing and storing water, providing healthcare, navigating the lack of an electrical grid and producing crops in such an arid environment. USAID/Kenya’s approach of layering, integrating and sequencing its technical interventions and projects brings hope that over time these activities could be expanded and provided at scale, changing the lives of thousands of people for the better.

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Saint Lucia

Girls in Laborie use water from storage tanks after a December 2013 storm disrupted regular water service. Photo courtesy of the Laborie Disaster Preparedness Committee.

Girls in Laborie use water from storage tanks after a December 2013 storm disrupted regular water service. Photo courtesy of the Laborie Disaster Preparedness Committee.

In this next installment in the Pounds of Prevention series, we travel to Saint Lucia. In early 2013, USAID teamed up with the Laborie Disaster Preparedness Committee to help the district become more resilient to the impacts of natural disasters. Specifically, USAID partnered with the committee to design and install a rainwater harvesting and storage system to ensure an adequate supply of safe drinking water in the event a disaster rendered the public water system inoperable.

As part of the disaster preparedness project, the committee installed 6 rooftop rainwater catchment systems and a total of 18 potable water storage tanks at public schools, churches, and a health center in Laborie. The committee also held public meetings in the Laborie area to reach the population of approximately 10,000 people with information about the rainwater harvesting project and provide guidelines for how the system would work during an emergency.

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Growing More Food With Less Water

When you sit down to your next meal, take a look at your plate.  How much water do you see? The obvious answer might be “little” or “none”.  But the surprising truth is you are likely consuming thousands of liters of water every time you sit down for a quick bite.

Estimates suggest the average American consumes an amazing 3,496 liters, or 924 gallons, of water every single day. That’s over 14,500 glasses of water per a person, per a day. And that represents the amount of water needed to produce the food we eat.

Experts tell us that current levels of water consumption are simply not sustainable as the global population continues to grow and climate and environmental changes impact available water resources.   Projections suggest that between 2000 and 2050 water demand will increase by 55 percent globally, meaning that the number of people impacted by water scarcity and stress will continue to rise. Already, approximately 2.8 billion people—more than 40 percent of the world’s population—live in river basins impacted by water scarcity.

What’s more, food and agricultural production—which accounts for 70 percent of all water use—is also on the decline and threatening the global food supply. As the global water resources become increasingly scarce, we must learn how to adapt to a new reality. In part, this means learning how to do more with less. Learning to use available water better, learning how to store water more efficiently, and learning how to grow more food using less water.

At USAID, we believe that we must mobilize the global community into action around this critical development challenge. We believe that we must learn how to do more with less so that all people have enough to eat and that science and technology are at the root of a sustainable, scalable solution to the global water challenge.

A farmer in Iraq grows healthy crops by using innovative irrigation techniques.

A farmer in Iraq grows healthy crops by using innovative irrigation techniques. Credit: USAID Water Office

That’s why on September 2, 2013, at the opening session of World Water Week, we announced Securing Water for Food:  A Grand Challenge for Development.  This $25 million Challenge will identify, source and bring to scale promising new low-cost innovations that use existing water resources more efficiently, improve water capture and storage technology, and reduce salinity of existing resources to ensure new sources of water for agricultural production in the communities USAID and Sida serve.

On November 27, USAID released the first call for proposals for the Challenge. During this first round of the Challenge, the Founding Partners aim to provide up to $15 million to fund entrepreneurs, businesses, innovators and scientists that are seeking to launch a new innovation or to expand an existing business in new markets.

Eligible applicants are invited to submit concept notes beginning November 27, 2013 through January 17, 2014. For full application details, go to: www.securingwaterforfood.org.

Securing Water for Food is the latest in USAID’s series of Grand Challenges for Development which seeks out innovative new technologies to critical development challenges. Learn more about USAID’s Grand Challenges for Development.

Follow @SecuringWater on Twitter to get the latest news and updates about the Challenge.

Access to Water Empowers Women in Morocco’s Middle Atlas

I recently returned from Outerbate, a village high in the Atlas Mountains in central Morocco, where USAID broke ground on a new water supply system. In this Amazigh, or Berber village, the water supply system is more than 80 years old and serves only a handful of the village’s 300 homes.

I met Fatima Mazrou, a woman in her late 70s, who shared, “When we look for water, we sometimes get frozen and sick because the weather can go to below 10 degrees. It takes me at least one hour lining up to get water. Water and bread are critical to our survival.”

Increased access to water changes women and girls' lives in Morocco. Photo credit: USAID

Increased access to water changes women and girls’ lives in Morocco. Photo credit: USAID

I was surprised to see that women do most of the hard work of filling buckets to provide their families with water. The challenge is that the village’s 1,200 inhabitants must fill buckets and water containers at a common tap, and the task disproportionately falls to the village’s women and girls.

During the summer months, the tap frequently runs dry. Water-related health problems are common. In the winter, this arduous trek up the mountain in freezing weather and back to the village carrying heavy pails of water leads to health problems for women, including miscarriages.

The time and work involved collecting water also means reduced primary school attendance by the village’s girls. Kuba Hamou, a sheep herder, told me that ”having better access to water would eventually free women to pursue income-generating activities and help keep our daughters enrolled in school.”

Financed by USAID’s Development Grants Program, the Outerbate water system is being installed to address some of these challenges. Implemented by a local NGO, Al Kheir, the program will provide clean drinking water to every home in the village, ending the current practice of women and girls filling water containers at a common tap. With the introduction of the new system, girls’ attendance in schools should also increase and hundreds of families will have access to water and improved sanitation conditions in their homes, schools and public areas.

In addition, we have been able to work with Al Kheir in other life-improving ways. We helped the village set up a thriving artisan business selling locally produced honey and apple juice. And within Al Kheir, two young women are now on the association’s board of directors – the first time a woman or a youth has served in this capacity. Since this project began, Al Kheir has begun working with European and Japanese donors on other projects.

“None of this would have been possible without the engagement of USAID. We appreciate their support and its effects on our village,” said Haddou Maadid, Al Kheir’s president.

At the heart of USAID Forward is a belief that our results are always better when we partner directly with local institutions since they are empowered to take control of their future. In Outerbate, we are helping a village access safe water. By working directly with local partners, our assistance is amplified far beyond the water tap.

Photo of the Week: Innovating in Tanzania for Water Quality

This innovation - implemented by USAID's MEASURE Evaluation project and supported by LAUNCH - is a simple test that can measure water quality in the field without a lab.  Photo Credit:

This innovation – implemented by USAID’s MEASURE Evaluation project and supported by LAUNCH – is a simple test that can measure water quality in the field without a lab. Photo Credit: Acquagenex

 

Photo of the Week: Securing Water for Food

Securing Water For Food: A Grand Challenge For Development

On September 2, USAID and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) announced a new program “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development“ to address water scarcity, one of the most pressing global challenges. Through this Grand Challenge, we will identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security and alleviate poverty.

To advance meeting this goal, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures announced last week that it will invest stage 1 funding in mWater’s mobile tech and open data solution to clean drinking water.

Learn more about the “Securing Water for Food” Grand Challenge.

Read more about mWater’s project, and learn about USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program.

Like USAID on Facebook and follow @USAID on Twitter for factoids, photos and interesting stories during World Water Week with hashtag #WWWeek

Photos of the Week: AID in Action: Delivering on Results

Driving human progress is at the core of USAID’s mission, but what do development results look like?

USAID is measuring our leadership in results — not dollars spent — implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to save lives. Through investments in science, technology and innovation, USAID is harnessing new partners and young minds to transform more lives than ever before. Our new model for development embraces game-changing partnerships that leverage resources, expertise, and science and technology to maximize our impact and deliver real results.

Take a look at the Agency’s top recent and historical achievements in promoting better health; food security; democracy and good governance; education; economic growth, and in providing a helping hand to communities in need around the globe.

Read the stories behind the results in the special edition of FrontLines: Aid in Action: Delivering on Results.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDpubs for ongoing updates on the best of our results!

From the Field in Lebanon: Learning that Water Is Everyone’s Responsibility

I found myself transported back to childhood as I cheered with a group of boys and girls in a school auditorium. We were watching a USAID-sponsored puppet show, “Chasing after Water,” which ran in schools and public libraries in nine cities and villages across the Bekaa region of Lebanon.

Located 30 km east of the capital, Beirut, and part of the Litani River Basin, the Bekaa is the Lebanon’s central agricultural valley. The entire area has suffered from depletion of the water table due to unsustainable agricultural practices and individual water-use habits. Efficient management of the region’s water resources is paramount. It is also a region that has hosted large numbers of those that have sought refuge from the crisis in Syria.

The king of the puppets considers solutions for water shortage, during a USAID-sponsored performance in the Bekaa, Lebanon. The shows were part of USAID’s partnership with the Lebanese government to increase awareness about water conservation. Photo credit: USAID

The king of the puppets considers solutions for water shortage, during a USAID-sponsored performance in the Bekaa, Lebanon. The shows were part of USAID’s partnership with the Lebanese government to increase awareness about water conservation. Photo credit: USAID

To help raise awareness about this need, USAID’s Litani River Basin Management Support program collaborated with the Litani River Authority to put on a series of activities, including the puppet show I attended. Around 5,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11 attended the shows, in addition to 100 children with special needs.

The show starts by telling the story of a king who is concerned about a water shortage in his kingdom. He embarks on a mission to find the root of the problem and — eventually — a proper solution. With the help of a loyal citizen, he traces the causes of the shortage: water pollution and absence of water conservation practices. The children in the audience watched with great enthusiasm and were eager to hear about the solution. As it turns out, that solution lies in the hands of consumers, young and old.

As part of each performance, children were called on-stage to participate in a role-playing activity that emphasized the show’s theme: that it is everyone’s responsibility to conserve water. At the end, students heartily sang a jingle and took home a booklet with water-related games they could play with their families.

كلنا مسؤولين؟ ايه! مسؤولين كلنا!

كلنا بالهوا سوا وأكيد بمايتنا!

Are we all responsible? Yes, we are all responsible!

We are all in this together … when it comes to our water too!

— Refrain from the “Chasing after Water” jingle

Children got to be on-stage during the shows, playing games that helped reinforce the messages about their role in responsible water use. Photo credit: USAID

Children got to be on-stage during the shows, playing games that helped reinforce the messages about their role in responsible water use. Photo credit: USAID

The students’ enthusiasm as they learned about managing their water consumption habits and protecting water resources confirms the importance of initiating awareness in early life. Such initiatives complement USAID’s other efforts to develop infrastructure that will improve water service delivery for all Lebanese citizens.

My journey back to innocence continued as I sang the jingle myself as we drove back from the school. I was even prompted to share the water conservation tips with my 9-year-old daughter and start practicing them in our home. So, we are also reinforcing the program’s message that “water is everyone’s responsibility.”

The USAID Litani River Basin Management Support is four-year program that supports more efficient and sustainable water resource management in Lebanon’s Litani River Basin. Learn more about USAID’s work in Lebanon

Curbing Open Defecation in Liberia to Save Children Under Five

In Liberia, open defection is the most common sanitation practice. This fact, coupled with a lack of access to safe drinking water results in high levels of fecal-oral diseases and related child deaths. The USAID-funded Improved Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (IWASH) program is addressing this problem, conducting behavior change activities in order to convince Liberians to change their sanitation practices and take responsibility for making improvement necessary in their communities to become open defecation-free.

WASH program beneficiary. Photo Credit: Bendu Doman-Nimley/USAID

WASH beneficiary. Photo Credit: Bendu Doman-Nimley/USAID

Since February 2013, Global Communities (IWASH Implementer) has engaged 120 communities in an aggressive campaign to end open defecation. By July more than half were certified by the Government of Liberia (GOL) as Open Defecation-free and an additional 40% are on track to reach this status by August. This has been achieved without providing the communities any material or financial support to dig latrines or build the dish racks and clothes lines required for the designation. All the work is done by community members and all the materials come from the local area. Global Communities and the GOL are co-implementing the program, which is considered “community-led” as all decisions about what actions will improve the community’s sanitation practice are made by the community members.  Through the process of community monitoring, natural leaders emerge, who become a key point-of-contact for monitoring the communities’ progress.

Once the communities’ become open defecation-free, the Natural Leaders are encouraged to form networks to provide mutual support to each other. These networks are also invited to participate in engaging with new communities to change their sanitation practices. The Natural Leaders understand the challenges innate in changing the personal habits of Liberian’s, as well as the work involved in becoming open defecation-free. They are the perfect advocates.

At a recent health fair held to celebrate the launch of A Promise Renewed, IWASH Natural Leaders were present to talk about their experiences with the program. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stopped by the WASH booth and talked with Esther Moye, a Natural Leader from a rural county.  Esther located her village on one of the GIS monitoring maps and described the work that had been done to transform the community’s sanitation practices.  President Johnson-Sirleaf was impressed by the activities and encouraging toward the program’s expansion, “Liberia needs more sanitation development and I am happy to hear people are stepping forward to take responsibility to meet these needs.”

The IWASH program is also training WASH Entrepreneurs to repair hand pumps and manage small businesses supplying WASH related products and services. The entrepreneurs will be sustainable through their own profitable businesses in pump repair as well as supplying soap and WaterGuard (water chlorination) in rural communities. These WASH Entrepreneurs are drawn from Natural Leaders and provided with initial contracts to repair hand pumps in school and health clinics to launch their businesses.

The IWASH program is addressing sustainable change in sanitation practices and safe water supply in Liberia. Through these activities the exposure of children to fecal-oral disease will be reduced and the promise of a healthier life for children under-5 will be renewed.

Learn more about the WASH partnership.

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