As part of my role is managing our social media channels at One, I get to read a lot of feedback from our online community on a daily basis. This is one of my favourite parts of the job as I get to engage with hundreds of thousands of supporters who are often very vocal in congratulating and thanking us for what we do.
But, because of what we do, we sometimes get people asking us about our programmes as well – mainly the sustainability of our projects. Questions like “do you think about the long-term picture?”, “what happens when the funding has run out and you leave?” and “doesn’t this lead to aid-dependency in Africa?” and so on. And I think people are quite right to challenge us on these issues and should continue to do so. If you’re going to make an investment by donating or supporting One Drinks, just like any other financial investment, you’re going to want to make sure that the money is being spent as best as it can and that no more money will have to be invested in the same project again in the future.
I’m currently in Kumasi, Ghana, on the last leg on my trip to visit our water projects in Africa. I’ve spent the last two days with our Ghanaian team, meeting the inspiring locals who are ensuring sustainability at every level of our systems-led programme. So I hope they can help to answer all of your questions, as they have for me this week:
Meet Richard and Marcos – two construction workers from Adukrom
Richard and Marcos have been involved in the building work that has connected Adukrom to a sustainable water system since the start of the project. This has included constructing 1,300 metres of water-pipes, a high-level storage tank, four fire hydrants and 49 standpipes that provide clean, safe water to all 32,895 residents in this low income area.
Richard explained: “Now we’ve built the water system in Adukrom, it is up to us to manage and maintain it to make sure water keeps coming out of the taps for everyone. This means that we will invest the money that we make from providing water back into the system, as well as receiving funding from the district – which has taken responsibility for the on-going success of the project. We’re already at the stage where we’re able to manage this all by ourselves and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Meet Gloria – a health coordinator and teacher at Apraman Basic School
Gloria and her colleague Alex are two teachers (out of the 20) who have become Health Coordinators at the school. This means ensuring that after the school’s new water and sanitation facilities were built and connected to the system, the 600 different school children would be educated in the relevant health, sanitation and hygiene issues and the amenities would be looked after.
Gloria explained “We meet with the children once a month to talk about personal hygiene, menstruation, sanitation and general health and wellbeing. We’re also around every day to help the kids if they need it. Looking after the facilities is easy, as the children are taught how to keep it clean and we have a fund from the Parent Teacher Association that pays for cleaning products, toilet roll, soap and the maintenance of the building”.
Meet Afia – a water seller at Kotei
Afia is a water seller at one of the eight public standpipes in Kotei, which provide clean water to 8,500 community members. She sits outside her house, which is next to the tap, and sells water to the community for 20 pesewas (about 3p) for 4 litres.
Afia explained: “My neighbours come to me when they need water and I give it to them from this tap. I make a percentage on each sale as this is my full-time job from early in the morning until late at night. I look after the area to make sure it’s clean, safe and looked after. We have enough funds to repair the tap if this is needed.”
Meet Sandra – Head of the Community Management Committee at Kotei
Sandra is the Head of the Community Management Committee at Kotei, which oversees the operations and maintenance of the water system and all of its facilities within the community – and they’ve been successfully managing this ever since the project started in 2010.
Sandra explained: “Before we had this system people used to collect water from a polluted and dirty stream that often used to dry up. Now we have clean, quality water, jobs and revenue for food and health. I make sure all bills are paid to the service provider and there has never been an issue. We’re a community that can now look after ourselves without relying on funding from organisations.”
Spending the last two days immersing myself in our systems-led programme in Ghana has truly shown me how sustainable our water projects are. From the construction workers, to the schools, water sellers, Community Management Committees and beneficiaries – all are ensuring that they maintain a system that will continue to provide clean water, sanitation and health to their whole community forevermore. We have quite a vision here at One – working towards a world where everyone has access to clean water forever – and from what I’ve seen this week, this project will undoubtedly help us to take an important leap towards achieving this monumental goal.