For the 25th time, the world is joining forces to celebrate World Water Day and to direct attention on the importance of water. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water – a situation that affects health, education and livelihoods. SDG6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030. This is great, but are the majority of the activities undertaken really making a difference in the long run?
Is it helpful if we continue to build water fountains for free? Is it sustainable to provide access to drinking water by government projects for subsidized costs? Are foreign parties needed to develop sales channels for drinking water in base of pyramid markets? How big is the social, economic and ecological impact of these activities?
We have been asking ourselves these questions in the past year intensively. Despite laying out our NEXUS Concept holistically, 90% of our income in Nepal is generated by selling water. Up to 35’000 Nepali benefit from the NEXUS Water of our ten Centers and the NEXUS School Projects have enabled access to safe water for over 6’500 schoolchildren. We are proud of these achievements, but we are also disenchanted by their lacking sustainability and long-term effects.
Questioning the current approaches
Our customers mostly know about the importance of safe drinking water. And because it is essential for survival, EVERYBODY has a source of drinking water. It might be of bad quality, far away or not always available. But that means: Paying for a sustainable drinking water supply is always a question of budget allocation. What if people do not want to spend enough money to buy safe drinking water? Entrepreneurial approaches will be very difficult to execute successfully. And still, to eventually reach the 2.1 billion people with safe water solutions, we must come up with sustainable business models, which includes financial profits along the value chains.
We are not questioning the importance of water and SDG6. We are questioning the approach many organizations, including us, have taken and continue to pursue. The approaches are often isolated, one-sided, not sustainable – neither economically nor ecologically – and they do not lead to the aspired long-term transformation.
Holistic thinking for a bigger impact
In our opinion, the focus must be on the holistic development of rural regions. We have to tackle the multi-faceted challenges of the local communities in an overarching way. If we want to offer services against payment, we might have to secure their income first. To do so, we must engage with the communities on a long-term basis and build trust.
WECONNEX has chosen to act, has adapted the concept and tries to connect the dots. Our extended NEXUS Approach – embodied by NEMACO in Madagascar and NEFACO in Nepal – integrates infrastructure development with income opportunities, market access, education and technology transfer. Yes, it is more complex, but the life of our customers is complex, too.
While everyone today is celebrating their achievements in water issues – which have their full legitimacy for benefiting those in need – we want to use the opportunity to challenge these achievements by asking, if those 2.1 billion people could not be reached in more efficient and promising ways? What do you think?
Source: nexus ch