My favourite sport is basketball and a close second is athletics in general. As LBJ would tell you, both defence and offence is imperative to win an NBA championship. It is important to play on both sides of the floor.
This quote from Desmond Tutu convinced me that I couldn't just play defence with Sustainable Water. We have to play offence as well.
There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in. Desmond Tutu
When I look upstream it becomes very clear that there is someone who is benefitting from the water status quo. Several months ago someone asked me ," Are you doing this for the money? ". My answer was a laugh then " NO". If I was, then I chose the hardest way to make money."
Born and raised in Kenya, where there is lack of water, it is easy to see that where there is great suffering ,there is often great profit. You can also ask the people you are helping. "Which institutions that are benefiting from your suffering?" asks Glenon Doyle in her book Untamed. Going upstream means I not only have to identify those pushing people in the water, but also to challenge and hold accountable those doing so.
THE WATER CRISIS SYSTEM
This system comprises of governments both in developed countries and developing countries, charities, those who fund charities and the victims of the water crisis.
Having talked to several people both in the developing countries and in the diaspora, most Africans don't want to see the dignity of their children exploited for the sake of charity fundraisers. Those are our mothers,brothers and sisters dying on top of garbage heaps and in desert places without water. It is a novel idea to say that you can actually solve the water crisis without using the faces of hungry and thirsty children as the face of your campaign. I should know because my marketing team thought I was insane. After all it is the done thing!
Those who want to solve the water crisis and bring equality into the world do so easily through donating to charities whose visions they believe in. AWESOME!
But let me also charge you with some accountability. If before your donation a child is walking 7km in search of water, how would you feel if after your donation they are still walking the same distance, looking for the same resource.
This is the reality of the hidden water crisis. Your money funds handpumps which then break down because they have no maintainance. 50% of all handpumps installed in Sub Saharan Africa annually ,breakdown after 1-2 years. This is not a sustainable water solution that ensures continuous supply of water. The water problem recurs and the children keep being exploited through campaigns on TV.
If you asked them to track the children they used, some charities cannot because it was never about them in the first place.
The governments know that there is nothing that is free. USAID, UKAID are examples of government sanctioned aid that always goes to developing countries. The known truth is that aid money always comes with conditions. When charity is given on one hand, raw material resources are often taken in another. Post colonial systems are also maintained to ensure 99 year leases on raw materials continue. Aid quiets the questions. Governments in developing countries are also complicit through corruption and abandoning the greater good for selfish gain.
France is not ready to move from that colonial system which puts about 500 billions dollars from Africa to its treasury year in year out. As of 2019, 14 African countries were still obliged by France, through a colonial pact, to put 85% of their foreign reserve into France central bank. They later voted to exit that pact.
LOBBYING FOR A WHOLE YEAR
It is clear to see why it is not enough to just identify the players in the system that benefit from the suffering. It is important to confront them on both sides inorder to dismantle the injustice.
We had to lobby the ministry of water in a Kenyan county for a whole year before they could permit us to install the first solar water pump in the county. They had 2 diesel water pumps whose fuel was paid for by the government. However, the government rarely sent money and if it was, it disappeared into people's pockets. Such is the level of corruption. We were not asking them to pay for the solar water pump or drill the borehole. We had already done that. We were in their offices informing them and acquiring the necessary water permits.
Thinking that this would be easy in easy out, we were surprised when they said no. We asked for details and they said that they didn't have the expertise to maintain the technology. A valid point. They recommended we install a diesel water pump because they were equipped to handle that. It is called lobbying because you don't stop until you change their minds.
We flatly refused to install a diesel water pump because they already had two in the county and at that moment, they were not supplying water. The monthly cost of diesel required to run the pumps was high and neither the ministry of water not the residents had the money to pay for it. We triumphed when we made an economic argument. By comparing the lifetime cost of a solar water to the lifetime cost of a diesel water pump, we convinced them to not only go for solar but they also paid for the whole system. Solar energy is free diesel is not.
This was not a #quick win. But the impact is there to be seen to this day. More counties in Kenya now only tender for solar water pumps for public supply of water . Are you willing to put in the work required to change minds?
Instead of AID/charity, come with honour and integrity.
Instead of handpumps, find sustainable water solutions
Instead of exploiting our children, protect their dignity
Instead of quick wins for you, make it about the people.