In the Vision of FairWater, rural communities in Africa are not anymore "poor" backward local settlements, in which helpless people suffer all the time and should always depend on NGOs and foreign aid. Aid and Charity is nice, but often have little to do with lifting people out of poverty and giving them a future with better well being.
We see rural communities as proud, economically stable groups of families that are happy to live the way they do.
For this, they need of course a reliable and affordable source of sufficient & safe water. Water has two main aspects; (1) Availabiliy and (2) Storgae. In mosty cases, groundwater is therefore the best choice, because storage in the ground is safe; surface water can be polluted and is not always available all year long in rural communities.
But groundwater needs to be pumped up, every day. Rural communities need a reliable and cost-effective way to pump and to store groundwater to enable a sustainable development. Therefore FairWater promotes Sustainable "BFC" Development.
What is Sustainable "BFC" Development?
There are a lot of defenitions about "Sustainability" and "Development", but it is not always very clear how to achieve this. We use therefore the very simple BFC concept for Sustainable Development. BFC stands for: Better, Faster & Cheaper. In other words, Sustainable Development is a process in which activities of the people are done (1) Better, (2) Faster, and (3) Cheaper.
The crucial element in the BFC concept, is that the all 3 aspectes (Better, Faster and Cheaper) must improve and be sustainable more or less at the same time in order to have a lasting impact. If any of these elements is less or will decrease with time, the total impact is less and not sustainable. It is also clear that it is not so wise to only work on one of these aspects; for instance, if you only improve the quality with a water filter, but the recurrent costs are also going up and is not compensated for instance by more income, the initiative is nice, but classified as temporal charity and will not be sustainable.
Imagine a table with these 3 legs. If any of the 3 legs is shorter, the table is not very practical and if any of these legs is getting smaller with time, the table will eventually fall over and be useless. So in order to lift people out of poverty, the 3 elements of the BFC table should grow with the same rate. If one leg is not sustained and gets shorter with time, the table cannot be used.
Translated to water supply, the BFC concept means:
(1) Better: More water of better quality, better taste and safer;
(2) Faster: Close by the users, no long waiting lines, not walking hours for water, best are taps at home;
(3) Cheaper: No high cost of repairs, no high bills from the water company, no waste, no dripping taps.
FairWater therefore developed and promotes the BlueZones concept: the best solution for sustainable water for rural communities in Africa. BlueZones use the rock-solid & reliable Dutch BluePump that are installed and maintained by a regional & professional organization.
The actual situation is that most NGOs still see rural communities as individual settlements that live in isolation. The handpumps that NGO donate are fragile and not part of a regional maintenance system. Instead, the pumps are supposed to be maintained by the community themselves. This is called the VLOM approach. The experience of the last 20 years has showed that this VLOM apporach does not work. Most community handpumps in Africa do not last longer as 3 to 5 years, over 150.000 are permanently broken down.
The public is becoming aware of this and start to raise questions:
- is sustainable rural water supply possible?
- what went wrong?
- are we prepared to "help" Africa for ever?
- what about the "dignity" of the people that donors are trying to "help"?
The problem is not Africa
Contrary to popular believe, Africa is not the problem. More and more, it becomes clear that the key to sustainable water supply is mainly in the hands of the donor community. Donor funded water projects are only focused on numbers of water points and don't really care about sustainability. Even worse, donor rigid policies stopped handpump development and innovations through standardization. Although with good intentions, this standardization policy mainly created corruption and focus on short term personal gains and did not contribute to sustainable handpumps.
Donor attitude change is therefore the urgent issue, but that is easier said than done. There is an obvious (selfish) reason that most donors and NGOs do what they do and how they do water projects. This is therefore not an easy case. Change will not come easy from within the donor community itself! If you speak with key people that have been working many years in donor projects, they generally admit the very poor results. They justify this because of "procedures" that cannot be changed, but are afraid to lose their well paid jobs and career if they speak out.
In the meantime, donors continue their core business which is fund raising, because "every 20 seconds a child dies because of lack of water". Obviously, if donor water projects were more sustainable in the past, most of these kids would still have water.
Why water is important
Everybody would agree that water is crucial for life, health and development. Most people indeed do have access to water on a daily basis. At the same time, millions of people in Africa do not have regular access to safe water, especially in the rural areas.
Water shortage creates social imbalance between the "haves" and the "have-nots " and may ultimately lead to down-grading of the country. Water scarcity is therefore the major reason that people leave rural areas and hope for a better life in the city. However, most of them end up in the ever growing slums. Such concentrations of "have-nots" can also be seen as the poor and shameful results of rural development projects including provision of water. They hamper development and are breading zones of crime and social unrest.
Contrary to popular donor messages, the main problem of lack of water is not only related to health issues. Studies show that there is no direct link between rate of illness and the provision of clean water alone. Factors such as poor knowledge of food handling, hygiene including safe storage of water were far more important. The main motivation of rural people for clean and sufficient water is therefore more related to the perceived direct economic benefits from water and not to better health as such.
With sufficient water rural families can have small livestock and grow vegetables. Production of protein, vitamins and calories are better indicators for developement and prosperity.
FairWater promotes therefore the UNDP Millennium Village Project. Water is a starting point for integrated rural development, including the introduction of low-cost house-hold water treatment and safe water storage practice.
FairWater's is more than "helping the poor" with water points. We do NOT believe in "charity projects". Evidence that charity is counter productive in the end can now be seen all over Africa. The FairWater message is about a global view and awareness on how water plays an essential role in our lives, at home, at school, at work, when we travel, etc. That means, be "water-wise"; avoid pollution, use water in a sensible way at home, don't spoil it. Do not take water for granted. And finally, help those that have no access to safe water, to help themselves, not with charity, but with dignity. especially the people in the dry rural areas in Africa!
This vision is also shared by our sponsors such as Sanex and "JoinThePipe", they act according to this principle and practice what they preach to contribute to a better world, by simple actions, every day.
It also means that FairWater would never accept sponsoring from "selling water in PET bottles", simply because PET bottles are not environmental friendly, it's simply not right.
Make a statement and join FairWater
When people support FairWater, they know that it's not just for "another charity project in Africa". There are already many other organizations and players in this sector but so far with little results. By supporting FairWater and choosing for the durable BluePump, our sponsors make a statement that they share our vision. They also support our strategy that quality low-cost maintenance handpumps with involvement of the local private sector for installation and service will lead to sustainable water supply in rural Africa.
The FairWater mission is therefore, to color Africa Blue with sustainable "BlueZones" using the rock-solid & durable BluePump and simple water filters, especially for the poor. This will often mean a lot of work to convince the NGOs and decision makers that they should not buy and handout cheap & charity VLOM pumps, but that they should focus on what is in the best long term interest for the users of the handpumps.
"It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little.
When you pay too much; you lose a little money - that is all.
When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything
because it was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do".
- - -
"The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot
- it cannot be done -. If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to
add something for the risk you run, and if you accept that
you might as well pay some more for something better".