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By Rohit Rao and Hugh Coppell

There is nothing on this planet more crucial to life than water. It is a fundamental human need necessary for our biological survival. It exists in the bodies of all people, animals, and plants and is a crucial element of almost all the products and services that we rely upon today. If managed sustainably, it also allows us to create thriving economies that generate social and ecological wellbeing for everyone.

Therefore, a Wellbeing Economy must ensure that people have safe and secure water access, and that sustainable water flows are created and maintained.

However, we currently face challenges that we must overcome in order to make this happen. The emphasis on short-term economic and monetary gain over long-term ecological and social wellbeing mean that is difficult to truly define and evaluate the value of water in terms of the holistic benefits it provides. This is compounded by environmental factors such as erratic rainfall patterns brought about by climate change and anthropogenic pollution, poorly designed transnational water legislation and urban water infrastructure, and a narrative that pushes expensive technology at the expense of nature-based solutions.

In our newly launched briefing paper, Water in a Wellbeing Economy, we propose some solutions to these challenges. Using case studies and examples from around the world, we show that, bit by bit, a Wellbeing Economy for water is both desirable and achievable.

The paper builds on the six Principles of Water Ethics set out by Jennings, Heltne, and Kintzele. These are:

  1. Respect for human dignity by providing all people with water, the essence of our basic needs
  2. Equity and proportionality in distribution
  3. Solidarity between various stakeholders
  4. Common good – with rules for governance and management 
  5. Responsible stewardship
  6. Inclusive and deliberative participation of entities 

It focuses on solutions that exist in the areas of good governance; ecosystem services accounting; health and sanitation; agriculture; industry; cities; and individual action.

These areas do not encompass an exhaustive list of solutions. Rather, they provide a starting point as more solutions and areas of focus are emerging every day. We have merely provided a taster of what exists and seek to create the space to facilitate a larger conversation between the general public, policy makers, and researchers towards building a Wellbeing Economy for water.

To find out more about practical steps that are being taken in these areas, and places were bold policies are already making an impact, read the full paper.

If you’re curious to hear firsthand from us, as well as share how your organisation is contributing towards a Wellbeing Economy for water, attend our upcoming event on August 10.

By Chrissi Albus, WEAll Youth

Clean drinking water makes a difference between life and death. 

According to the United Nations, up to 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe, clean, and controlled drinking water. (2) Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General said, Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardises both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” 

Article 25 of the Human Rights Convention, the right to wellbeing, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families. Clean drinking water is an absolute necessity for that. Therefore, one essential goal of our society must be to ensure the availability of safe drinking water for everybody. However, “in some countries, there is a 61% financing gap to achieve the UN’s water and sanitation goals”. (2) It is an injustice how access to water is distributed in this world, especially related to the huge consumption of virtual water in many high income countries. Everyone needs access to drinking water for their health and wellbeing. It should not be a game of luck who has water to drink or who can afford it. It is an undisputed part and aim of a Wellbeing Economy to ensure this. This is why it is important to advocate for fair availability of water. 

Inspired and empowered to make a difference

“We believe that the human network is the strongest power in the world in our generation. Networking means telling others about others and others telling others about you”(1). 

To tell a story is probably the most powerful and touching way to communicate. So, I want to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga and the Gongali Model Inspire and Empowering Center.

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Glory Mushi at work in the Kilala waterstation.

“I remember my father told me that when I drink stagnant water in the valleys (in Swahili, Maji yaliyotwama korongoni au Maji ya Lambo) – which was very dirty – I should assume, he told me, that it is “a tea with milk” (chai ya maziwa)”(1), says Prof. Hilonga.

The region around Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro, where the Gongali Model Inspire and Empower Center is located, has an exceptionally high fluoride concentration in drinking water. This can cause fluorosis, a disease in which the joints stiffen and tooth enamel degrades due to excessive intake of fluoride. But even better-known diseases such as typhoid fever are still diseases today that arise because of dirty drinking water.

Prof. Hilonga grew up in a small village, Gongali, near Lake Manyara in North Tanzania. He himself struggled with several diseases, mainly related to dirty water. With the support of his local church community, he was able to attend university and later, went to South Korea to do his PhD in Chemical Engineering… He is always asking: “What does my PhD mean to my community in Tanzania?”. He wanted to give something back. Prof. Hilonga designed a new solution to ensure getting safe drinking water as a common good for everyone. He is the creator and founder of Nanofilter TM, a water filter using nanotechnology that provides safe and clean drinking water, in Swahili “Maji Safi na Salama”! It removes 99.999 % of impurities (bacteria, heavy metals, various pollutants) from the water. The filter is customised to the local environment issues.

Nevertheless, the water filter alone was not the goal. He established the Gongali Model Co. Ltd company for innovative activities to empower and IMPACT people’s lives. He wants to inspire youth to develop innovative and sustainable business ventures and initiatives that empower their community and to answer the question of what is really needed.  The Gongali Model was actually designed to be a model as a movement for Sustainable Transformational Development, as a concept for a new – wellbeing – economic system accessible for everyone. By October 2020, the Nanofilter project has created 127 jobs for young women in water stations, which are placed all over Arusha as well as in Kenya and Zambia. For many young women it is a way to earn an independent income and become more confident. This is contributing to one of the great wellbeing goals of equalising the gender gap by making sure women take part in economic life.  In these water stations, filtered water is sold in refillable bottles at a low price. Thus should also allow the poorest members of the community to access safe and clean drinking water.

A nanofilter for households

The Gongali Model company (https://gongalimodel.com), is launching the #Thirst for life project starting on 22nd July. #Thirst for Life wants to build 1000 Nanofilter water stations throughout Africa, from Alexandria in Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. The aim is to provide access to clean water to as many people as possible. The project is delivered in partnership with Veronique Bourbeau, who will do a Solo-Run 13,000 km, from the north of Africa to the south to raise awareness to provide safe drinking water for all people. Veronique says: 

“If your why is strong enough, then you can run for a long way.” 

To be inspired and empowered are two of the most important goals of Prof. Hilonga and his wife and business partner Ruth Elineema Lukwaro, from Arusha, Tanzania.He wants to engage the youth to stand up and participate in their local communities, to create new solutions for societal issues . He and his wife Madame Ruth want to touch people’s lives to make a change. Their knowledge and story exemplify a societal vision or further economic changes for wellbeing for all. 

His book “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND” describes his journey. Further information about the projects can be found on the Gongali Model website.

  1. Prof. Askwar Hilonga. 2020. “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND”
  2. United Nations. 2020. Goals – 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

About the author: “My name is Chrissi Albus. I am WEAll Youth member based in Lund, a small town in the south of Sweden. In my opinion, it is very important to be motivated  to create something great or to participate in a movement you believe in.  And that is why I would like to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga. He and his wife were my bosses when I worked in their company Gongali Model in Arusha. They inspired me to get engaged with their project, and showed me that motivation and inspiration is the foundation for every project I will get involved in.”