Since 2008, Sika is supporting drinking water projects in Africa realized by GNF. As a result of those actions, in Burundi more than 5,000 people, especially children, have now access to clean drinking water in the villages Kagwema and Rukaramu, north-west of Burundi's capital Bujumbura. In Kenya, since 2014 residents of the village Kandara, about 30 km north of the town of Thika, have access to clean water.

Freshwater on Ivory Coast

In addition to these activities four more water projects are currently being realized in the Ivory Coast. In 2010, the first water projects were carried out in the regions of Man and N'zi Comoé: the villages in need of pump repairs were selected in close cooperation with the local project partners.

By the end of 2012, in total 24 wells were repaired and until the summer of 2013, another 20 wells were put into operation. As 26 wells in further 18 villages were fixed in 2014, the residents of overall 44 villages now have access to clean and fresh groundwater. More than 24,000 Ivorians are currently supplied with fresh water and can thus hope for a better future.

Hygiene education

The residents of all villages have been actively involved in the projects. They have established water committees involving women and men with specific functions and areas of responsibility and thus manage the water distribution in the communities themselves.

Technicians, who were trained in the technical maintenance of the pumps at the beginning of the project, are responsible for the maintenance of the wells. Others take care of hygiene education in the village, others are in charge of the financial management. The inhabitants of the villages have agreed that each pump user pays a small fee per year, in order to cover future maintenance costs of the installed facilities.

Interview with Udo Gattenlöhner, Executive Director of Global Nature Fund

In order to experience more about the project and the people who are behind to realize them, we jump into our car and drive to Lake Constance, which is only one hour away from our offices in Zurich to meet the Executive Director Udo Gattenlöhner.

 

Mr. Gattenlöhner, could you tell us how in the beginning the idea came up to create an NGO with these targets like GNF?

GNF was founded in 1998 as a kind of international sister organisation to the German environmental NGO “Deutsche Umwelthilfe” (Environmental Action Germany). At that time, GNF had the opportunity to launch a global Lake Network with financial support from the private sector, namely from companies such as Unilever, Lufthansa and Daimler.

 

What was your professional life before like? Have you always worked in the NGO scene? And what was your inner driver?

Already during school days, I was fascinated by nature and had the wish to work in the environmental sector. I passed my civil service for an environmental NGO and I had chosen my education (Agricultural Sciences) according to this goal. After graduating from University, I fortunately got the opportunity to work for an NGO.

 

The current world presents unfortunately many fields in nature and human sector to work for improvement. How do you decide which projects you take for your organization?

GNF’s main competence lies in the field of water ecosystems and international cooperation. A major orientation is provided by our statutes, defining the will of the founders. However, there is a certain amount of positive opportunism that plays a role in the selection as well, as one can only select and realize projects that are financially feasible.

 

How many employees do you have who directly work for the projects? Are there as well local people on site who support or proceed the work after you are gone?

GNF has 14 people permanent staff. Networking is in our DNA - so to say - and it is part of our philosophy to realize all our projects in close collaboration with local partner organisations building up on their experiences and expertise.

 

Your project living lakes has a mandate of United Nations. What does this change for the project?

It is a great honor and a “moral booster” for GNF and all Living Lakes partners that the network has been recognised as an „Official Project of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” from 2005 to 2014. As environmental education plays an important role in almost all of our activities, this designation means a lot to us and helped to promote our projects.

 

What is for you special about the drinking water projects in Africa?

Despite UNESCO’s “Water for a Sustainable World Report 2015” stating that progress has been good on providing improved access to clean drinking water, still 748 million people lack access to safe and clean water. Especially rural and poor regions in Sub-Sahara Africa face various drinking water and sanitation problems, as they are economically unattractive to governmental or private water companies’ investments due to low income, poor education and poor infrastructure.

As limited access to clean drinking water must be seen as the major cause of health problems and poverty for millions of people in these parts of Africa, GNF tries to focus on these most vulnerable regions and communities.

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