When Ned Breslin, CEO for the international social company Water for People, talks, the effect can be like a splash of cold water on your face. Development-speak is not his style.
Take this snippet from his new "Rethinking Hydro-Philanthropy" essay:
"Success will require less single-minded focus on the absolute number of people without access to water and sanitation facilities and more focus on the serious questions around long-term impact and sustainability. So that years after the cameras have left, the donor reports have been filed, and the press release circulated, the community is not forgotten."
"Sweat equity" from needy communities is not enough, Breslin argues. "Up-front community contributions," he says, are essential to making new water -- and sanitation -- facilities sustainable.
Water for People won a US$200,000 Development Markektplace 2007 award for water facilities in Malawi, which Breslin, in this radio interview, says "has some of the worst water and sanitation problems in Africa."
Breslin's credo -- that water and sanitation in poor countries should not be viewed as a charity mission -- is being validated elsewhere.
In the pilot project of Aakash Ganga (River from Sky in Hindi) in the arid Indian state of Rajasthan, villagers from the six communities pay 30 to 40 percent of the cost of the rainwater-harvesting infrastructure. Plans to extend the US$197,000 DM2006 award winner to 40 to 100 communities serving 100,000 to 250,000 people are predicated on users doing the same. In Mexico, US$270,000 DM2006 winner Florence Cassassuce and partners have formed a new social company -- EOZ -- that will sell its ultraviolet water-purification hardware for $40-$60 in cities and for $15-$20 in poor rural communities.
As Breslin says in his essay: "Finance is the cornerstone of sustainable services."
Photo of Senegal water project (first page) by Arne Hoel for the World Bank.
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