The Value of Water: The Underlying Impacts of Water Scarcity on People and Development

Amidst the myriad of climate related challenges in our daily existence, we pause to reflect and celebrate World Water Week and this year’s theme Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water.

Current global conflict, and the resulting impacts of geopolitical issues on global resources, has brought the climate emergency and water-related challenges into sharper focus. As recent socio-economic developments have exacerbated conditions for many, collective efforts required to address and minimize the far-reaching consequences of climate change are more important than ever – with water as one of the high priority areas.

One of the three key perspectives for World Water Week 2022 is the value of water for people and development. Whilst environmental degradation and the very visible effects of extreme weather conditions, such as severe droughts and floods, are red flag examples of climate change, the underlying impacts of water scarcity on people and development are just as devastating, particularly for the long-term sustainability of communities in water challenged areas.

Access to clean water and proper sanitation is inextricably linked to sustainable and socio-economic development. Water sits at the heart of society and environment and has a direct correlation to people’s fundamental human rights and dignity. Healthy environments with proper access to clean water and sanitation promote more prosperous livelihoods and communities.

According to the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR 2021) “The role of water within households, schools, workplaces and health care facilities is often overlooked or not assigned a value comparable with other uses. Water is a basic human need, required for drinking and to support sanitation and hygiene, sustaining life and health. Access to both water and sanitation are human rights. A direct extension of access to WASH services not only improves educational opportunities and workforce productivity, but also contributes to a life of dignity and equality”.

Addressing water security, particularly in Africa, remains a top priority. For water scarce communities across the African continent, economic independence and resiliency depend on proper access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) resources.

Over time, and whilst gathering deeper insights into the most effective methods to overcome these challenges, we have learnt that improving water resources management requires more than a one-stop solution. Minimizing the impacts of water scarcity requires a collaborative approach. This can be achieved effectively through partnerships and multi-networks working together to build sustainable programs for better water stewardship, contributing towards greater climate resilience.

With Cargill, we are working together on Cargill Currents  a 3-year program which aims to address water challenges in priority watersheds by tailoring to the specific needs of the target communities. Our joint initiative is geared at benefitting up to 150,000 people by the end of 2024.

In West Africa our programs are directly targeting water access issues, whilst also focusing on key people and development issues that promote socio-economic and sustainable development. Our projects in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana include the construction of sanitation facilities and water supply systems in communities, safe sanitary ablution facilities in schools, and financial literacy and entrepreneurial training for female farmers from Cargill’s cocoa farming communities. All these interventions will positively uplift farmer livelihoods, women’s empowerment and community health and well-being.

“Cargill, Global Water Challenge and its women for water platform share a common goal that access to clean and safe water is fundamental for communities to thrive,” said Michelle Grogg, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Cargill. “Supporting women’s empowerment across water programming leads not only to improved water access outcomes but has a ripple effect of strengthening communities.”

“With Cargill, and through our organization Global Water Challenge and women for water platform, we believe we can drive positive change tailored to the specific needs of our program’s targeted communities. By engaging our network, we have identified partnership opportunities with public, private, and civil society stakeholders to increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Very significantly, our efforts are transforming the livelihoods of people from water challenged communities, with co-benefits beyond just water access. We are empowering women, building community resilience, and promoting economic development,” said Monica Ellis, CEO of Global Water Challenge.

“With people and development at the core of our water stewardship programs, it is imperative that this World Water Week, and going forward, we redouble our efforts. This includes adopting a unified and highly visible approach to tackling the unseen impacts of water challenges, whilst also ensuring that we address human impacts as part of our collective efforts to building long term sustainable solutions,” said Monica Ellis.