Water as a Catalyst for Impactful Change Within Water Scarce Communities

At Global Water Challenge  we believe in the power of collective action to galvanize sustainable solutions to address water access challenges. Through our impactful partnerships, we have established an extensive network across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, providing financial support and innovative WASH programming to improve community health, with an emphasis on empowering women and girls through WASH access and life skills.

On this World Water Day , we are spotlighting our partnership with Cargill and highlighting our collaborative efforts to accelerate change through clean water access and empowering cocoa-growing communities in West Africa. In Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana our programs are directly targeting water access issues, whilst also focusing on key people and development issues that promote socio-economic and sustainable development.

This includes 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 are positively uplifting farmer livelihoods, women’s empowerment, community health and well-being.

In recognition of World Water Day, Cargill’s Corporate Responsibility Manager unpacks the multi-faceted challenges experienced by community members in water scarce regions and the importance of implementing localized solutions to effect tangible change. 

By Isabel Dimitrov, Cargill’s Corporate Responsibility Manager for EMEA

Imagine yourself removed from your everyday existence and instead living as a young girl attending primary school in the small town of Sefwi Bekwai, a cocoa-growing community in Western Ghana, West Africa. As your school has no running water, you and your fellow students have to carry heavy loads of water from the community to the school premises every morning for drinking and basic hygiene purposes.

Water duty is hard work. And the responsibility of collecting water falls largely on women and girls’ shoulders. But you do it because it needs to be done.

When communities have trouble accessing clean water, everything becomes a challenge, including economic activity, staying healthy, raising children, growing and cooking food – even attending school comes with a myriad of obstacles.

That’s the story of Obaa, a 12-year-old student at the Sukusuku D/A basic school in Sefwi Bekwai. “There were instances where water ran out during lessons, and we had to stop learning so we could get water for use in the school,” Obaa said. “This was affecting our studies as we missed classes to fetch water, and often found ourselves behind because we had missed important parts of the lessons. This was very discouraging, and I sometimes lost interest in going to school.”

However, recent interventions have changed circumstances for Obaa and her fellow students. Obaa says, “Now that we have proper water supply in our school, we no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water. The tap is just on our school compound so we can easily access it. I am happy because I can now concentrate on my studies and not worry about fetching water and missing classes”.

These changes are a direct result of Cargill, Global Water Challenge (GWC) and World Vision’s installation of a brand-new water well on the school grounds.

Obaa’s story is an example of how the positive effects of one initiative can ripple through and benefit a community. From our position at the center of the agricultural supply chain, Cargill is uniquely positioned to bring all stakeholders together to drive progress for the sector and create lasting change.

When water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues are addressed, communities, and very importantly, women and girls regain time to pursue work opportunities, generate or increase their income and, very significantly, focus on their education.

Water scarcity is a wide scale problem affecting more than 40% of the world’s population. In alignment with our purpose to nourish the world in a safe responsible and sustainable way, we have made water a priority. However, tackling water scarcity is a complex global issue that requires a coordinated and localized approach.

Location makes all the difference. Are you near a river or a lake? Is your freshwater source pollution-free? Is your community affected by droughts, flooding, or maybe both, intermittently? Getting it right means being on the ground and gaining a deep understanding of a community’s needs and the resources required to meet them.

This is the reality in cocoa communities such as Obaa’s. Because we’re on the ground in so many places, working with local organizations and expert partners like GWC and World Vision, we are able to really understand the needs of a particular community. Water-related issues are often an entry point, enabling us to address multiple issues. Through action plans and the establishment of community governance systems, we help people secure clean water access and improve their health and economic outlook for the long-term.

It’s all part of the Cocoa Promise, our overarching sustainability program. We are committed to ensuring that we support a thriving, sustainable cocoa sector for generations to come and our partnership with GWC is a key element of that commitment.

When our collaboration with GWC began in 2021, we set out to improve water access for up to 150,000 people in priority watersheds, including cocoa-growing regions in Ghana, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. So far, we have reached 14 cocoa-farming communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, improving access to safe drinking water for more than 13,500 people in those communities.

However, our goal isn’t limited to water access as we are also building community resilience, improving community health and promoting women’s economic development. More than 5,000 women in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire communities have been empowered by activities and programs implemented with GWC, and additionally, more than 6,000 women now have access to safe drinking water closer to their homes, giving them more time to pursue more productive opportunities.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day “Accelerating change”, resonates with us as we strive to drive positive impact at scale in water challenged communities by providing holistic solutions that go beyond water access. Through our community networks, and by offering our knowledge, expertise and contributing resources, we are helping young girls like Obaa and entire communities to thrive.