April 19, 2019

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Making it RAIN in Africa Saves Lives

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The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and its partners are working with local African governments, NGOs, water service providers and communities to build infrastructure that supplies clean drinking water and sanitation facilities across Africa. These efforts will help to minimize the spread of disease and empower local communities with educational opportunities and economic prosperity.

Dr. Susan Mboya is the President of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and the Group Director of the Eurasia Africa Group (EAG) for women’s economic empowerment at The Coca-Cola Company. She leads the Group’s deployment of the 5by20 initiative, a global Commitment by Coca-Cola to economically empower 5 million women by the year 2020. Susan is responsible for the development of strategic plans and initiatives in the 90+ countries that make up the EAG. Susan has raised over $116 million in funding towards the 5by20 initiative to date and is working with international partners including USAID, DFID, TechnoServe, MercyCorps and the IFC. She is also the First Lady of Nairobi County, in Kenya.

Why has the Coca Cola Foundation created the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) program and what are some of the challenges the organization is addressing?

At the highest level, the challenge is to make water available on a predictable and steady basis throughout Africa. The program was created in response to the severe water challenges faced by more than 300 million people living in Africa.

The initiative was introduced by The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF) in 2009 with an original financial commitment of $30 million. The first target we set was to provide access to safe water for 2 million people by the end of 2015. I’m happy to say we will meet this target by the end of the year. We’ve since expanded the target to include an additional 4 million people by 2020, bringing the total to 6 million people in Africa.

This program also has a focus on economically empowering up to 550,000 women and youth and promoting health and hygiene in communities and at schools and health centers.  We know that improving sustainable safe access to water is linked to improved health, nutrition, education, and economy.

What is RAIN’s unique approach for positively engaging with the African communities and stakeholders?

Keep in mind that The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation is a separate entity from the corporation. This enables us to work with many partner organizations that have already established a presence on the ground in Africa. This means that when we go into a community to help, we work with that community on these efforts.

In the early stages, we talk with community leaders about roles and responsibilities. After the program is implemented, we ensure that the community has been adequately trained and once they are able to sustain the project we hand over the program to that community to maintain. For example, if we put in a borehole, we train the members of that community on how to maintain it. We also train them on how to run the project with basic management skills.

Another task we take on is setting up a water management board comprised of community members who can be responsible for the program going forward. We work with them to determine costs and establish governance for a particular water source. We do everything we can to leave the community empowered and ready to successfully continue the program.

What are the specific water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs of the communities you serve and how do you address those needs?

Communities are quite diverse and each community’s needs differ. Water plays a huge role. Nutrition and safe drinking water are most critical.

Many of the diseases we struggle with in Africa, like Malaria and Cholera, are tied to whether or not people can access safe drinking water and whether or not appropriate sanitation facilities are in place. Based on statistics, we know that 80% of the sicknesses in Africa are caused by WASH-related diseases.

Amenities like modern sanitation practices are taken for granted in other parts of the world but not in Africa. It is a huge problem. Teaching safe sanitation habits goes a long way to preventing diseases from spreading.

One of the programs we initiated is called RAIN Water for Schools . The program is run in conjunction with the Department of Basic Education in the Republic of South Africa. The program will benefit 100 schools with clean drinking water, improved sanitation, and training on hygiene.

Girls in particular are vulnerable to lack of sanitation. Without proper sanitation facilities, girls are unable to attend school at least one week a month. This lack of sanitation contributes to the absenteeism we see with girls. People don’t realize that something as simple as access to sanitation facilities affects the number of African girls who can attend school each month. Women and children’s educational opportunities and therefore their livelihood the economic potential of families and communities are at risk.

In addition to the goals I mentioned earlier, we also have the goal to replenish 18.5 billion liters of water to the communities we serve. Coca-Cola products are water-intensive and we want to make sure that we replenish any resources we use.

Is there a particular example showing how The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and its partners are moving on this goal?

This goal is being met by the Replenish program. Commitment to Replenish is necessary for healing the region and all the problems that happen when access to water is not readily available.

Replenish is a larger program of The Coca-Cola Company that aims to return every drop of water used in beverage production back to communities and nature. The vast majority of RAIN’s community water projects work within its water access projects to help contribute to the Company’s Replenish commitment target. In addition, while our portfolio focuses mainly on improving water access for positive impacts on health and development, we tailor our projects to address the specific water issues that communities are facing. We have a number of projects focusing on other key water needs such as the promotion of efficient water use for economic development.

For example, in Morocco, RAIN partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Association for Combating Erosion, Drought and Desertification in Morocco (L’ALCESDAM), a local NGO, L’ALCESDAM to rehabilitate and create date palm plantations in southern Morocco. By improving on existing unsustainable flood-irrigation methods that led to high extraction rates from an already-stressed aquifer, RAIN is protecting one of the world’s most stressed watersheds. This project has resulted in water savings of over 800 million liters per year, and has also trained over 900 farmers in best practices for water use and production, improving the livelihoods of this rural population.

In Western media, we often hear about many of the emergency issues in Africa, such as conflicts and disease outbreaks. How does RAIN respond to these humanitarian needs?

We know that there is a clear link between water and health, and it’s not just the impacts of safe drinking water. Last year when the Ebola crisis was at its highest, we worked with bottlers in Liberia to provide access to water in the hardest hit areas. Two things happened during the crisis to make it worse: dehydration set in and people were unable to wash their hands and feet. This made it very difficult to contain the disease. Had there been easily accessible water for the people of that region, the disease would not have been as widespread and could have been contained quicker. Ebola is one of the most devastating examples of what can happen when clean water is unavailable.

What are the goals for the next 5 years for supporting school children, empowering women, and increasing water availability?

We have a set of goals that we’re calling RAIN 2020. We’ve learned many lessons from the work we’ve done so far and we are leveraging the lessons learned and best practices to tackle the next set of goals.

We’ve doubled our commitments and we’d like to expand the number of African communities that we are serving.  Some of the best practices we’ve learned include incremental benefits that we hadn’t counted on. We call these programs, “high beneficiary programs.”

For example, when you build a dam in a region, the outcome is that there will be more beneficiaries than the ones in the original singular project. As we analyze this, we are determining which African countries we might provide with the greatest benefit.

We’ve also learned through several of our programs that we’ve been able to empower the most vulnerable members of society like women who’ve become farmers and youth who have learned useful new skills. Our goal is to reach half a million by 2020.

How do you measure the benefits of the program and what is the committed budget?

There are several ways in which we measure the benefits of the program and funding comes in various forms.

Our baseline is to count the number of beneficiaries reached and the total liters of water returned. Our driving factor is to make sure that we operate in a responsible and sustainable way and benefit the communities in which we do business. For instance, we can’t take out more water than we are putting back in to the community.

Partners play an important role in the success of RAIN. In phase one our goal was to bring in enough partners that for every $1 dollar we spent, there was a matching dollar from a partner. For phase two, our goal is to have enough partners that we are able to match at least $1.5 dollars for every $1 dollar Coca-Cola contributes. The bigger goal is to go beyond current financials and together with our partners invest over $200 million in Africa’s WASH challenges.

How can companies help support the RAIN effort and work alongside the already 140 partners?

We welcome the opportunity to talk with any company that is interested in discussing our work and how they might contribute by partnering with us. To date, our approach has received $50 million in co-investments from large stakeholders like governments, corporations, and civil society.

Much of the work we do is about helping governments build the capacity they need to take on these efforts, and leveraging our partners in the most effective ways. This helps us take on programs in countries that are considered high-impact.

Companies can learn more about what we do by going to our website at http://www.coca-colacompany.com/rain-the-replenish-africa-initiative and learn more about our partner Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) who support our signature environmental stewardship initiatives at http://www.getf.org/our-projects-partnerships/the-coca-cola-company/ .

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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