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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
01 december 2007

BID-seminar: Innovative solutions needed to solve water problem

Developing countries and organisations are struggling to realise the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people that lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation before 2015. To ensure success, private initiatives and entrepreneurial development aid needs to play a larger role in this effort. "The bottom of the pyramid in southern countries offers an interesting market", says Raimond Hafkenscheid of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), "but innovative approaches are necessary. Water has long been a big issue for the development world, but they cannot solve the problems alone. Neither can the business world."

The NWP's aim is to match-up development organisations with entrepreneurs. The number of successful matches has been boosted by new Dutch funds like Start Green, the Entrepreneurs Fund, the Micro Water Facility and the SNS Reaal Water Fund. The financial means are there, now it's time to create effective partnerships, concludes Hafkenscheid, speaking at the 'Water - Money meets Development' seminar held in Utrecht last Thursday, organised by NCDO/Business in Development, in cooperation with AT@Work, NWP and the SNS Reaal Water Fund.

One example of this type of new and creative partnership is between the Netherlands-based Waterleidingmaatschappij Drenthe (WMD) and PDAM, the former freshwater company of the city of Manado on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. After two years of preparation, the joint venture PT Air Manado (WMD 51%, PDAM 49%) started this year with the renovation of production and distribution facilities, the reorganisation of PDAM (which was technically bankrupt) and the exploitation of water services to the customer. Presently only 25,000 families in Manado are connected to the freshwater distribution network, that figure should increase to at least 100,000 families. Funding comes from the SNS Bank and P3SW. The Manado initiative is also part of the effort of official Dutch development aid to provide three million people at Sulawesi with clean drinking water and sanitation facilities before 2015.

"In the Netherlands our water companies are much smaller than those in France and Germany", says Hafkenscheid. "That's another reason for companies, funds and development aid to work together. Cities like Manado, with a population of 200,000-500,000, offer a good match for Dutch combinations. That's a size we can handle perfectly well."

Another example of this innovative approach is provided by BushProof, which was set up by Adriaan Mol a few years ago. After many years as a development worker, he decided to change his career in order to apply entrepreneurial dynamics to problems normally addressed by NGOs. The company has developed a number of innovative products and techniques, including a successful sand filter that is used at the household level to produce safe drinking water. "Distribution is key when you aim for the bottom of the pyramid", Mol said at the BID-seminar. "To reach the people in isolated parts of countries like Madagascar, we now work with small traders who enter the area by bike."

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