“We realised the importance of accelerating integrated water resources management efforts to decrease stress on food production, water supply and sanitation services. Source protection for priority watersheds that serve the drinking water needs of millions of Africans is another critical factor.”
These are the words of Jacques Vermeulen, the chief executive of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa whose Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) has now improved the lives of six million Africans.
To date, RAIN has helped more than 4 000 communities across 41 countries to gain improved access to clean water thanks through the work of the Coca-Cola Foundation. This includes Tshikota village in Vhembe, Limpopo.
“By working together we achieve so much more than we could individually,” said Vermeulen about the Coke bottler’s Africa-wide partnerships.
He believes the programme’s success in reaching six million people is the result of a collective effort from more than 300 international and local public, private and civil society partners.
The programme was launched in 2009 to help countries across Africa achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6). Through RAIN’s initiatives, this is improved while better hygiene is also promoted.
Protecting critical watersheds
“Over the past decade, RAIN has improved access to clean water for communities, schools, and clinics across Africa, while creating opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and skills generation,” says Vermeulen.
“RAIN has also helped to protect critical watersheds, supported local governments to cope with rapidly growing demand in cities, and delivered essential hygiene items and personal protective equipment to help slow the spread of Covid-19.”
In Mzansi, Coca-Cola Beverages SA (CCBSA), is rolling out its Coke Ville groundwater harvesting project in remote water-scarce communities with limited economic opportunities. Off-grid, solar-powered water treatment plants are constructed, providing communities with reliable access to water.
Africa and climate change
CCBSA managing director Velaphi Ratshefola says, “We recognise the water challenges that are faced in the country and installed a groundwater harvesting project in Limpopo.
“Additional viable self-sustaining groundwater projects are planned for deployment in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
“To date, 20-million litres of water have been accessed by indigent rural communities through this initiative, and the target is to deliver more than 4000-million litres a year through all our water projects.”
The experience of developing and implementing RAIN resulted in important learnings that helped to improve its effectiveness, says Vermeulen.
“Africa is also more vulnerable to climate change than any other region and water resilience and conservation are essential to ensure African economies can continue to grow sustainably, along with businesses like ours.”