On Monday, March 22, 2021, The Water Project joined countless others in the global community celebrating World Water Day. This year’s theme was “Valuing Water,” putting this precious commodity’s importance in all aspects of life in the spotlight.
When discussing something as universally critical to life as water, it is common to refer to it as “invaluable,” meaning we cannot live without it. But we must do the opposite if we are to actively change action and tangible progress in achieving water access for all. That is why we must name all of the values water holds for us and ask others what it means to them.
At The Water Project, we know that water holds economic value in its ability to enable business, agricultural growth, and community development. We understand that water also embodies social, cultural, spiritual, and religious values. We often hear community members remark that their newly protected water point has brought peace and unity to their community, who previously fought over water access. And of course, there are all of the ways water impacts and is impacted by environmental issues, including climate change.
All this and more, we see every day in our work.
“Water has values in domestic use (cooking, maintaining hygiene, and drinking), farming (aquaculture, agriculture, poultry keeping, dairy farming, and irrigation), recreation and hospitality (swimming), manufacturing as a factor of production, and maintaining ecosystems,” said Humphrey Buradi, TWP Western Kenya Regional Director.
“Water is very valuable to me and I cannot do without it,” said Emmah Nambuye, Director of the TWP team working in Mumias East, where we hosted the World Water Day event.
“It’s also termed as ‘Water is life’, which without, there is no life. Having safe and clean water and making it accessible is a good feeling which means that sickness is gone and we can enjoy a cup of cool drink knowing that it is safe for me and my family.”
“Every time we protect a spring and go back after a few months, the community really appreciates us so much that we feel so humbled to impart change in someone’s life. The smiles are endless and they sing and dance with joy for what life has become due to the project.”
That is why for this World Water Day, The Water Project partnered with Kenya’s Ministry of Water, Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change to host a day of acknowledgment, commitment, and celebration of our joint efforts in improving water access for communities and schools in Kenya and beyond.
“It is important to hold multi-stakeholder events like the recent World Water Day celebration because it brings diversity in implementation, ownership of the process, and synergy among stakeholders working in a common area,” Buradi said.
“The results from such an event,” Nambuye added, “is that it creates awareness of the work that each development partner is doing and avoids duplication. Each partner is able to showcase the work they do in the communities and schools which bridges gaps in the water sector and gives space for improvement so that we can reach more people.”
Guests included local, national, and international leaders working in water, sanitation, and hygiene in Western Kenya. Among them were the locally elected Members of County Assembly, Chief Officers from the national Ministry of Water, Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, our Regional Director Humphrey Buradi, along with all of our Western Kenya partners’ directors and staff, and several other NGO’s and government groups.
The latter included World Vision, USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Department (KIWASH), Evidence Action, Living Water, Community Asset Building and Development Action (CABDA), Amref Health Africa, Anglican Development Services (ADS), and Kakamega County Water and Sanitation Company (KACUWASCO).
Attendees gathered in the village of Eluche, where tents, chairs, a sound system, banners, and pamphlets all greeted the day’s guests. Community members of all ages also attended the event, with many children not only joining the audience but providing the opening entertainment to welcome guests. After the opening prayers, songs, and dances, the group visited Shemema Spring to learn about The Water Project’s spring protection program.
Back at the tent, leaders from each group introduced themselves, sharing how they value water and their work to improve others’ access to it. Organizers then presented small gifts to the leaders present, followed by formal speeches from each stakeholder. A fun game of water-related trivia also provided community members who answered the questions correctly to win new washbasins for their babies or jerrycans for collecting water.
Public displays of unity across groups working toward the same goal, such as this year’s World Water Day event, are important to acknowledge not just the regional but global support networks that are necessary to navigate the complex path toward achieving clean, safe, accessible, and reliable water for all. No one can do this work alone, which is why we value our partnerships in this work so highly.
In every part of the world, each community member, student, teacher, artisan, elected official, and leader has a role in making this goal a reality. We value water’s ability to improve health, keep children in school, improve business, reduce household healthcare expenses, and bring communities together. As those, we support so often say, “Water is life.”
Water, to us, does not hold a single value – it is everything. And we must keep naming these values each day to understand why we do this work, how we can improve, and help others discover the many values of water, too.