The theme of the 2016 World Water Week was “Water for Sustainable Growth.” What place does water occupy in sustainable development actions today?
Today, water is a major issue for sustainable development and is approached in terms of the challenges it raises rather than the opportunities it creates. When young women and children spend millions of hours every day collecting water, instead of going to school, water becomes a social problem. The fact that a child dies of a disease associated with poor water quality every 90 seconds makes it a public health problem. Given the expansion of water stressed areas and the decline in freshwater reserves, it is also an environmental, agricultural and human problem.
Because of this, players involved with water have a duty to make this resource central to development issues. Today, it is at the heart of the problems. But it also needs to be at the heart of the solutions.
What does this type of event do in terms of water management around the world?
The power of this sort of event lies in the possibility of dialogue with all of the stakeholders: NGOs, international organizations, local and national governments, the private sector, scientists and academia.
Additionally, an event like the World Water Week gives everyone the chance to make a contribution, highlight the difficulties they’ve encountered when carrying out their projects, and share their success stories. Through these exchanges of ideas and experiences, everyone can grasp the connections between water-related subjects and the need to work together. So the creation of inclusive partnerships is a real necessity: partnerships that need to leave more room for key players who are often absent from these events, like farmers and future generations.
With this in mind, the Danone Ecosystem Fund is precisely working on testing new models for integrated watershed management:
Meeting all of the water players is a way to fuel our strategy of multipartite co-creation
What do integrated watershed management and, more broadly, the concept of water stewardship involve?
This strategy incorporates the protection and conservation of water resources, and also access to water, its uses and the governance processes inherent to managing this resource.
Water-focused actions and events are often limited to a specific sector. This isn’t a flaw, but it is a challenge that needs to be considered when you’re tackling the complex subjects associated with this vital resource. This will entail setting up sustainable governance and funding systems that force us to move away from a linear approach.
This approach, devised around the water cycle, aims at more effective management: mainly by capitalizing on innovation in order to reuse water and build resilience to climate change among all of its users. The private sector, often mentioned, is cordially invited to the discussion table and encouraged to suggest new solutions. This was one of the key messages at Stockholm.
Co-creation is at the core of the Danone Ecosystem Fund’s projects. How is it already helping to improve water management for not only people but also the company?
At the Danone Ecosystem Fund, we always start from a local social issue and a need encountered by one of our subsidiaries. Each project begins with a partnership with a local NGO, to help us adapt to the specific context of each situation. As regards projects dealing with integrated watershed management, this co-creation provides in-depth knowledge of the players interacting in this sphere. Thanks to the dialogue between these varied players, we are in a better position to see how they use the resource, and can then unite them around a shared vision that helps them to develop strategies and prioritize actions.
For example, we are now launching the management of the Pasuruan Project in Indonesia, using this integrated approach. In conjunction with the NGO SII, we will be working to set up watershed governance. The activities I mentioned earlier are linked, among other things, to changes in farming practices, conservation measures upstream from the watershed, and the optimization of irrigation and access to water. Without some form of collaboration to share these very long-term investments, no one can take that first step. Here, by sharing the risks and understanding everyone’s issues, we can gradually move toward sustainable solutions.
Picture from PEXELS