Guinness and its water for life quest
Water is Life! How apt? No living organism can survive on earth without water. The human body, for instance, consists of 60 per cent water and cannot stay alive for more than a few days without water. Apart from humans, water forms an integral part of several ecosystems that sustain other life forms.
However, when this is juxtaposed against the emphatic epistle from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Water, water everywhere, not a single drop to drink,” it becomes food for thought.
How does this indispensable ingredient measure in Africa’s most populous country? Nigeria is a largely coastal country with abundance of water. Indeed, water is one of the country’s most plenteous resources. Curiously, due to lack of proper planning and investment, the development of water resources has stagnated, resulting in the unavailability of safe and potable drinking water for the generality of the people.
Most of the infrastructure and amenities in use today had been put in place since the early 1980s, and given a general lack of maintenance culture, they have failed to meet the needs of the people.
According to the Water and Sanitation Monitoring Sheet of UNICEF, access to safe water and sanitation has become a major challenge in Nigeria and ranks among the lowest in the world. Not even the touted commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in respect of water could be met.
Consequently, citizens have resorted to self-help in providing some of these basic amenities for themselves in a bid to survive the harsh realities of infrastructural decay.
While it may be easy for a few people to provide boreholes for themselves, the majority are unable to afford it. Governments at various levels, constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of providing amenities like potable water, have, so far, failed to deliver on this mandate, forcing communities to pool resources to provide this need. It is even more critical in the rural areas, where women and children have to trek long distances in search of clean and safe water. The streams are only good for washing clothes and bathing, and in most cases; they are contaminated with faeces and other micro bacterial organisms rendering water from there unsafe for drinking.
Left with no other option, locals are forced to drink the water, the fallout being the outbreak of epidemics such as cholera and diarrhoea in these areas.
There have been various interventions by stakeholders in tackling this challenge, but the current output leaves much to be desired. For instance, the 2011 Water Roadmap launched by then President Goodluck Jonathan, has still not solved the water challenge in the country, despite the huge amount of funds pumped into the project.
Some organisations in the private sector have come to see that potable drinking water and improved sanitation services are verifiable means of fighting poverty, particularly in developing areas, and have come to recognise the importance of partnerships to achieve sustainable development in this area. Riding mostly on the public-private partnership model, some organisations have taken the bull by the horn to push this laudable agenda.
Companies like MTN, Samsung, Guinness, and Stanbic IBTC, to mention a few, have modelled their corporate social responsibility policies to impact the lives of people in communities in such critical areas as health, education and economic empowerment.
The “Water for Life” programme, an initiative of Guinness Nigeria, a subsidiary of Diageo, which was launched with the aim of providing portable drinking water for Nigerians, through the construction of water facilities in communities, readily comes to mind.
Since the inception of the initiative 10 years ago, 22 water facilities have been constructed in about 22 communities across 14 states in the country. The brewing giant partnered with Concern Universal to pioneer a sustainable method of integrating rural sanitation and hygiene promotion with access to safe water - a key sustainable development goal. The partnership is geared towards strengthening Guinness Nigeria’s Water of Life scheme.
Through the initiative, safe water has been provided to 10 rural communities in Abi, Bekwarra, and Obanliku local councils of Cross River State, and Adigbe area in Abeokuta, Ogun state. A key innovative element of this initiative is the emphasis on local maintenance of boreholes.
In order to sustain the impact of the new water points, communities create Water Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCOMMS). This committee oversees the day-to-day operation of the boreholes and facilities, as well as maintenance when necessary. Promoting ownership and local governance goes a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the water facilities. This approach, since it was birthed, has helped to reduce the number of abandoned water projects around the country.
On its part, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, through its subsidiary, Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers Limited, has executed and donated similar water projects at such institutions as the Police colleges in Ikeja, Calabar and Kaduna, and the National Youth Service Corps camp in Kubwa, Abuja.
These interventions, the then Corporate Relations Director at Guinness, Sesan Sobowale, had stated, were done in furtherance of the company’s resolve to improve the quality of life in Nigerian communities.
“We are delighted that we have an opportunity to contribute in our own small way to the environment in which we operate. We acknowledge that though these initiatives may seem like a drop in the ocean, the value of what we are doing is in the hope that it encourages other corporate bodies to contribute to this noble causes, and also create awareness about the fact that there are many Nigerians today who are in dire need of improved health care, basic amenities and sound education,” Sobowale had said.
Being socially responsible works both ways because it is beneficial to both the individual or organisation and the community. If the environment is conducive, businesses will flourish, the bottom line will be impacted positively and the future will be assured. After all, it was Peter Drucker, an American management consultant, who said, “If you want to predict the future, create it’. For the likes of Guinness Nigeria, commitment to bettering the quality of lives for many Nigerians remains resolute.
Lolade Bamigbola lives in Lagos.