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Water Is Life: World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012:

Water tank at Kibera Primary School

"Water is life - conserve it!" The slogan on the water harvesting tank at Kibera Primary School, Nairobi would make an excellent rallying call for World Water Day on March 22, 2012.

This year's theme, chosen by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is 'Water and Food Security', a pressing issue worldwide summed up by the official slogan 'the world is thirsty because we are hungry'. The UN Water website features a host of useful information, campaign materials and even a fascinating game that teaches young and old alike the impact of our food choices on the world's water resources.

The careful conservation and use of water has always been a major focus of many ARC-supported projects, particularly in Africa through programmes like Water Schools and Education for Sustainable Development. Water security was also one of the major themes of a recent 7-day education conference and workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya and attended by some 60 representatives of faith schools from six sub-Saharan African countries.

The Rev Winfried Hy Azornu explains the water purification methods used in Ghanaian schools
The workshop, which was co-ordinated by ARC and funded by the Norwegian Government, the World Bank and the Ecological Management Foundation, aimed to create an Education for Sustainable Development curriculum within the teachings of Christianity and Islam using the Eco-School model and working in partnership with other agencies.

Eco-schools in action

During the course of the week delegates shared inspirational stories of pioneering work already being piloted in faith schools across Africa. The Reverend Winfried Hy Azornu from the Presbyterian Church of Ghana explained how children in their faith school network had been taught to purify water effectively using the twin processes of filtering through calico cloth followed by SoDis (solar disinfection). This simple but effective technique entails putting the filtered water into clear plastic bottles and leaving them on a hot tin roof in the sun for eight hours. After this the water is safe to drink.

Award-winning school

Maurice Ochieng from the award-winning Pand Pieri Primary School, Kisumu, Kenya
Another impressive example of the Eco-School in action came from the host country. Maurice Ochieng described how the Anglican Church of Kenya supported Pand Pieri Primary School in Kisumu, Kenya, had been awarded the national Municipality Trophy Environmental Award for their achievements.

The school, whose 1600 pupils include many orphans, has developed a water harvesting scheme that provides the water to maintain both their kitchen garden and a small forest of trees, paid for by local businesses and planted within the school compound. Pand Pieri School also practices SoDis purification and uses a WATA chlorination process to ensure fresh water for the children.

There's an impressive list of other environmentally sustainable activity at the school - they have installed a biogas generator that they share with the local community, the pupils recycle waste paper by making briquettes that can be used for fuel and the whole school works with other partners to regularly clean up the neighbourhood of litter and rubbish. The only thing holding them back is the lack of funding and they are always on the lookout for donors to support their work.

There can be no doubt that water-related issues are becoming a worldwide concern that needs to be addressed by everyone, which is why World Water Day is so important in raising awareness. The work of Eco-Echools and other such organisations is an inspirational development but it is up to all of us to make sure we play our part in helping achieve water security for the whole world.

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