Hunger and unemployment shape everyday life in Simbabwe. After almost 40 years under President Mugabe, the East African country's once flourishing agriculture lies broken. Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) has joined forces with OTTO Österreich (Austria) and Welthungerhilfe, a German NGO for humanitarian aid, to realise a water and hygiene project in rural Zimbabwe. Started in 2015, the project aimed at supporting especially the rural citizens. The project has now successfully been completed. A total of 20 villages have gained access to clean drinking water, and schools have been fitted with urgently needed sanitary facilities.
A supply of clean drinking water directly from the faucet is something we take for granted. In sub-Saharan Africa however, over 30% of the population has no access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Primarily women and girls spend a total of 40 billion hours per year fetching water. What is more, due to the frequent lack of adequate sanitary facilities at schools, older schoolgirls do not attend classes during their menstruation. “We at Cotton made in Africa have been working in partnership with the cotton company Alliance in rural Zimbabwe for years. The lack of access to clean drinking water and toilets is a major obstacle when it comes to improving living conditions. That is why, back in 2015, we initiated the project together with our partners OTTO Österreich and Welthungerhilfe,” explains Alexandra Perschau, Project Manager at Cotton made in Africa. The population in the Gokwe-South region is particularly affected by an insufficient water supply and poor sanitation: Roundabout 60 percent have access to clean water and a mere 18 percent have access to adequate sanitary facilities.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the project and ensure a long-term benefit, the local population was involved in the project and trained in hygiene and clean drinking water. “One of our priorities was to train around 10,000 schoolchildren in 20 villages to become ‘hygiene ambassadors’. Their role is to make sure that the newly acquired knowledge is passed on to their village communities and families, even after the project has ended”, says Dr. Iris Schöninger, Policy Advisor at Welthungerhilfe.
“On our way to using 100% sustainable cotton, we largely rely on the Cotton made in Africa label. In using CmiA certified cotton, we are protecting the environment, saving more than 500 liters of water per T-shirt, and supporting the local communities. We are delighted that our joint water and sanitation project is providing access to clean water, especially for the girls and boys in the cotton growing regions,” says Harald Gutschi, spokesperson of the Management Board of OTTO Österreich.