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"Amazing Ideas...Really Motivated"

20 Jun 2021 by The Water Diplomat
Montreal, Canada

Girls in Madagascar making an artisanal water filter
A group of five people sitting on basket-weave furniture on a terrace
Erick Ratsarasataharitera (second from left) is president of the Tihary Association

International NGO, the International Secretariat for Water (ISW) has launched its second Global Youth Take Action call for projects on the Youth for Water and Climate platform, which offers funding (up to $5000 CAD) and technical support to eligible youth-led water projects around the world. It follows the "tremendous impact" of 9 projects supported in the 2020 round.

Projects must be conceived, led and implemented by youth aged 18-35. Teams are urged to submit their proposals by the closing date of 30 June by submitting their project on the Youth for Water and Climate platform.

Read the full call for projects here

Speaking to The water Diplomat, Elysa Vaillancourt, ISW's youth project manager, said: "Current financing mechanisms aren't always adapted to the situation that youth are facing," continuing: "This platform aims to fill that financing gap for youth by not only giving them seed funding for their initiative, but also giving them really important technical support."

Vaillancourt explained that the strict structures of the mainstream funding landscape often require applicants to be registered NGOs, have boards of administrators, financial statements, even patents. "All of these elements are hard for youth organisations to get," she said. "A lot of the youth that we work with are more informal groups that have amazing ideas and are really motivated."

Noting that larger structures usually have high expectations when it comes to monitoring and evaluation, Vaillancourt went on to point out that the YWC platform aims to offer an innovative monitoring and evaluation framework which is adapted to the context and needs of young leaders.

She also stressed that the technical support provided by the platform offers participants the chance to learn and develop through the experience and from their peers.

Erick Ratsarasataharitera, who holds a degree in agriculture, is president of Tihary Association a youth organisation in Madagascar that was one of 9 projects to secure funding from the platform last year. He told Ooska News about Tihary's Eau'Sytech project, which increased access to clean drinking water for the community of Behitsy, near the capital city of Antananarivo, through the use of easy-to-make artisanal water filters.

From the main road, he had noticed the local source of drinking water serving around 200 households. "We could see the water was dirty just by looking at it," he said. "As well as a wash house with detergents and soaps lying around, we could also see that latrines above it were discharging directly into the spring." The Tihary team was already working on a plan to help the local population when the call for projects came from Global Youth Take Action in March 2020, so they lost no time in submitting their proposal.

Watch project video here

To be eligible, the project has to fall under at least one of four themes: water and health, water and agriculture, water-related risk and sharing water. During last year's selection Eau'Sytech qualified under the water and health criteria. According to the WHO UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), only 54% of the population of Madagascar has access to safely managed and basic service drinking water.

Eleven young people in a classroom setting. Two young women have their hands raised
The Eau'Sytech project includes training in water issues and water-borne diseases

The Eau'Sytech project used the ISW funding first to test the water, providing hard proof of the level of contamination to the local community. The project then implemented a programme of training and communication to raise awareness of water quality and water-borne diseases and motivate households to make their own Berkey-type artisanal water filters using readily available and inexpensive materials.

The team of 19 young people received training from ISW on how to communicate the impact of their project and on how to source funding that could enable them to take it to the next level. "We also received training on the water situation in different parts of the world," explained Erick. "This made us realise that there are still so many things we can do to help our communities here in Madagascar."

Following a serious drought at the end of 2020, which further exacerbated access to clean drinking water, the young people trained by the project seized the opportunity to sensitise their communities to use the filters. Erick described how most households quickly began using them on a daily basis, describing their delight with the quality of the water after filtration. "Even just the visual impact of seeing clear water coming out of these filters sent a really powerful message," he said.

One Behitsy resident who became an enthusiastic Eau-Sytech volunteer is Ony Marceline Rasoamampionona, who is also the secretary to the president of the local authority. She attests to the improvements brought by the project in her communication skills, profile in the community and personal development. "We would like this project to be replicated in other communities, as it gives people access to better water quality, thereby reducing the risk of water-related diseases," she said, adding: "I hope that Tihary can develop and continue its work to help young people like me and also the community."

The Tihary project has been continuing in Behitsy since the completion of the ISW-funded part in December 2020. Several initiatives are planned in the field of sanitation and a number of events relating to the environment and biodiversity.

"Because of COVID, we have not been able to find any additional local funding yet," said Erick. "But we are still actively seeking opportunities that will allow us to implement then second phase of our project," he added.

The Global Youth Take Action programme does not set a limit on the number of project it support, although Vaillancourt says it will likely be around the same number as last year. The selection, based on strict quality assessment criteria, will be made by a jury composed of youth leaders and experts in the water and climate sectors. Last year, the final nine were chosen from 300 submissions from 50 countries. 

Photo credits: Youth for Water and Climate