Water is at the heart of many of today’s global development challenges. One in nine people lack access to an improved water source, of which nearly half are concentrated in Africa. The implications of this include poor health, sanitation and hygiene, and consequently, the spread of preventable diseases. U.S social enterprise, PITCHAfrica, has found an innovative way to address this issue, improve education and bring the community together with the creation of a water-harvesting soccer stadium in Kenya.
The new soccer pitch includes a 1,500 seat stadium capable of storing more than 1.5 million litres of fresh water. It was built at the Endana Secondary School in Laikipia, Kenya, a semi-arid region in the Central Highlands. Along with four additional low-cost water storage buildings known as ‘Waterbanks’, the school campus can meet the community’s water needs year-round.
This project is the second of its kind. In 2012, PITCHAfrica conceived and created the Waterbank School, a rainwater harvesting school building that provided up to five litres of clean water a day to each student. In addition to producing potable water, the school also addresses a very critical gender barrier to education; girls, who are typically responsible for water collection, are now able to routinely attend school.
The Endana School project takes this innovation one step further. The campus’ low-cost, high-volume Waterbank buildings, including the stadium, a girls’ dormitory, canteen, and latrine, collectively store two million litres of water. This not only enables community self-reliance and access to clean water, but also provides irrigation for the agricultural plots throughout the campus. These structures and the conversations they provoke, also help improve community understanding of water-related health, sanitation, nutrition and gender equality issues.
By incorporating sport, PITCHAfrica has also been able to extend the impact of its work. Soccer (or football, locally) is hugely popular and now, with the creation of a 1,500 seat stadium, will help serve as a catalyst for positive change. According to PITCHAfrica Founder Jane Harrison, “Bringing football into the mix brings passion, an attentive audience, bridging differences. This can make the desire to model peaceful collaboration and share knowledge about sustainable environmental practices a reality, while providing students with an environmentally engaged education, healthy food and clean water.”
The project was developed through a partnership between PITCHAfrica, the Zeitz Foundation and the local community. Sponsorship support was also provided by soccer star Samuel Eto’s private foundation, the Cameron O’Reilly family, Guernsey Overseas Aid and OI Pejeta Conservancy. By incorporating the Laikipia Unity Program soccer league, the campus is estimated to reach more over 50,000 people across the region.
The Waterbank system is easily replicable and would add tremendous value to many regions in the Global South where potable water access is lacking, but heavy rainfall is not. Additionally, because this model combines clean water with health and environmental education, it provides a very viable model for sustainable development.