21 December 2018

Canberra, Timor L'Este friendship flows with Abundant Water

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Abundant Water and FOKUPERS workers attended a planning workshop in Dili. From left: Betty, Joanico, Luizihna, Mika, Marilia, Tom, Mize, and Francisca. Photo: Supplied.

A Canberra charity that started with one man’s life-changing realisation about the value of fresh, clean water has landed a major grant to design and develop clean drinking water projects in Timor L’Este.

Abundant Water began when then ANU engineering student Sunny Forsyth was working as an Australian Government Youth Ambassador. He witnessed firsthand the lack of safe drinking water in rural communities in Southeast Asia, but also grasped the potential offered by a social business model that would empower communities.

Abundant Water trains local village potters how to manufacture simple but highly effective clay filters. Vendors are then trained in business skills and management so they can run their own micro-businesses, selling the filters to local communities, and becoming a contact point for repairs and replacements. This creates sustainable, scalable clean drinking water projects in some of the poorest and most remote communities in Laos, Nepal and now Timor L’Este.

Abundant Water has just received confirmation they’re the recipients of a Friendship Grant from DFAT for their Timor L’Este project, part of a programme that leverages Australian NGO’s work in the Indo-Pacific region, incorporating them as part of the Australian aid programme.

The NGO spent 18 months investigating resources and identifying the best local partners for the programme. The Timor L’Este project will begin early next year with the aim of distributing 1000 water filter systems and providing 6000 people with access to clean water.

Timor L’Este ambassador Abel Guterres says the project is vitally important. “Potable water is an essential element if you want the kids to be healthy because tropical countries have a lot of waterborne diseases. If you don’t get the purification working, you need to boil water and you need firewood for that.

“If you can use modern technology instead and you can do it cheaply then it’s fantastic, because it saves the environment, as well as providing clean water, healthy for babies and toddlers,” he said.

Partners for the Timor project include Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS), the Rotary Club of Dili Lafaek and FOKUPERS, a local foundation that works on Timorese social justice and empowerment projects. Abundant Water will also complete filter installations in five schools across Dili and Liquica using funding from Canberra Rotary Clubs.

Ambassador Guterres also sees Abundant Water’s social business model as a powerful force for good. “Because the community owns it, they take responsibility for how it works. That means the project benefits families and community.

“Abundant Water has done a fantastic job in Cambodia and Laos, and we need to do more of it. 70 per cent of the Timorese population live in rural areas, and that’s where a lot of the health issues are with water-borne diseases. This will make a major difference.”

In addition to national and international aid partners, Abundant Water receives support from a number of Canberra-based organisations and businesses including One of a Kind Apartments, Hall, Canberra East and Jerrabombera Rotary, Water Tight plumbers, iCognition and the ANU’s College of Engineering and Computer Sciences.

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