This series provides questions and answers with people who are doing meaningful work in the water and sanitation sector to make a difference in lives, communities and the world.
By Kathy Kelley
ROCKBlue is doing its part to help the United Nations meet its Sustainable Development Goal Six, to provide access to water and sanitation for all by 2030. Providing water for all is becoming even more complicated as growing demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment. This underscores the need for an integrated approach to the planning and management of water resources.
ROCKBlue board member Winifred Nabakiibi is part of that planning process. Here, she quickly discusses her career and her motivations.
The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Please share a bit about your background in water and sanitation.
Previously, I worked as an engineer in the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda. After that I joined the Reform of the Water Sector Programme, whose mission was building “sustainable improvement of institutional capacity for socially balanced access to urban water supply and sanitation.” While working on this program, it became so vivid to me, the role that strong institutions and human capital development play in ensuring development, growth and improved productivity and livelihoods. This led to my current work as an institutional development consultant working with various agencies in the public, private and development sector.
Who or what inspired you to co-found ROCKBlue?
I was inspired to join ROCKBlue by the founder, Peter Macy, who I saw as a person with a wealth of experience seeking to contribute on the African continent. Having understood the vision of ROCKBlue, which is working around Resources, Ownership, Connection, Knowledge and Secondary backup systems (ROCKS) to facilitate improvements by the utilities, I was more than glad to join the cause and make my contribution through volunteering.
Can you tell us about a recent project that gave you a lot of personal satisfaction?
A recent project that I participated in involved developing a water security action plan for the water sector in Uganda. It was a multi stakeholder collaboration involving private sector, public sector and civil society putting together an action plan to address water security issues in the country. At the start, the subject was so abstract to many. However, at the Ugandan Water Week event, the overall theme was “Water and environment security for socio-economic transformation of Uganda,” and the subject of water security was resounding in every presentation. To see how far that has come and the attention it is being given now gives me a lot of satisfaction.
What obstacles does ROCKBlue and the world face in tackling the global water crisis?
The obstacle I see is the apparent conflict between driving development and conserving nature. Nature sustains the availability of water, and the appreciation of this relationship is at risk.
What else would you like people to know?
Water is life! The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are 83% water, the skin is 64% water, and muscles and kidneys are 79% water. Not only that, 71% of the earth’s surface is water. Research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, and even lowering heart and breathing rate.
Water sustains life for both humans and animals, and volunteering for water conservation is a satisfying sacrifice.
Kathy Kelley is a Chicago-based writer and editor with ROCKBlue and a freelancer with more than 30 years of experience. She has written about everything from environmental issues to technical engineering topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Michigan State University.