October 15 is Global Handwashing Day

October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, an annual global advocacy day to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits.

Formerly called “Public Private Partnership for Handwashing” (PPPHW), the day was established in 2008 as a way to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times during the day to prevent disease.

Steering Committee members include the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Water and Sanitation Programme at the World Bank, UNICEF, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, FHI 360, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, University at Buffalo, and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

For more information, please visit the Global Handwashing Partnership website.

Armenian Village Celebrates USAID-Funded Irrigation Efficiency Improvements

The completion of USAID-funded irrigation efficiency improvements benefiting 150 households in the Armenian village of Mrgashat was commemorated August 10, 2021, at a community celebration. USAID/Armenia Mission Director John Allelo, Armavir Province Governor of Hambardzum Matevosyan, and Mrgashat Mayor Gevorg Danielyan attended the celebration along with Magda Avetisyan, ME&A’s Chief of Party for the USAID-funded Advanced Science & Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project that implemented the efficiency improvements in collaboration with the Mrgashat municipality.

USAID/Armenia Mission Director John Allelo examines new pump controls.

Mrgashat has a population of 5,500 and is one of the largest villages in Armenia’s Armavir region. The village receives irrigation water from two sources and has an adequate supply of irrigation water. Before the irrigation efficiency improvements, however, network inefficiencies prevented 30 hectares of farmland from being irrigated for more than 20 years. About 80 percent of the village’s water did not reach these fields and was lost along the way, impacting 150 households who can now irrigate the 30 hectares of farmland and grow crops.

Specific improvements included building a new irrigation network with polyethylene pipes to prevent water losses in the system, installation of new pump controls with phase and current protection circuits, and construction of outlets in the fields to distribute the water to the farm plots. These upgrades will result in water and energy savings equivalent to 228,000 m3 of water and 59,280 kWh of energy annually.

Under ASPIRED, ME&A collaborates with the USAID/U.S. Global Development Lab/Center for Data, Analysis, and Research (DAR), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other relevant institutions to pilot innovative technologies for water conservation and fish farms; establish transformational partnerships; and promote evidence- and science-based water resource monitoring, planning and management. In addition, ME&A also works with the private sector, academia, and other donors to leverage their resources and expertise in the Armenian water and energy sector.

New Solar Photovoltaic System for Fish Farm in Armenia’s Ararat Valley

A new solar photovoltaic system was recently installed in a fish farm in the village of Hovtashat in Armenia’s Ararat Valley with support from the ME&A-led, USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project in Armenia. The 30 KW PV system helps offset extra energy costs from the use of recently upgraded aerators and recirculation pumps that provide more efficient water use.

Considered Armenia’s breadbasket, the Ararat Valley accounts for about 40 to 50 percent of the country’s agricultural production. Unregulated fish farming in recent years, however, has strained the region’s groundwater supply, drying up essential water sources in local communities and putting some at risk of desertification. ASPIRED pilots technologies to make fish farming and agriculture production able to co-exist in an environmentally sustainable way. Besides the energy efficient solar powered aeration system, ASPIRED has also piloted recycling fish farm water for irrigation.

The privately owned fish farm ASPIRED supported uses a water recirculation system that replicates technologies ASPIRED piloted at the government’s Aquaculture Technologies Transfer Center. It uses air lift pumps for enriching water with oxygen and passive settlers for sludge removal, consuming more energy and increasing production costs. That is where the solar application comes in. Use of the solar voltaic system is an environmentally friendly alternative to compensate for extra energy costs. 

The farm produces about 90 tons of fish annually and uses only 40 liters of water per second. The production rate is 2.25 tons of fish for the water flow of one liter/second, which is nearly three times more fish than the industry accepted standard of 800 kilograms. The energy saving is estimated to be 46 megawatt hours annually while the total energy consumption of the fishery is about 350 megawatt hours annually.

Under ASPIRED, ME&A collaborates with the USAID/U.S. Global Development Lab/Center for Data, Analysis, and Research (DAR), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other relevant institutions to pilot innovative technologies for water conservation and fish farms; establish transformational partnerships; and promote evidence- and science-based water resource monitoring, planning and management. In addition, ME&A also works with the private sector, academia, and other donors to leverage their resources and expertise in the Armenian water and energy sector.

Celebrating Earth Day on the Banks of the Amazon

Editor’s Note: This post is by Loren Schulze, Ph.D, ME&A Vice President for Marketing and Business Development.

When the first Earth Day rallies in 1970 sparked the modern environmental movement, I was living on the banks of the Amazon River in Leticia in the Colombian Department of Amazonas as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer assigned to the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

I remember learning from Voice of America radio programs of news from home about how Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10 percent of the U.S. population — to attend massive coast-to-coast rallies against environmental degradation. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment across socio-economic divides, creating momentum for the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adoption of many U.S. environmental policies, and passage of major U.S. environmental protection laws. Earth Day was one of multiple historic events happening back home I missed as a Peace Corps volunteer between 1969 and 1971.

Loren Schulze (left) in Colombia in 1971

Loren Schulze (left) in Leticia, Colombia, in 1971.

Working in agricultural development in one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet gave me additional perspective on the connection between the political awakening in the United States and the people of the Amazon, shaping my commitment to the environment and social progress in my international development career after. The Amazon rainforest is home to up to a fourth of the world’s terrestrial species and plays a critical role in the Earth’s global carbon cycle — and thus its vulnerability to climate change. As trees in the Amazon are cut or burned down, the rainforest is becoming a carbon source instead of one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, contributing to rising global temperatures. Of course, that was not clear back then.

The theme for Earth Day 2021, today, is “Restore Our Earth.” The event is meant to evoke optimism in restoring the world’s ecosystems through natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking. The White House is marking the day by hosting a virtual International Climate Summit of 40 world leaders where the Biden Administration is expected to unveil its greenhouse gas emissions target for 2030 as part of the U.S. renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement. In his invitation, President Biden urged world leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition.

I hope to watch some of the virtual event and look forward to hearing the presentation of President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, whose country remains near and dear to my heart. In the 50 years since my Peace Corps days, there have been successes and failures in the effort to protect the environment, curb climate change, and create an awareness of the human impact on the environment around us. As a USAID Foreign Service Officer for more than 23 years, and now here at ME&A, I continue to stand alongside those striving to affect environmental changes for the good that Earth Day has come to represent. When I think back to working on the banks of the Amazon River, I reflect on how the world’s environmental awareness has advanced over the decades. But we still have much to understand to address the human impact on the environment.

Earth Day 2021: ‘Restore Our Earth’ Today and Year Around

This Thursday, April 22, is Earth Day 2021 with the theme “Restore Our Earth.” The theme is meant to evoke optimism in restoring the world’s ecosystems through natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking.

Due to COVID-19, the celebration will be virtual this year with virtual events for youth and educators scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, April 20 and 21, the two days before, as well as the main virtual event on Earth Day. Workshops, panel discussions, and special performances will focus on “Restore Our Earth.”

The Earth Day website emphasizes that protecting the Earth is a year-around effort.

Climate change and other environmental degradations have broken our natural systems, leading to new and fatal diseases as well as a breakdown of the global economy. But just as climate change and coronavirus painfully remind us of the harm we’ve caused, Restore Our Earth reminds us of the opportunities that lay ahead. We must Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.

On Earth Day, as every day, ME&A supports environmental protection in our offices around the world and in the work we do. ME&A, a participant in the UN Global Compact since August 2018, is proud to commit to high standards in protecting the environment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.

USAID Features ME&A-Led ASPIRED Project in World Water Day 2021 Article

The story focuses on how multiple USAID projects are partnering to conserve water and advance scientific research in Armenia’s Ararat Valley. The Ararat Valley is considered Armenia’s breadbasket, accounting for about 40 percent of the country’s agricultural production. Unregulated fish farming in recent years, however, has strained the region’s groundwater supply, drying up essential water sources in local communities and putting some at risk of desertification.

The Sustainable Fisheries for Enhanced Water Resources in Armenia (SFEWRA) project was the article’s main focus along with its collaboration with ASPIRED and the Participatory Utilization and Resource Efficiency of Water project to advance research on water saving technologies and empower Armenia’s scientific community, local governments, and the public to address the valley’s water crisis.

USAID/Armenia awarded ASPIRED to ME&A as a task order under the Water and Development Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract (WADI) providing the USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment with services and technical support to assist USAID’s Missions, Bureaus, and Offices worldwide in the implementation of the Agency’s Water and Development Strategy.

Under ASPIRED, ME&A collaborates with the USAID/U.S. Global Development Lab/Center for Data, Analysis, and Research (DAR), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other relevant institutions to pilot innovative technologies for water conservation and fish farms; establish transformational partnerships; and promote evidence- and science-based water resource monitoring, planning and management. In addition, ME&A also works with the private sector, academia, and other donors to leverage their resources and expertise in the Armenian water and energy sector.

World Water Day 2021: Valuing Water in the Ararat Valley, Armenia’s Breadbasket

Water is a valuable and finite source; it is life’s most basic necessity. We need water to drink, clean, irrigate, generate electricity, farm fish, and just about everything else you can imagine. With ongoing population increases and the impact of climate change, the stress on global water resources is mounting rapidly. Unless humanity unites its efforts to value and care for its most precious resource, our planet could face the greatest disaster in human history.

With World Water Day approaching, ME&A showcases the collaboration between the USAID-funded Advanced Science & Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project and its partners successfully promoting the value of water and protecting this vital resource. World Water Day, held on March 22 every year since 1993, focuses on the importance of freshwater.

Over the past five years, ASPIRED has benefited more than 33,000 inhabitants of the ancient Ararat Valley, saving over 13 million cubic meters of water and some 1,381 MWh of energy annually. It has also resulted in a GHG emission reduction of 2,585 tons per year.

“Every piece of land is valuable in the Ararat Valley. Without cultivation, the farmlands are gradually degrading,” the mayor of the village of Hayanist said after the village implemented water reuse and irrigation improvements. “The project brought a tremendous benefit to the community and its residents because farming and livestock breeding are the only source of income for the local people. With access to water, people can cultivate land, make their living. When there is water, there is life.”

The ASPIRED team has been working closely with key government stakeholders, community members, and the private sector to ultimately reduce the rate of groundwater extraction to sustainable levels. The project strives to reach this goal by upgrading water-related data systems, introducing energy- and water-saving technologies to water users, supporting legal changes, and coordinating actions with other stakeholders and partners.

“The Ararat Valley is our country’s breadbasket. Many rural communities here already confront drinking or irrigation water shortages,” ME&A’s Chief of Party for ASPIRED, Magda Avetisyan, said. “As the water crisis in the region exacerbates, we need to rethink the ways we manage our country’s vital water resources through effective policies, innovative technologies, and behavioral change both on the individual and public levels.”

The ME&A-led ASPIRED project assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ME&A was awarded ASPIRED as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

ASPIRED Partnership Benefits 400 Farmers in Small Community in Armenia’s Ararat Valley

Pokr Vedi is a small community on the left bank of the Araks River in the Ararat region. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for the local population; fruit orchards represent the primary source of income. The village has a population of nearly 3,300.

The adequate supply of water for irrigation is of utmost importance to secure a stable income and decent livelihoods for the villagers. The community had been getting water for irrigation from two sources, but the deteriorated network and significant water losses did not permit proper irrigation of fields. In 2020, the Pokr Vedi irrigation system was upgraded through a partnership between the USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED)  and Participatory Utilization and Resource Efficiency of Water (PURE Water) projects, “Hayastan” All Armenia Fund, and the Artashat Water Users Association.

Gevorg Sheroyan

Gevorg Sheroyan is one of more than 400 farmers benefiting from the renovation of the irrigation system. Gevorg, a mechanics teacher by profession, was born and grew up in Pokr Vedi. He taught mechanics in the village school for 37 years, sharing his knowledge and experience with school children in the use of agricultural machinery. Gevorg is also an experienced farmer. In 2008, he introduced drip irrigation system in his greenhouse to increase yield and improve crop quality.

Gevorg noted that the ASPIRED Project solved the most important problem, i.e., huge water losses in the irrigation network. Encouraged by this, in the spring of this year on his own initiative and expense, Gevorg installed a drip irrigation system on his1.6 hectares of land for the commercial production of quality tomatoes.

“The increased water supply and proper pressure ensured smooth operation of the pump and I was able to successfully operate a drip irrigation system in this field. This system will allow irrigating up to 20-30 hectares of land. Thus, I’m planning to expand the drip irrigation into another four hectares.”

Gevorg invested approximately USD 4,200 in installing a drip irrigation system including filters and pipes purchased from Russia. The ASPIRED Project helped Gevorg upscale and expand the economic gains of his farm by the installation of a new irrigation system. This increased his yield three times, improved crop quality, and created additional jobs for the community.

Beneficiaries like Gevorg enhance the project’s impact through the improved livelihood of both the community and individuals; community members value the use of innovative technologies and invest in them to improve their own businesses. Gevorg’s experience is a shining example of sustainable development in rural communities.

“The tomato yield is actually three times more than that of the traditional fields. If I subtract the investment expenses, my yield was doubled, and I generated more income. The increased yield is creating additional jobs. At present, I have 15 employees, both men and women, who work and collect the harvest. The higher the yield, the more people will be involved in the harvest. After all, improved livelihood is gained through work.”

Before the improvements, the network’s losses were about 40 percent. The competed project resulted in annual water savings of approximately 936,000 m3, while energy savings totaled 341,640 kWh during the irrigation season. The annual financial benefit from saved energy is around AMD 13.3 million or USD 27,400. This project is proof that multilateral operation, joint efforts and investments benefit hard working farmers and the community at large.

USAID/Armenia awarded ASPIRED to ME&A as a task order under the Water and Development Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract (WADI) providing the USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment with services and technical support to assist USAID’s Missions, Bureaus, and Offices worldwide in the implementation of the Agency’s Water and Development Strategy.

Under ASPIRED, ME&A collaborates with the USAID/U.S. Global Development Lab/Center for Data, Analysis, and Research (DAR), the U.S. Geological Survey, and other relevant institutions to pilot innovative technologies for water conservation and fish farms; establish transformational partnerships; and promote evidence- and science-based water resource monitoring, planning and management. In addition, ME&A also works with the private sector, academia, and other donors to leverage their resources and expertise in the Armenian water and energy sector.

World Toilet Day Highlights ‘Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change’

Tomorrow we celebrate World Toilet Day, a reminder to take action to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. World Toilet Day is an official United Nations international observance day occurring annually on November 19.

This year’s theme is “Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change” in recognition of the fact flood, drought, and rising sea levels threaten sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. For instance, floodwater can damage toilets and spread human waste into water supplies, food crops and people’s homes. These incidents, which are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, cause public health emergencies and degrade the environment.

World Toilet Day also brings attention to the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. Instead they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or defecate in the open — in the streets, in the bushes and by rivers and other water sources — contaminating the water and soil that sustain human life. The crisis is most severe in parts of Africa and Asia facing extreme poverty and and a population boom.

Untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practice good hygiene, are a strong defense against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.

For more information on this annual event occurring on November 19, visit the World Toilet Day website.

New World Bank Portal Provides Curated List of Water Data

The World Bank recently launched the World Bank Water Data Portal offering a curated list of water data from the World Bank and other sources and institutions. Previously the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative provided free, open access to the Bank’s development data but not in one place combined with outside data sources. Users can search by:

  • Country for specific national goals
  • Regional level for big-picture view
  • According to three pillars: water resources, delivering services, and building resilience

Created with support from the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), the new portal includes sourcing from World Bank-funded initiatives such as the International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities (IBNET), the Rural Water and Sanitation Information System (SIASAR) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and supplementing that with dozens of quality data sources such as the OECD, the UN, World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and a number of governments.

The portal is aimed at client countries in need of data to help tackle some common development challenges as well as the World Bank and the broader development community to ensure insights and evidence from global research and analytics is widely shared and used in the field.

For additional information, please visit the World Bank Water Data Portal and/or watch this video the World Bank created about the new portal below.