The World Cup may be over, but the people in various communities in Africa won’t stop playing soccer. This sport is an integral part of the daily lives of people in African villages. Atopia Research, a charitable design company, has taken this fact and created a concept that is very much needed in that part of the world: a soccer field that doubles as a rainwater catchment system.
How does it work? It’s simple. The idea is based on the fact that Africa gets plenty of rainfall but only during certain times of the year. The rain falls and the field acts as a catchment surface where the water collects and is drained through a semi-permeable membrane. Some of this water flows through an irrigation system and is used to water plants and eventually harvest crops, while the rest flows into a storage tank and is then filtered for drinking, cooking and bathing. The system can provide 1,000 people with water for a year and is built, using local, sustainable resources and materials to minimize cost and maximize impact.
This project, known as “PITCH: AFRICA” (which means “soccer field” outside of the U.S.), resembles the group of projects implemented by WASH United, a coalition of organizations, agencies, governments and football players from around the world whose mission is to promote clean water, sanitation and hygiene for people in the developing world (especially Africa). Both charities work by using something that is already integrated in African communities – a passion for soccer – to introduce a not-so-available, yet much needed resource – clean water – thereby naturally integrating this resource into their daily lives… a strategy that, in my opinion, has the potential to be highly effective.
Didier Drogba, Nwankwo Kanu and Stephen Appiah all hope to score goals for their countries during the World Cup, which fields its first match today. But as members of WASH United, they’ve got a different goal in mind.
WASH United is a coalition of football players, agencies, organizations and governments from across the world united to “promote safe drinking WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for all people, everywhere,” though they focus very heavily on the eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, host of the World Cup, is one of these countries).
WASH United states that nearly “40% of the world population have no access to sanitation,” and many are forced to use buckets or bags in public rather than a toilet. More than 4,000 children under the age of five die from preventable diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation every day.
Anyone who is following the World Cup knows that it is the world’s largest sporting event, with countries from all over the globe participating. WASH United feels that the internationally-loved sport of football can be a catalyst for change, and they’ve recruited several football stars to become champions of WASH United.
So far, WASH United has campaigned across sub-Saharan Africa to educate people about sanitation and also encourage the demand for sanitation services. They also promote safe drinking water.
But you don’t have to be a football star to help WASH United in its goal. Consider joining WASH United by signing up as a member on their site. There are many ways you can then take action as a WASH United member:
The current 18-member list of stars to join WASH United are as follows:
- Juan Sebastián Verón
- Jonathan Pitroipa
- Guy Demel
- Didier Drogba
- Salomon Kalou
- Michael Ballack
- Bastian Schweinsteiger
- Nicole Banecki
- Sylvie Banecki
- Jerome Boateng
- Stephen Appiah
- Gianluigi Buffon
- Mohamed Sissoko
- Nwankwo Kanu
- Chinedu Obasi
- Mark van Bommel
- Arjen Robben
- Anatoliy Tymoshchuk