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How buying water from Co-op helps fund water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in Africa

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In collaboration with The One Foundation, a charity that strives for worldwide access to clean and safe water, Co-op has spent the last 12 years investing in clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Africa.

To be exact, the Co-op has raised £9.5 million to date for clean water projects.

A new water pipe being fitted in Zonsezi Village, Malawi // Co-op

Have you ever been in a supermarket and felt overwhelmed by how many brands of water there are? It’s supposed to be a simple decision, but instead, you find yourself pondering over which brand is best and then because you're in a rush, you understandably reach for the cheapest one or the brand involved in the meal-deal.

What if you knew that at least one of those water bottles standing on the shelf contributed to something greater than just a purse-friendly meal deal? Well, in actual fact, purchasing a Co-op water bottle does make a difference.  

An alarming 884 million people worldwide are unable to access clean, safe water. Consequently, two million people, most under five years old, die of waterborne diseases every year.

Although these upsetting facts may seem out of our reach, especially as students with little money, something as simple as buying a certain water bottle the next time you’re out and thirsty is enough to make a difference - and this is down to the Co-op, the first UK retailer to commit to eliminating water poverty by 2030.

This is possible because for every litre of Co-op branded still, sparkling and flavoured water, 3p is donated to water projects across the world. In fact, their own brand water sales will raise £1.3 million this year alone.

Still, if having read this you still have the urge to grab your usual brand of choice (we’re students – understandably, the meal deal appeals) then that’s okay; every other branded water that Co-op sells now donates 1p per litre to Water Unite, a Global Investment Fund for Water that aims to end water poverty globally by 2030.

Co-op signed up as a pioneer partner to Water Unite in April 2017. “By buying bottled water from a Water Unite partner, around one cent per litre will be invested in safe, sustainable water services for people who need them most,” Water Unite states on its website.

The vending of other brands in combination with Co-op’s own water means that the organisation is able to donate over £2 million a year to global clean water and sanitation projects.

The Co-op helped to make water access available during four separate humanitarian crises in 2017 alone.

Other actions, which Co-op subsidised through The One Foundation, include drilling ten new boreholes and fixing 300 broken pumps, reaching 150,000 people last year.

Additionally, through pump repair and borehole drilling, they have also supported Fairtrade sugar, tea and flower growers.

Currently children worldwide are missing school and adults are unable to work, instead travelling up to four hours a day just to collect water for their families. The money Co-op has raised has also helped to build rainwater harvesting systems and safe toilets in schools.

The story of Mpeni Village in Malawi, featured on the Co-op’s website, is an extraordinary example of a successful and sustainable clean water programme.

A borehole built in Mpeni in 2014 has led to safe access to water for 420 people. Previously, the women collected water from an open well at the bottom of a steep hill almost a mile away - something that was almost impossible in the rainy season.

Thoko Mathotho, who lives in Mpeni, says: “We’re so grateful for the work in our village.

"We often suffered illness when we drank from the unprotected water source and Cholera was present in our village.

"We have seen a reduction in disease over the last two years since we have been drinking water from the water pump. With the time saved on collecting water, we can now tend to our fields and plant crops”.

As well as aiding water poverty, Co-op recently switched their own-brand water to 50% recycled plastic bottles. The supermarket estimates that the change will save almost 350 tons of plastic every year.

The organisation also strives to rid its aisles of black and dark coloured plastic by 2020. We'll be supporting them every step of the way. 

Students get 10% off at Co-op with a Totum or NUS extra card.

Find out more about Co-op's partnerships and ethical policy on water here.

For more inspiration from Co-op throughout the year follow @coopukfood.

Find your nearest Co-op store here.

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