Having a regular, dependable supply of clean water is something most of us take for granted when we turn the tap but that’s not how it is for many rural villages in Sabah. 

Keadaan kampung di pedalaman Sabah (Foto ihsan Raleigh Borneo)

More often than not, the villagers depend on a nearby river or rain for their water but these sources are becoming increasingly unsafe due to upstream pollution while global warming has in recent years caused longer dry seasons that disrupt the seasonal rain supply. 

Their quality of life is also affected as a significant amount of time is spent collecting and carrying the water from the river, which can become very low during the dry season, while the lack of water causes sanitation problems.

But since 2006 over 50 villages and more than 20,000 people in Sabah, and more to come, now enjoy the basic necessity of having clean water piped into their homes or village for daily use having benefitted from the “Clean Water For Communities” programme, a partnership between Coca-Cola and youth development charity Raleigh International.   

The aim of “Clean Water For Communities” is to improve access to, and quality of, water and sanitation services in order to improve the overall productivity, safety and health of the beneficiary communities.  

At each of these remote villages, the Raleigh volunteers repair old pipe systems or install a Gravity Fed Water System (GFWS). 

It begins when the international team of volunteers arrive in the village and set up their mosquito nets either in the community hall or a house donated by one of the villagers which serves as their home for the duration of the project to install the GFWS.  

Over the next few weeks, together with the community, the young volunteers set about clearing a path then carrying building materials, pipes and large water tanks up to where they would build a dam near the water source located uphill from the village. They also install water tanks in different locations around the village so that every household benefits from the improved water supply. 

During their free time the volunteers also hold health and hygiene awareness raising sessions with the villagers to promote best practice hygiene behaviour.

This is part of Raleigh’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme and includes building toilets and tippy taps that are used to wash hands hygienically when there is no tap available. 

With the new GFWS the villages now have a sustainable and safe water supply that can also help reduce disease and therefore improve work efficiency and quality of life. And because women usually bear the brunt of water scarcity, as it is also often their role in the community to ensure that there is sufficient water for the family to use, the availability of a clean and reliable source of water also improves the quality of life for them. 

“Coca-Cola intends to return to communities and nature an amount of water equivalent to what is used in our beverages and their production by 2020 and we are working toward water balance through diverse, locally focused community water projects and one of the ways we are doing so is by improving safe access to water and sanitation which also helps to improve local livelihoods, help communities adapt to climate change and improve water quality,” said Coca-Cola Malaysia’s Public Affairs and Communications Director, Kadri Taib.

“Water is one of life’s most crucial necessities and we often take having immediate access to it for granted. We want these villagers to also have the convenience of having water channelled directly into their homes, which allows them more time and energy to devote to other productive activities,” added Kadri.

Coca-Cola has provided over RM1 million in funding for this project to support rural communities in Sabah to continue to project until 2018.