New Akvopedia Food and Nutrition Security portal

by Winona Azure


This week we’ve added a completely new portal to Akvopedia, focused on food – specifically food security. This reflects the critical importance of resilient food systems within our water and sanitation knowledge base. Here’s a joint statement about it, with ICCO, for those who want to share it or write about it.

New Akvopedia Food and Nutrition Security Portal

Amsterdam, 10 June 2015 – Easy access and sharing of practical information on food and nutrition security in developing countries – that’s the purpose of the Food and Nutrition Security Portal within Akvopedia, which went live this week. The portal is an initiative of ICCO Cooperation and Akvo and can be found here.

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The expanding role of technology in the water and sanitation sector

by Henry Jewell

full house

Above: full house at the ICT for WASH event in Washington DC, USA. Photo by Ben Mann.
Kidus Asfaw of Unicef joins a panel discussion via Skype. Other panelists are Samia Melhem (World Bank), Patricia Mechael (mHealth expert), Mary Roach (GSMA) and moderator Evariste Kouassi Komlan. Photo by Josje Spierings.

In late 2013 I wrote a blog about the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. It was clear at this time that lots was happening in this space but that it was still a side topic, which did not warrant its own stage.

I’m pleased to say that things have changed in the intervening 18 months or so, and this is no longer the case. So on May 14-15, we jointly hosted a two-day WASH and ICT event together with the Global Water Challenge (GWC), UNICEF, the Water and Sanitation Program at the World Bank and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS). It took place at the OpenGov Hub, which is where we call home. 

It was an informative event with many great presentations, some interactive group work and expert panels, all aimed at evaluating the status of ICT in WASH. Here are some of my key takeaways from the event:

Challenges, and the Principles of Digital Development – One of the main goals of the event was to identify challenges and then propose solutions and concrete commitments to address these challenges. It quickly became apparent that many of the challenges that the participants identified tied in with the 9 pillars of the Principles of Digital Development. In many cases the most important things to tackle are the hardest things to achieve. More details on the outcomes of these conversations will be made public shortly.
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WakaWaka, Rwanda – tracks distribution & sales of solar lights & chargers

by Jo Pratt

Team 850

Above: members of the WakaWaka team attend a training workshop on Akvo FLOW in Kigali to learn how to use it and how to train their colleagues to use it. 6 October 2014. Photo by Tim Janssen.

WakaWaka is an impact driven, social venture that fights to abolish energy poverty throughout the world. It develops, manufactures and markets high-tech low-cost solar powered lamps and chargers. Proceeds made from selling WakaWaka products in developed markets at competitive prices are used to make them available to off-grid communities around the world at an affordable rate. Read More »

Assessing damage & WASH status in Gorkha using Akvo FLOW

by Jigmy Lama

Top (L): A community in Finam Village Development Committee (VDC), Top(R) Test Data collection in Deurali VDC Bottom (R and L): Enumerators on the move for data collection Photos By: Jigmy Lama/Akvo

The post earthquake relief work in Nepal sprouted like wild mushrooms in a rain forest.

Everyone wanted to help. Everyone wanted to support. And as anticipated, heaps of support entered the country, even generated internally, and we saw like never before, tremendously unorganised and poorly coordinated system working amidst devastation. Lack of knowledge about on-the-ground realities and unavailable data for planning the response were major reasons for this chaotically “hung” situation. To avoid it from worsening further and support in our own way, we started bringing in together all our partners who were using Akvo tools to make them useful for assessing all sort of ground information and bring it into a platform to share among all concerned.

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Kenya becomes first Dutch embassy to show all development work online

by Luuk Diphoorn


Photo: Dutch development investment in Kenya is extremely diverse, including fields such as social change through cultural arts. (Centre) Jane Mbugua and Rahim Otieno of Sarakasi Trust; Shitemi Khamadi, PAWA254; Lynnet Ngigi, Kuona Trust accompanied by the Sarakasi dancers and acrobats. Photo credit: Mwarv Kirubi, 4 July 2014.

Today we are at the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi to attend its NGO Day. Akvo gets big billing as it will be explained that the full portfolio of €100 million of Dutch development cooperation projects in Kenya is now online through Akvo RSR, with a move towards full compliance with IATI soon. Here’s the announcement for the local press.

Netherlands Embassy in Kenya is first to publish full development portfolio online, towards IATI standard
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When God left the City of Temples

by Jigmy Lama

temple ruin 1 800

Saturday, 25 April 2015 marked a black day in Nepali history as Kathmandu and 38 other districts experienced a 7.6 Richter scale earthquake at 11:56 am. In the four days that followed, more than 700 shocks were recorded, 600 of them above 4 on the Richter scale.

Eight million lives have been affected with severe loss of life and property across 11 districts. As I write, the data shows 5,489 deaths and 10,965 injuries, and these numbers are expected to double by the time the search and rescue is completed (Source: National Emergency Operation Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs and UN Data, 30 April 2015). Numerous major heritage sites, temples and shrines have been damaged or destroyed completely. For example, Kasthmandap, a temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square that was built from a single tree during the early sixteenth century, is now completely destroyed. The Darahara or Bhimsen Tower, rebuilt in 1934 following its destruction in a mega earthquake that devastated Kathmandu Valley, is only debris now. Durbar Squares in all three cities, Kathmandu, Bhakatapur and Lalitpur, and the Durbar High School, Nepal’s first school, also could not survive this quake and all sustained severe damage.

News of the quake flooded regional and international media and soon the world came to know that the land of the Himalayas was engulfed by nature’s ruthless act. Expressions of grief and sympathy along with support from the international community started to flood in. However, all this has been overshadowed by the tremendous shock that people in Nepal still feel, while coping with countless tremors, to realise that the long-expected threat has turned into a reality. It’s really hard to take it all in. Read More »

Stefan van Heukelum: The finance view

by Stefan van Heukelum

stefanvh 850

This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.

During 2014 there were three main events that created some challenges for the Akvo finance team. 

First of all, by the end of 2013 we decided that it was appropriate for us to become VAT-registered, due to changes in our business model and our sector. To make sure we did everything properly, at the beginning of 2014 we underwent an extensive audit by our accountant at Lentink en de Jonge. This showed that we made the right choices and we’re heading in the right directions. Like true accountants, they also provided us with some suggestions for improvements in our administrative and financial processes.

Secondly, we continued growing. We realised more income than the year before and the number of staff also increased.

And thirdly, related to this, we expanded more into different regions by decentralising part of our work from Amsterdam. This resulted in setting up new several Akvo entities in different places and transferring some of our staff into these new entities. For the Amsterdam finance and operational admin team, this meant that sometimes we had to look at the finances for all the separate entities and sometimes we had to look at the bigger picture of all the administrations combined. The challenges also varied a little bit in the perspective that we were using. Read More »

Jo Pratt: Navigating the land of no maps

by Jo Pratt

jop 850

This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.

When I look around me at the context in which we work, one thing I notice is that there’s a tension at play between two significant observable trends pushing in opposite directions. On the one hand, I see a positive, expanding momentum to strive for aid transparency and #Opendata for development and all the benefits that brings, and on the other, a complex raft of issues surrounding personal privacy and consent online.

I was intrigued to read this blog by my new colleague Annabelle Poelert (who I’ve yet to meet) about a conference she recently attended called Responsible Data for Humanitarian Response. She remarked that, “Most of the professional data scientists seemed to be quite dismissive about the dangers of ploughing ahead with new types of data analysis without fully understanding the consequences. Their biggest concerns weren’t necessarily ethical in nature. They seemed more afraid of failing to explore data analysis to its full potential and losing momentum. But what mistakes can be considered acceptable if the data affects people’s lives?”

Aid transparency is very far from a new concept these days, and the benefits and scope of the phenomenon are far more widely understood and accepted than they were when Akvo came into being in 2007 with a mission to provide a platform to help open up the water and sanitation sector. Movements such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative are rapidly normalising openness and accountability.

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Henry Jewell: Making the case for open

by Henry Jewell


This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.
‘The days are long and the years are short’, is a phrase I have heard a lot of as a new parent – spare time very quickly obtains a high premium and before you know it months and even years have passed. This phrase takes on even more significance when at the same time you are trying to figure out parenthood, you are setting up a non-profit.  Akvo Foundation USA is a little over 18 months old and whilst it has been a whirlwind of activities, it is important to take stock to understand what we have achieved, where we are now and what our goals moving forward are, before the next 18 months has passed by in a flash.

So far our attention and energy has been focused on:
  • Obtaining funds for the core development of Akvo tools – nearly $1.5 Million raised from US partners to date
  • Introducing Akvo’s tools to new partners – through training, demonstrations and presentations
  • Working to promote the value of common standards, innovative ICT interventions, open data and how to use this data effectively
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