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The European Commission (EC) hosts a large number of funding programmes, focusing on a wide range of objectives. Programmes like EuropeAid, Horizon2020 and Life+ hold quite interesting opportunities for innovative projects on development. Opportunities in which Akvo can and should participate.

I joined Akvo in 2015. In the previous years I worked mainly in Brussels, running applications for EC funding and coordinating a number of large international projects on water under different EC programmes. With that background, Akvo asked me to represent the organisation in the preparation of two European project-proposals. We managed to secure both projects and on behalf of Akvo I will coordinate both AfriAlliance (started 1
st March) and GroundTruth (will start 1st September). Apart from the work on these two projects, I will also work to ensure Akvo is better linked to European Union (EU) policies and can better benefit from EC funding for innovative projects.


AfriAlliance
The AfriAlliance project consists of a consortium of 16 partners, equally divided between Africa and Europe, and will run for five years. The goal of the consortium is to promote the exchange of knowledge and improve the transfer of technologies between African and European organisations on the topic of water and climate by setting up a so-called “network-of-networks”. Within this network, AfriAlliance will set up a number of action groups on the most important topics. These action groups will decide on their own topics and activities during the project. Preliminary identified topics include: ‘availability and accessibility of data’, ‘safe sanitation and management’, ‘food security and agriculture’ and ‘human capacity development’.
AfriAlliance Poster

The first AfriAlliance poster. Click here for a high-resolution version.

During the process of building this network-of-networks, AfriAlliance will also identify vulnerabilities on water and climate in Africa, draft research agendas which serve as input for the EC’s strategies and funding programmes for the coming years, and improve monitoring and forecasting processes and tools on water and climate. In this last task, Akvo plays a major role.

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The AfriAlliance consortium at the project kick-off, (Delft, the Netherlands – March 2016).

Akvo’s role in AfriAlliance
Akvo’s main involvement in AfriAlliance lies in the two tasks we coordinate. Most importantly, we will develop a “blueprint” on monitoring water points. In the project proposal, we defined the blueprint as “a general applicable plan on how to develop a full monitoring system covering all water sources (meaning water points, both improved and unimproved) in a specific region, country, basin or city in Africa”.  This definition is, of course, still very general. Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed with a number of Akvo colleagues how to develop this definition into a more detailed concept of what this blueprint will look like. We will share this concept in the coming weeks.

Secondly, we will develop and manage the AfriAlliance website, which will serve both as an information portal about the project and as a tool to exchange documents, information, etc. within the AfriAlliance action groups. We recently launched a preliminary version and are now working on the functionalities and design of the final website.

Apart from these two main tasks, Akvo will also contribute its own expertise and that of our networks to other tasks, including developing the research agendas.

The blueprint, building on Akvo’s previous work
Over the years Akvo has performed a number of of water point mapping exercises (including recently in Mali and Benin). We have just started the so-called “9-countries project”, in which a mapping exercise will be done in two countries in West Africa and we will soon start a national mapping in Sierra Leone.

The blueprint we will develop in AfriAlliance will combine the knowledge of all such projects with the expertise of other partners on how best to perform such a mapping. As every country or region is different, the blueprint will probably take the shape of raising the points an entity has to take into account when performing a mapping, instead of prescribing exactly what to do. Furthermore, it will highlight innovative technologies and approaches that can be used, including best practice cases.

How AfriAlliance fits with Akvo
The blueprint will combine our existing knowledge and provide a strong basis for new water point mapping projects of Akvo and other parties. It will furthermore be a tool to promote the use of the Akvo tools (Flow, Caddisfly) and link us strategically to other partners who have done similar work in the past. The work on the AfriAlliance website will allow us to expand the functionalities and design we can offer in AkvoSites.

Executing these activities is, however, not the only – or necessarily the main – reason for Akvo to join the AfriAlliance project. Even more interesting for us will be the links to the partners already in the consortium and new partners that will join the network. This network and the action groups will lead to new contacts and new activities that are set up to address water and climate in Africa where we can contribute with the Akvo tools and expertise. This links closely to the main goal of AfriAlliance: to improve coordination between partners on water and climate.

The AfriAlliance project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689162.

Harro Riedstra is a programme manager for Akvo, based in Amsterdam. Follow him @HPR78