10321937104_2f9b11052e_bLast week during a Football for Water (F4W) workshop that I attended in the Mozambique capital Maputo, we summarised one of the sessions very nicely: “Football for Water is a laboratory”. We constantly need to remind each other about the innovation and learning element of this ground-breaking programme. We’re not only developing a new approach for expansion within Mozambique (and Kenya & Ghana), but we’re also seeking to set an example for new funding and other countries as well. 

Football for Water is bridging the worlds of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and football. It’s a new approach whereby water, sanitation and sports facilities are implemented in combination with educational activities involving football role models like former Mozambique national team player Tomás Inguane. The aim is to bring education about behavioral change among pupils at primary schools in Mozambique. Akvo is supporting the process of sharing information between F4W partners and countries by helping those involved to make frequent updates direct from the field (Manica region).  


Above and below: bridging water and sanitation and football at the Machipanda School in Chimoio, Manica, Mozambique. 
Top: former Mozambique national team player Tomás Inguane took part in the workshop.
Photos by Frodo van Oostveen

In general the provision of drinking water seems to be on track to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal objectives, but sanitation is still lacking behind. The ‘right to sport’ for children at schools in Mozambique is unfortunately in the same league as sanitation. 

Mozambique is a new and impressive playing field for me. Some of my observations from last week’s journeying in the Manica region include: the distances are enormous and difficult to travel, with airports positioned between the mountains (our pilot tried three times to land before deciding to fly to a different airport from where we continued our journey for four hours by bus). There is only one main road from the North (Tanzania border) to the South (South Africa border) and from the West (Zimbabwe border) to the East (Port of Beira). Not surprisingly however, the mobile infrastructure is perfect. We enjoyed mobile hotspot connectivity on board our team-bus (an old football club bus of the national team of Mozambique), even in rural areas. Furthermore there are some really large rivers like the Zambezi which cause large floods during the rainy season (November -March). Other things I noticed were that everybody speaks Portuguese, they have delicious coffee (I am now in cold turkey) and the exploitation of natural resources is growing day by day. The potential of the country is enormous, and we would like to inspire the national government, NGO’s and private companies within Mozambique to join our new Football for Water approach.  

The potential of bridging distances via mobile phones is huge. The need to have a good overview of all schools, health centres, water points and football pitches is increasing. This means there is a natural link to Akvo RSR and FLOW: imagine the time-savings if data can come in from all 128 districts at the same time, and the impact on decision-making if all that data is instantly accessible on one online dashboard. Manuel Monteiro Jr (F4W Country Programme Head, Mozambique) gave us the opportunity to demo Akvo FLOW at a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports who immediately saw the advantages of using technology to get more tuned into what’s happening in his country.

The objective for F4W’s programme in Mozambique is the provision of its approach to 440 schools (more than 300,000 children). During our field trip we visited four schools in Chimoio in the Manica region that are being supported by UNICEF and VEI. I would describe them as having attractive class rooms with large set-ups for drinking water and sanitation blocks nearby. The football pitches were sometimes a bit further away. The average number of pupils per school is over 1000. This number is quite hard to imagine, especially in relation to the number of sanitation blocks and water points, football pitches and  physical education teachers (only two). It must be challenging for teachers to manage and inspire all their pupils. Mostly schools have different shifts for sports to accommodate all their pupils.

Below is a film I took at the Chibata School in the Manica region showing the old, non-functioning bore hole and the new water pump that has been provided by the Football for Water programme. 
Akvo is supporting F4W partners to open-up, become better communicators and to be proud of the work they’re doing. It’s all about people, and in general people are not that fond of changing their behaviour. During our workshop in Maputo we spent valuable time looking at how to communicate more frequently about the progress of the programme via RSR. Most people at Akvo form part of Akvo’s communications team by blogging and tweeting – we believe that within everybody is a communicator. This is not common ground for most partner organisations, and we need to make small steps to make sure everybody feels comfortable about becoming a communicator as well. One of the outcomes of the workshop was to identify at least five communications moments to share an update during the process of implementing a project.

paarticipantsBecause the backgrounds of the participants were all quite different, from social studies, water management and business administration to being a former professional football player, it was interesting to hear the different dilemmas people had around being an open-communicator. “Do we report when something breaks – because it’s usually (60% of the time) repaired within two weeks?”

Definitely the best bit of last week was finding out that all the participants were game changers within their own organisations. They all knew the strengths and weaknesses of their organisations (and their partners), but felt inspired that through the link with football we can reach the right people to ensure sustainability for trainers, teachers and pupils.

Above: participants of the Footbal for Water workshop in Maputo, Mozambique. Photos by Frodo van Oostveen.

It’s great to work in the Football for Water laboratory. Every day we learn from mixing two approaches together. I am convinced that our Football for Water team will become more confident to open-up and share more exciting elements of the journey. Innovation takes time, and the result could be something surprisingly different, but we are open to sharing our dream in which Football for Water will become part of the school curriculum in Mozambique.

 Frodo van Oostveen is a programme manager at Akvo, responsible for overseeing our work in the Football for Water programme.

Edited 30/10/13 to add video.