Project Waterfall: Empowering Coffee-Growing Communities with Clean Water
Project Waterfall: Empowering Coffee-Growing Communities with Clean Water

Amidst the bustling activity of our lives, it's easy to overlook the intricate challenges faced by the communities responsible for cultivating the coffee that graces our cups daily. Today, we're excited to share our collaboration with Project Waterfall, an initiative that provides clean water, sanitation, and education to coffee-growing communities worldwide.

Embarking on a journey with Project Waterfall, established in 2011 with a mission to end the water crisis within our lifetime, we delve into this charity's objective and impactful work and our role in supporting this transformative cause.


Unveiling Project Waterfall's Impactful Journey

Project Waterfall is more than a charitable initiative; it is a dedicated effort to address coffee-growing communities' challenges, particularly in health, gender equality, and education. Operating across Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Vietnam, the organization has undertaken 27 projects, directly impacting over 80,000 lives.

Central to their approach is the empowerment of local communities. Through collaborations with trusted local delivery teams, Project Waterfall ensures sustainable solutions tailored to the unique needs of each community. Water boards, with at least 50% representation of women, play a crucial role in the community-driven maintenance of projects, fostering gender equality at the grassroots level.


Syra Coffee's Collaboration with Project Waterfall

We align with Project Waterfall's vision in our commitment to creating a positive impact beyond our coffee cups. Our collaboration extends beyond financial support; it's a commitment to fund specific initiatives, such as the Sallo Primary School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

By allocating a percentage of profits from selected coffees throughout the year, we aim to channel these funds to create a lasting impact. Look for the "This Coffee Supports Project Waterfall" stickers to identify the coffees contributing to this cause.


Sallo Primary School: A Glimpse into Impactful Change

Located in Addis Ababa, in the sub-city of Akaki, Sallo Primary School serves 1,329 students, supported by 87 teachers and 23 administrative staff. Their collaboration with the Ethiopian Government, which co-funds the project, underscores the commitment to ensuring long-term sustainability.

Specific Initiatives Supported by Our Contribution

1. Guaranteeing continuous, safe water access

  • Leveraging commercial-grade water filtration systems.
  • Ensuring water is safe and reliably flowing at all times.
  • Providing durable, child-friendly drinking and handwashing stations.

2. Providing child-friendly toilets that function and last

  • Constructing additional toilets to meet the needs of the students.
  • Upgrading existing facilities to make them usable.
  • Leveraging local supply chains to ensure sustainable interventions.

3. Creating conditions for routine handwashing with soap

  • Establishing an enabling environment that promotes healthy handwashing.
  • Incorporating environmental nudges like mirrors to encourage soap use.
  • Empowering students to act as primary educators and champions of hygiene.

4. Promoting and provoking healthy behaviors in children and adults

  • Acknowledging that infrastructure alone is not enough and incorporating behavioral change strategies.
  • Training local teachers to introduce students to new attitudes, behaviors, and habits.
  • Leveraging Student Hygiene Clubs to influence peers positively.

5. Strengthening school-based menstrual health services

  • Ensuring girl-friendly sanitation facilities.
  • Conducting education and awareness events for girls and boys.
  • Providing training for teachers and parents to impart knowledge and support.



Project Waterfall's Impact: Insights from the Source

To unravel the essence of Project Waterfall's mission and the significance of our collaboration, we sat down for an insightful conversation with their Executive Director, Rebecca Hodgson. Here's what unfolded:

What inspired the inception of Project Waterfall, and how has its mission evolved since its beginnings?

"Project Waterfall was set up in 2011 by Jeffrey Young, founder of The Allegra Group, to help end the water crisis in coffee farming communities," shared the Executive Director.

Our conversation delved into coffee-growing communities' challenges, emphasizing the dire need for clean water in these remote areas. From the first project in Tanzania to today, Project Waterfall's mission has remained steadfast—uniting the coffee industry to support the communities that form its backbone.


Could you shed light on the specific challenges related to water access in coffee-growing communities and why Project Waterfall has chosen to focus on these areas?

"Coffee is often grown in remote, rural areas where access to clean drinking water and sanitation is limited," the Executive Director explained. As the first step in breaking the poverty cycle, clean water ripples through the community, influencing health, gender equality, education, and economic prosperity.

The impact of access to clean water on health, particularly for children, is profound. Education, too, sees a positive transformation, with schools being a focal point in many of Project Waterfall's initiatives.

With more time, better health, and access to education, the economic prosperity of a community also increases. Every $1 invested in clean drinking water and sanitation projects provides a $4.30 economic return—a solid investment and a powerful tool for sparking economic growth.


Since 2011, Project Waterfall has made significant strides. Can you share some of the most impactful achievements of the project so far?

"Our biggest and most impactful project to date was a four-year project in the Jabi Tehnan district of Ethiopia, which reached over 10,000 people with clean drinking water and sanitation," revealed the Executive Director. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Project Waterfall successfully completed the project in collaboration with local partners. This resilience and commitment underline the organization's dedication to making a lasting impact.


Looking ahead, what are the long-term goals and vision of Project Waterfall?

"Project Waterfall is working towards a world where everyone has access to clean drinking water and sanitation," the Executive Director emphasized. As one of the most influential global sectors, the coffee industry has the potential to play a pivotal role in realizing this vision. The commitment to sustainable projects, community engagement, and awareness forms the foundation of Project Waterfall's journey.



How does Project Waterfall engage and empower local communities in the planning and execution of its water projects?


The Executive Director states that community engagement with a water and sanitation project is essential for its success. Partnerships with local delivery teams ensure that communities are involved from the initial consultation through construction and aftercare.

Water boards, comprising local community members, are established in rural projects, taking charge of ongoing maintenance and ensuring long-term success. In school projects, like the one Syra Coffee is funding, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) clubs are formed, promoting healthy habits and knowledge among students.


How does Project Waterfall measure the success and sustainability of its initiatives?

"We measure the number of people we are reaching directly through our work—whether that's school projects or larger-scale projects in rural communities," explained the Executive Director. Long-term success and sustainability are evaluated through a five-year 'hand-over' period, ensuring communities can maintain and sustain the water projects independently.

Awareness and education around WASH are just as important as the physical infrastructure, stressed the Executive Director. Project Waterfall works tirelessly with communities, utilizing various channels such as schools, local radio stations, leafleting, and village committees to increase awareness. WASH workshops in schools often create a positive ripple effect as students carry newfound knowledge home, influencing behavior change in the community.


What does Project Waterfall look for in potential partners like Syra Coffee, and how do these collaborations shape future initiatives?

"We work with companies like Syra Coffee to raise funds and awareness for the water crisis in coffee-growing communities," said the Executive Director. Collaborations are sought with partners aligned with the vision of making a positive impact.

The inclusivity of partnerships, whether with small independent coffee shops or large corporations, reflects Project Waterfall's commitment to creating a collective impact across the coffee industry.


What has been your most rewarding experience working with Project Waterfall as the Executive Director?

"My most rewarding experience so far has to be my first project trip to Uganda in 2018," the Executive Director shared. The warmth and welcome from the local communities and witnessing the tangible impact of Project Waterfall's initiatives on schools and coffee farms left an indelible mark.

Listening to children share their dreams for the future, unburdened by water security concerns, was a poignant reminder of the organization's meaningful work.


What do you envision as the future of the relationship between the coffee industry and global water initiatives?

"The global coffee market is a formidable force, yet coffee farmers and their communities often lack access to basic human rights," noted the Executive Director. "We believe the coffee industry has the power to end the water crisis in the communities it sources from.

By setting an example for other industries, the coffee sector can champion change and reshape the narrative of supply chains extending into some of the poorest parts of the world."




Project Waterfall is a formidable force committed to eliminating the water crisis in coffee-growing communities in our lifetime. Its strategic projects spanning Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Vietnam are making a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of people, a work that inspires us and in which we are honored and happy to participate.