“We cannot say that rain is not interesting just because we can dig wells,” says Vessela Monta, a civil engineer by trade who began working with the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA) in 2002. Some resources — like the availability of harvestable rainwater — get forgotten when discussing sustainability, but not to Monta. She points out that there is an emphasis on saving water in many parts of the world, yet few people want to talk about rainwater harvesting.
“There is not one water resource that we can neglect,” Monta says. With IRHA, she created the Blue Schools Programme in 2005. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Blue Schools teaches children about rainwater harvesting and has served more than 20,000 school-aged children in Benin, Burundi, Ghana, India, and Nepal. The mission of the program is to help schools that lack access to water and to “create the necessary infrastructure to facilitate development of the younger generation,” according to Monta.
The project has evolved over the years, beginning with rainwater harvesting and moving into other water-management sectors, as well. “We decided that we should include other models like sanitation and education into our program. Managing water is not only economically interesting, but a vital issue for many communities,” she says.