Drought, floods show urgency of improved water security in Africa

Byline: Tshidi Ramogase, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa’s Chief Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability Officer

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change was once again demonstrated in late 2023, when torrential rains swept across much of East Africa, bringing devastating floods just six months after a record-breaking five-season drought in the region.

Vast areas of farmland in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia were inundated, washing away homes and destroying thousands of hectares of crops.

These events highlight the urgency of improved water security and climate resilience on the continent.

Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) partners with governments, the private sector, NGOs and communities to promote water security. Water is a priority for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) because it is essential to life, our beverages and the communities we serve.

The Coca-Cola Company’s 2030 Water Security Strategy is focused on accelerating the actions needed to increase water security where we operate, source ingredients and touch people’s lives.

We invest in water initiatives that benefit nature and communities. This includes projects that provide benefits to local watersheds that supply water for drinking, agriculture and manufacturing, restore and conserve habitats for plants and animals and offer opportunities for local economic development. 

 As part of this work, we collaborate with partners to understand the inextricable link between water, climate, agriculture and biodiversity.  

In addition, many of our water replenishment projects have additional co-benefits such as helping improve soil health, sequester carbon, conserve water, restore degraded lands, contribute to biodiversity and help mitigate climate change.

Our work is organised to address water security inside our operations, in our watersheds and in our communities. Also, we continue to replenish the water we use in our finished beverages to nature and communities.

Inside our operations, the Coca-Cola system is committed to regenerative water use. This means using less water as well as re-using and treating wastewater.

For example, in Kenya we opened a new wastewater treatment plant at our Equator Bottlers plant in Kisumu, which will promote more sustainable water use and help reduce the factory’s environmental impact. The new plant will enable us to treat and recycle wastewater generated from the production facility, which will be used for non-potable purposes such as irrigation and cleaning.

Our subsidiary, Coca-Cola Beverages Botswana, signed an agreement last year with the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources to donate water from its newly installed water treatment plant for agricultural irrigation at the campus. The new state-of-the-art water treatment plant has made the company fully effluent compliant by ensuring that clean water is returned to the environment.

We also aim to improve the health of watersheds identified as most critical for our operations and agricultural supply chain by supporting nature-based solutions, investing in landscape solutions and helping farmers to use less water.

CCBA in Kenya has been actively engaged over the past three years in reforesting 90 hectares of critical forests that play a significant role in Nairobi’s water catchment areas in collaboration with implementing partner, Nature Kenya.

When it comes to communities, we aim to help provide access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and advocate for good water governance.

Our South African bottler, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), supported good water governance in Grabouw in the Western Cape, where the municipality was losing a significant amount of its potable water due to leaks and failing infrastructure. Through this partnership, we trained young community members in plumbing to support the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, including fixing leaks in informal areas.

In response to a looming Day Zero in parts of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, CCBSA deployed off-grid, solar-powered groundwater harvesting and treatment projects called Cokevilles in the region. A total of nine systems, or water tanks, have been deployed in Gqeberha and similar Cokeville projects have been installed in other peri-urban and rural communities in Limpopo, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

We do business the right way as a trusted partner for sustainable growth by managing packaging waste, water stewardship, and economic inclusion, particularly for women and youth. We are committed to making a positive impact on people’s lives and communities for a better shared future in Africa. 

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