Water for Irodo
How something so small, can make such a big difference.
In 2016, Floris Koumans, the founder and group director of Orange Pearl, along with his family, embarked on a journey to Madagascar, a faraway destination. Over five weeks, they explored the country, making various stops along the way, one of which brought them to the bungalows of a Frenchman named Alain Gonon in Antsiranana.
Alain Gonon, a Frenchman who annually travelled with his motorcycle, had a unique hobby that had evolved into his life’s mission. Through a small French organization, he selected a village in a poor country every year, gathering a group of people to build schools for the local children. This admirable endeavour had taken him to several African nations, including Irodo. Alain’s deep affection for Madagascar, particularly Irodo, eventually led him to make a life-altering decision. He sold his small construction company in France and embraced a new beginning in Madagascar. Now residing not far from Irodo, he visited the village weekly, providing for the school’s needs and ensuring the teachers received their salaries.
Climate change, coupled with deforestation, led to severe droughts, causing the village’s wells to run dry. The local water system, comprising a few taps connected to the wells, became defunct. This posed a significant problem for the village, as they relied on water for their small plots of land, drinking, and most importantly, for their prized possessions: special cows known as zebu. Dehydration claimed the lives of many zebu each year, and the only source of water was a small river located four kilometres away.
Alain and his close friend Izmael grappled with finding a solution to this dire problem. Izmael conceived a brilliant plan: construct a long pipeline from the river to the village well. Since the small river flowed through elevated terrain, higher than the village itself, the majority of the pipeline’s path would be gently uphill. This ingenious scheme would utilize gravity to keep the well supplied with water as needed. Moreover, it was a cost-effective solution, requiring minimal maintenance, machinery, or pumps—critical factors in a region devoid of electricity and financial resources.
Before implementing their plan, Alain and Izmael recognized the importance of securing approval and support from the local community, particularly the village’s spiritual leaders, who held great sway over the local culture. The village chief and elders also needed to endorse the project.
Following a special ceremony seeking approval from the spirits and village ancestors, the project was presented to the entire community. The villagers welcomed the initiative with open arms, offering their labour for free. The prospect of a reliable water source filled them with hope.
Grow and Flourish
The total estimated cost for the project, amounting to €5,000, included materials and transportation. Alain, recognizing the village’s remote location and accessibility challenges, committed to delivering the materials and also provided rice for sustenance. This initiative resonated with the principles of the Grow and Flourish Foundation, established by Floris Koumans, which seeks to enhance the world through global project support.
A firm commitment was made to cover the entire project cost. Floris and his family visited the village and were deeply moved by the project’s impact. It seamlessly aligned with the Grow and Flourish Foundation’s mission to create a better world by supporting various projects worldwide that promote positivity, responsibility, and purposeful profit.
Subsequently, the project was presented to the management team, and Floris contacted Alain. Orange Pearl, in partnership with the Grow and Flourish Foundation, took responsibility for funding the project, enabling its prompt commencement. The village erupted in joyful celebrations, marked by applause, laughter, and dancing, as hope was rekindled for their community’s future.
How does the pipeline works?
Alain and Izmael wasted no time and commenced the project. They cleared a path for materials delivery and prepared the pipeline’s route, a daunting four-kilometre stretch. Villagers collaborated to clear the path and assist with material transport. A small dam was constructed in the little river, connected to a natural filter—an uncomplicated concrete structure filled with gravel and sand.
This filter ensured the water was purified as it passed through, with the clean water directed through a large valve that could be controlled as needed. Along the pipeline, various “stops” were installed to prevent excessive pressure build-up, especially during the monsoon season.
These stops also served as watering points for zebu and field workers. Given the tropical climate, the water within the pipeline could reach temperatures exceeding 60 degrees Celsius, effectively eliminating harmful microorganisms. Upon reaching the village, the water flowed into a concrete filtering reservoir, which then overflowed into the well and accessible water points throughout the village. This system maintained a constant supply of fresh water while safeguarding the well from erosion and damage.
Fresh water shower
The Water for Irodo project was successfully completed within a precise three-month timeframe, with the allocated budget proving sufficient. Surplus funds were directed towards the local school, supporting teachers and learning materials for the children. The project was officially inaugurated just before Christmas by Alain. The opening ceremony included a refreshing shower of freshwater for all villagers, a long-awaited luxury in Irodo. A traditional celebration ensued, with the entire village participating. Sacrifices were made, and there was abundant food for everyone, marking a momentous occasion.
The accomplishments of Orange Pearl and the Grow and Flourish foundation in Irodo have made an enduring and impressive difference in the lives of the village’s residents.