Guinness brewery on frontline of water security in Africa

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It brews Guinness and beer in vast amounts in a country vulnerable to drought and erratic rains.

Now Serengeti Breweries in Tanzania - owned by drink giants Diageo - is due to receive one of the world’s first awards for responsible water use due to its work with Edinburgh-based charity Water Witness International.

We’re particularly excited by the opportunity to work with Diageo

Dr Nick Hepworth, chief executive Water Witness International

The charity is working to improve water security for citizens in Tanzania and Zambia with the support of a £430,000 award from the Scottish Government,

Along with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), it has created a standard much in the vein of the Recycling Mark for paper or the Rainforest Alliance Certification for coffee.

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The water standard will insure big business uses water efficiently and without polluting supply or impacting on water sources for the surrounding community.

Diageo, which operates a large brewery in Edinburgh and several distilleries across the Highlands, is due to have the award by the end of the year following final accreditation checks.

The drinks company is also working with the charity to devise an insurance scheme for the barley farmers who supply the breweries with grain.

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It aims to stop the farmers being pushed into further hardship should their crops fail due to erratic rainfall and drought.

Dr Nick Hepworth, director of Water Witness International, said the Diageo award was a good reflection on the Scottish drinks giant which has 37 breweries or distilleries in water stressed zones around the world.

He added; “We’re particularly excited by the opportunity to work with Diageo on the implementation of the Water Stewardship Standard.

“As one of Scotland’s biggest companies it’s great to see them taking a global leadership role in how businesses should manage use responsibly and use their influence for benefit of society.

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“The standard is driving some very innovative thinking and positive action on how businesses can ensure water security for poor communities through their global supply chains.”

The work of Water Witness International, which received support through the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund, improved water security for 400,000 citizens in Tanzania and Zambia for the cost of just £1 a head.

The charity does not build infrastructure but instead educates and trains local people to demand better services from government and benefit from the water laws that are already in place.

As part of the programme, two water managers from Tanzania will travel to Scotland this November to work with counterparts at Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Dr Hepworth said he and his team had been “thrilled” with the results of their work so far and credited the Scottish Government for backing the charity’s vision, which had never been tested in the field before.

He said: “Our recent external evaluation shows that they can deliver real and cost effective change for poor people through controlling pollution, providing legal protection and water rights, resolving water conflict and by ensuring that droughts and floods are prepared for.”

Michael Alexander, head of water, environment, agriculture and sustainability at Diageo, said he believed the company already had “good efficient processes in place” whether it be in a distillery in Scotland or India or a brewery in Africa.

However, he added: “We know we can always learn more. It is important for us to understand the context we are operating in. We want to know how farmers re using water, how the surrounding community is using water. We are drawing water from the same supply as everyone else so it is essential we understand how our own water use impacts on others.”

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