Cervo, Sustainability

WIR | Water is right - Interview mit Rolf Stahlhofen


WIR - Water is Right is one of the valuable partners of CERVO. The foundation was founded in 2011 by Rolf Stahlhofen (singer and UN-Habitat water ambassador "Messenger of Truth"). We interviewed him and asked what WIR is all about, what has already been achieved and what hopes he has for the future.

What exactly is the Water is Right Foundation? 

Water is Right is a foundation that advocates the human right to water and sanitation and uses the power of music to promote that access to water must be affordable and available to everyone.

What inspired you to bring this to life?

As a young boy I grew up in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. I remembered that I came back to Bavaria when I was about 13 years old, opened the tap and the best cold clear water came out. That gave me the initial spark in the way: When I grow up, I want to do something.

What are your areas of activity?

We are on the ground in countries like Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, Mexico, where we work with our team and local institutions. 

Can you explain how you guys do it with a simple example?

Our Operational Team, led by Karun Körnig, our COO, and our Water Engineer, Nancy Sikukuu from Kenya, implement the projects we agree on after financing is secured (through events or funding). 

We either get project proposals or have a direct connection on the ground where WIR operates.

The most important thing is to clarify what the project to be carried out should achieve and to what extent the local community is involved to ensure that the project runs in the long term and is sustainable. Through our cooperation with, among others, Udo Lindenberg, who runs some schools in Africa with nph Kinderhilfe and together with the Youth Parliament in Haiti or thanks to the cooperation with the Nigerian government (Karun and the Nigerian ambassador in Berlin were together in Cambridge at university) WIR has reliable partners on the ground who regularly submit reports. Karun and Nancy are also always on site.

WIR - Water is Right Team

What are your biggest challenges?

There are always challenges, but in the last 10 years we have of course also been able to learn a lot and get a feel for what is coming. 

In Nigeria, for example, Nancy was a woman in a male-dominated domain and had to prove herself, which she did. The work was supervised by her and only after she was satisfied was the work paid for by her personally. Thus, cost control was granted and there was no corruption.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Water is Right celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021, all the projects we realized are still in operation and have increased the quality of life of many people. 

In Bombolulu, where WIR installed a water kiosk in a school, the city had to lower its water prices because WIR was able to offer water of a better quality and at lower prices. 

Water is Right was allowed to be the first foundation in Yunnan Province to install a treatment plant in a school. The city of Kunming (6.5 million inhabitants) used our technologies in its water authority and has been able to offer better water since then. 

In the Covid period "2020 - 2021", WIR has set up hand washing stations for more than 700,000 people and installed sanitation and water systems for 2 million people in Nigeria.

Do you have a favorite project?

Every project is a matter from the heart. What gives me joy is that I can point to the topic with the power of music and make a "WIR" ("wir" means "we" in German) out of Water is Right. Besides, I really have to say that I think it's great to be able to inspire you and that we work together to distribute water more fairly. 1 liter in Zermatt is worth 10 liters there, where water is not self-evident.

WIR - Water is Right Arbeit vor Ort

What do you think needs to change in the future to ensure that everyone has access to clean water?

The future of water must be decentralized in any case. It makes no sense to bring water by truck over the Alps, or by ship from Fiji, if you have local water that can be purified. (Input from CERVO: CERVO offers purified spring water from Zermatt to its guests).

There are affordable technologies that can turn any kind of water into drinking water. If water is a human right, it is a human duty to realize this right. So lobbying for it has to be done. 

Our projects are also always reference projects, we train people on site. In Europe, we meet our project partners at eye level, with joint learning and lively exchange.

What can each and every one of us do to support this?

WIR needs funding for its work, we have been able to do this through concerts and events in recent years, but due to the current situation (Corona pandemic) we are dependent on help from outside, through donors and supporters. 

Support can be given through monetary donations and through events for Water is Right. (Input from CERVO: CERVO donates 10% of all water sales to WIR).

In the meantime, companies come and make WIR editions, such as the WIR water bottle at CERVO or there is a WIR coffee, WIR shirts, etc..

How can you become active with WIR as an individual?

We are always happy to receive manpower. You are also welcome to contact us with innovative ideas and if you can implement them in a promising way, we will be happy to help.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about WIR?

I truly believe that if Water is Right has been able to provide water and sanitation on a small scale for about 5 million people in the last 10 years, we (WIR), among my successful friends and buddies (such as CERVO), can do the same for 100,000 million people in the next 10 years.

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