MONTREAL – In announcing the $771,715 grant, David Heurtel, Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, lauded Umalia Inc. and Technologies Ecofixe Inc. – as well as their project partners – for putting their “creativity and expertise” towards helping the world in the battle against climate change.
Umalia – a Montreal-area consulting firm which specializes in the strategy, planning and implementation of national and international corporate and societal engagement programs, as well as shared-value partnerships – first started working in 2012 with local authorities and NGOs in Benin to improve living conditions in the community of Sô-Ava.
Sô-Ava, a community of over 120,000, lives mostly without electricity in houses on stilts located on Lake Nokoué, which provides water for transportation, fishing, washing and human consumption. In addition to prevailing social issues, such as low education rates and high population growth, there is also a concern about the sanitation level of Lake Nokoué.
In 2014, Technologies Ecofixe, a Laval, Quebec company which specializes in the biological treatment of waste water, joined the Sô-Ava project, adapting its “bio-augmentation” system to clean the Sô River, thus improving the quality of life of eight nearby villages.
The Quebec government grant, which runs from 2017 to 2020, will allow, in part, Technologies Ecofixe to adapt its purification modules to local conditions, while adding solar panels to deal with the electricity shortage in Sô-Ava. The company has also committed to transferring its expertise to local entities.
The Sô-Ava project, which also calls for planting of trees to protect against erosion of shoreline, will generate new economic activities for women who are being trained to produce the plastic medium used in the water-cleansing process by recycling, where possible, environmental waste material.
While the project proceeds, Sô-Ava’s Collective of local civil society organizations, with their extensive experience in the mobilization of local actors, together with the Sô-Ava municipal government, will work with Umalia to build awareness and capacity among the local population to raise their resilience in dealing with climate change by taking care of the environment and by adopting environmentally responsible practices.
The last piece of the project is research and analysis being done by the Université Laval to determine whether the participative process with the local population yields better results from a governance perspective than if the local population had not been involved. The Université Laval will also help the team build a local business ecosystem to support Ecofixe’s water-cleansing system in Benin, while providing Ecofixe with the opportunity to introduce its technology elsewhere in Africa.
Umalia, which initiated the partnership, will also manage it, ensuring that the partners work in a complementary manner and follow best practices for the governance, the processes as well as the evaluation and measurement system needed to achieve the desired results.
In a joint statement, Umalia president Lucie Bourgeois and Technologies Ecofixe president Marisol Labrecque lauded their partnerships with the Collective of Civil Society Organizations and the local government in that community, as well with the Université Laval:
The coming together of these partners from multiple sectors – private, civil society, government and academia – is a true testament of what can be achieved when dedicated individuals and organizations have a shared mission, bringing benefits to all, as much for society as for business.
This partnership, conceived with a shared value lens, also demonstrates that any and every organization, no matter the sector or the size, can collaborate to address a social, environmental or economic issue through its business model or its organizational model. It takes insight, creativity, innovation, but mostly determination, engagement through thick and thin, and the right governance.
Together we and our partners will be able to accomplish what none of us alone would have been able to achieve. As we embark on this new phase of our collaboration, we look forward to implementing this partnership over the next three years and to creating a sustainable impact in Sô-Ava – for the women whose economic activities will be reinforced and diversified, as well as for the whole population in becoming more aware of – and resilient to – the impact of climate change and in becoming more able to protect the environment in a sustainable manner.
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