Protos celebrates 40th anniversary

Aquaduct Belladère, Haïti. © Dieter Telemans

The passed 40 years, Protos has grown enormously. From a voluntary organization to a professional NGO. From a project in Haiti to long-term programs in several countries. From a focus on technology and infrastructure to a strategy of integral water management with attention to social engineering and local institutional embedding.

Together with our partners, we work on drinking water, sanitation and water for agriculture for around 100,000 people each year. Moreover, Protos interventions on water today are levers of sustainable social, economic and structural changes.

What is learnt young…

On January 14, 1977, Antoon De Pesseroey – a patronage industrialist from Ghent- founded Protos, together with a number of professors and young graduates from the universities of Ghent and Leuven. In October of that same year, Protos was recognized as a NGO and we received government grants for the first projects. In the early years we only worked in Haiti, and in 1982 also in DR Congo.

In 1982, Protos committed itself to a first major project: the drinking water supply of the provincial capital of Hinche, in Haiti. When the new water pipeline was completed in 1985, it was taken over by the public service, as planned. However, nothing in the subscriptions (about €3,000 per month) was invested in maintenance, and a few years later, the first problems were identified. Protos learned its lesson.

Building a stronger society

From 1985 onwards, water users were more closely involved in the construction and management of the infrastructure. Awareness raising got more attention, as well as setting up water committees, which themselves managed the pipelines. As a result, the infrastructure continued to exist and the base organizations were a building block for local development and emancipation.

To further ensure a sustainable water supply, and to continue to stimulate an autonomous development process, this approach was further elaborated. Local NGOs and governments were motivated to accumulate knowledge so that they themselves would carry out participatory drinking water programs. Work was done on regional planning and management structures to better respond to the immense needs. And through advocacy, the drinking water and sanitation issues were put higher on the agenda of national governments and international financing organizations.

Simultaneously with the change in approach, the field of operations was extended: first to Rwanda and Burundi (1993), later to Benin (1994), Mali (1995), Ecuador (1997) and Uganda (2000). At the beginning of 2006 Protos also started work in Madagascar.

Integral and local water management

Protos has grown strongly since 2000. Together with the other local actors, Protos now applies in certain areas the strategy of Integral Water Management, coordinated in relation to soil and ecosystems. This strategy aims to improve economic and social well-being in a fair way without compromising the environment and future generations.

Since 2000, a process of decentralization has begun in different developing countries. The powers of Water Supply and Water Management have been transferred from the central to the local level. Protos responded to this. Together with all parties, a good distribution of roles, capacity building and relationship building between local governments, organized water users, state services, and the local private sector are sought. Through action research, Protos establishes with its partners the most appropriate management structures, taking into account the local context.

What does the future hold for Protos?

The Sustainable Development Goals – a global approach to achieving more sustainable development by 2030 – provide the framework for adjusting our strategy, approach and internal organization. Our own vision and mission were sharpened. The keywords remain equitable, sustainable and participatory, but the emphasis is now on water management as well as water use. The terms 'North' and 'South' were deleted because most challenges to sustainable development are global, including the water issues.

We also strive for more synergy by working together with other organizations towards joint goals or programs. This further cooperation is sought both locally and internationally, to be more efficient and effective in the development and change we pursue.

By incorporating innovations in our approach and through evolutions, Protos remains relevant for our target groups and partners as well as our donors. In addition, Protos is also working to broaden the constituencies and donors in Belgium through an active communication strategy.

The relevance of our organization remains evident. According to the UN's latest figures, there are still 844 million people without a basic service for drinking water and 2.3 billion without a toilet. The fresh water supply renewed by the water cycle remains virtually the same, but must be shared by more and more people and applications. This is not always equitable, sustainable and participatory.

 

Support Protos!

Would you like to make a generous donation on the occasion of our 40th birthday? Simply click the donate button on our website, or transfer to BE22 5230 8036 1747. Thank you!