Ethiopian rainwater harvesting project wins 5th Swiss Re award for Sustainable Watershed Management

14 March 2007, Zurich

The Ethiopian Rainwater Harvesting Association (ERHA) has won Swiss Re's 2007 International ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management. The ERHA will receive up to USD 80 000 for the implementation of a rainwater harvesting system to provide access to drinking water to a vulnerable community located in Southern Ethiopia, 600km south of Addis Ababa. The runner-up, a project based in Jamaica, received USD 70 000.

According to the World Bank, 88% of the rural population in Ethiopia has insufficient access to clean drinking water. This is particularly true for rural communities inhabiting the Borana zone, in Southern Ethopia, where people are largely dependent on open water sources of unreliable quality, responsible for diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and a high child mortality rate.

The ERHA project aims to improve water availability for household activities and small-scale production by installing water harvesting techniques. Sand dams and storage tanks will be set up to provide access to reliable clean water for at least 2 000 people in more than ten rural communities. The award of USD 80 000 will be paid in two tranches: USD 50 000 upon completion of the pilot; a further USD 30 000 will be released upon scaling-up of the project.

Ivo Menzinger, Head Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management for Swiss Re and Chairman of the International ReSource Award Jury, comments: "The project distinguishes itself through combining the implementation of a straightforward and proven technology with an approach involving all local stakeholder groups. It thus creates strong emotional ties and local support while providing access to a reliable source of water for more than 10 communities."

Eliminating river poisoning in Jamaica's Rio Grande Valley

A second award of USD 70 000 was donated to The Nature Conservancy for a project located in Jamaica's Rio Grande valley. The project aims to significantly reduce the use of illegal poisoning agents to harvest fish, shrimp and crayfish in Rio Grande valley, threatening human health and rural livelihood in the region. The Nature Conservancy wants to eliminate these insustainable inland fishing practices by the end of 2008, by educating the local communities on the dangers of river poisoning, mobilizing them to safeguard their own rivers and by promoting sustainable and viable alternative fishing methods.

With these awards, the International ReSource Award jury demonstrates its support for mainstream watershed management efforts by governmental and non-governmental parties in order to catalyse further implementation within the region and ultimately to influence government water supply and management policy.

The hand-over ceremony for the 5th Swiss Re award for Sustainable Watershed Management will take place on 22 March 2007, International Water Day, in Addis Ababa. Representatives of the ERHA, the Ethiopian government and the Swiss ambassador to Ethiopia will attend the ceremony.

The ReSource Award is part of Swiss Re's Sharing Solutions programme. The programme focuses on sustainability and humanitarian projects and on supporting the communities in which the Group operates. Sharing Solutions aims to go beyond simply providing funds and to create lasting social and commercial value.

Notes to editors

Swiss Re is the world's leading and most diversified global reinsurer. The company operates through offices in more than 25 countries. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re offers financial services products that enable the risk-taking essential to enterprise and progress. The company's traditional reinsurance products and related services for property and casualty, as well as the life and health business are complemented by insurance-based corporate finance solutions and supplementary services for comprehensive risk management. Swiss Re is rated "AA-" by Standard & Poor's, "Aa2" by Moody's and "A+" by A.M. Best.