A Woman’s Dream to Fix A Nation’s Water Crisis
One Woman’s Search for a Solution to Rural Liberia’s-and Africa’s Water Problem
Ten years ago, Liberia’s Saran Kaba Jones took on a bold undertaking: to help solve the water access problem in rural Liberia. Today, with over 150,000 lives touched by her work, she is still pursuing her audacious dream of delivering access to clean water to the poorest communities in her home country of Liberia and Africa. The scope of the water crisis in Africa and her home country of Liberia, first struck Saran when she went home to Liberia after being away for many years. Saran and her family fled her war torn homeland when she was just 8 years old to go to the United States. Saran’s family first moved to Ivory Coast, staying there for two years. Her father later entered the diplomat service leading her family to stay in Egypt, Cyprus, and France before finally heading to the United States where Saran completed her studies in Government and International Relations at Harvard University. Following her graduation, Saran had a stint with Singapore’s Economic Development Board. After about 20 years Saran returned to Liberia in 2008 and came up close with the after effects of the country’s long civil war. Saran was struck at how the war had decimated the country’s infrastructure, schools, clinics, and homes
She decided to launch Face Africa, a social enterprise which was originally focused on child education, but later shifted its focus to address water, sanitation and hygiene problems in rural Liberia. Over the years the organisation has worked to extend its reach to other African countries such as Nigeria with plans to scale operations to countries in Sub Saharan Africa. In 2009, Face Africa landed a $10,000 grant from the Davis Project for Peace which enabled it to undertake its first water project in Barnesville, Liberia. The project helped to install a 20,000 litre per day water purification system in the Barnesville community. Later in 2010 Face Africa partnered with the international humanitarian organisation, Concern International, to develop a water and sanitation project in a rural community called Joezohn with financial support to the tune of $20,000 by the Chase Community Giving Program.
In 2013, Face Africa launched a bold initiative, dubbed County-by-County (CbC), to provide 250 water points in 3-to 5 years in Liberia’s River Cess county-one of the country’s most underserved regions in terms of clean water and sanitation access. In recognition of her work with the River Cess County, Saran was appointed as the region’s International Goodwill Ambassador. Over the years Face Africa has built several such systems and has partnered with variety of organisations such as the Coca Cola Company, Chevron, and Procter & Gamble.
Saran’s work been recognized globally. In 2015 she received a leadership award from MTV Africa for her work in mobilizing a response to the Ebola crisis in Liberia. In 2013 the World Economic Forum listed her as one of its Young Global Leaders. In the same year, the UK’s Guardian listed her as one of Africa’s top 25 Women Achievers. Saran’s work has been recognized by a wide range of institutions which include Forbes, CNN, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, New African Woman Magazine, and Black Enterprise to mention a few. In the meantime Face Africa has set a bold and audacious goal for itself-to provide safe and clean drinking water to everyone in Liberia-and thereafter target other African countries with a focus on post conflict countries.