Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 11 December 2023 

Convenors of the Water Changemaker Awards on Monday, 11 December 2023 held a celebratory event for the winners of the Water Changemaker Innovation Awards 2023 and the Water Changemaker Youth Awards 2023. The event was held as a side event at the ongoing COP28 conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Water Changemaker Awards is a global initiative that recognises high-level commitment and leadership for climate-resilient water investments. The Awards also showcase the most promising climate-resilient innovations with the greatest potential for scale, replication, and further investment to support a water-secure world.

Delivering high-level opening of the celebration event, Mr. Alex Simalabwi, Executive Secretary of the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa, GWP head of Climate Programme and Director of the Water Changemaker Awards Secretariat congratulated the winners who had competed with over 300 others across the world. He also thanked all partners, including the convenors and venture capitals for supporting the competition.

Representing H.E. Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana and Chair of the Awards, Botswana’s Minister of Lands and Water Affairs Hon. Kefentse Mzwinila who delivered a keynote address mentioned H.E Masisi’s interest to champion the Global Climate Finance hub for institutional investors.

“As he announced winners of the awards on December 2, President Masisi expressed Botswana’s interest in championing a global climate finance hub for institutional investors who want to invest in water security, climate resilience and sustainable sanitation in Africa with Botswana as the Africa hub. We also have plans to establish a regional centre of excellence for the Southern Africa region in terms of water management, and efficient use of the water resource,” he said.

The Minister also congratulated the winners of the Presidential Changemakers Awards, who are part of the High-Level International Water Panel and Heads of States who have launched their country’s water investment plans.  

During the High-Level congratulatory remarks, the CEO of K-water, Mr. Seog-Dae Yun, who is also the Honorary Chair – the Changemakers Innovation Award, mentioned that climate change and water issues cannot be solved by the government alone, therefore there is the need for innovation and technologies driven by businesses. He also mentioned that K Water is promoting carbon-neutral water innovations through the introduction of cutting-edge technologies. These technologies are promoting innovations which are well-linked to the Water Changemakers Awards 2023. 

“Climate and water issues cannot be solved by governments alone. They need the support of innovations and technologies driven by the private sector. I hope that the technologies discovered through this competition can create practical solutions,” he said. 

The World Bank was represented at the celebration awards by Ms. Yogita Upadya Mumssen, Manager of Global Water Practice who said the climate crisis is a water crisis, stating that 9 out of 10 climate crises are water-related. She said a lot has to be done to bring in the private sector and support governments in solving these challenges, citing the Water Changemaker Awards as one way of doing that.  

H.E. Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana and Chair of the Awards announced the winners on 2 December during the Launch of the Africa Water Investment Action Plan at a side event at the ongoing COP28 conference, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  

The Awards Ceremony of the Water Changemakers Awards will take place in March 2024, during the World Water Forum in Indonesia, where the winners will be presented with the Awards by the Chair of the Water Changemakers, H.E. Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Honorary Chair of the Water Changemakers Innovation Awards, Mr. Seog-Dae Yun, CEO of K-water. 

 Water Changemaker Innovation Awards 2023 Winners Accept the Awards 

Winners in categories under the Innovations Awards have since accepted the awards during the celebration event, indicating that the awards would help in scaling up the impact of their innovations. The following are the winners in various categories and their reactions:  

Inclusion Award: Virtual Irrigation Academy from Australia 

The company developed innovative technology that helps small-scale farmers who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The company developed a soil water sensor – buried in the ground and attached to a light – that shows blue when the plants have plenty of water, green when things are ok and red when they need a drink. The sensor is already in use across 20 countries, including in Africa. 

Accepting the award during the celebratory event, the VIA Managing Director thanked the convenors, the judges and all partners for the recognition. He said VIA currently produces about 10,000 sensors per year and plans to scale up to 10 times that amount in the next 3 years. He said small-scale farmers face numerous challenges due to climate change and water scarcity hence the need for appropriate and scalable solutions if the world is to meet the SDGs. 

Scalability Award: Next Level Water Technology INC from Philippines 

Next Level (NXTLVL) Water technology solves the water scarcity problem in island and coastal communities in the Philippines, a nation of over 2000 inhabited islands, by using a fully off-grid renewable desalination solution. NXTLVL’s desalination is simple to install harsh weather resilient and requires minimal maintenance. Mr. Miguel Francisco Caparas, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of NXTLVL Water Technology said when the company started, the goal was to service over 30 million Filipinos who experience daily water starvation especially those in faraway and island communities. He said the award shows recognition that the innovation can solve the water scarcity challenge in a way that is cost-effective, resilient, consistent, and sustainable. He said the company plans to spread this solution to other tropical countries experiencing similar challenges. 

Innovation Award: CAST Co., Ltd. From South Korea 

CAST provides eco-friendly ozone and radical sterilization solutions that only use air and oxygen to disinfect food and water. This innovative technology uses a low temperature microplasma technology that helps reduce carbon emissions.  Minhwan Kim, CEO at CAST, said the Water Changemaker Award was a great honour to him and the team, saying it was going to be a great cornerstone of the company’s plans to solve global water and social problems.  

The three winners will be supported to access investment, finance, and technical assistance of at least Euros 100,000 for acceleration of their innovative business models and preparation for successful scaling up and replication. 

Chair’s Innovation, Diversity, and Inclusion Recognition Award: Sawyer Anderson of Water Works-USA 

14-year-old Sawyer raises money through sales of her book, Water Works, and handmade African chitenge bags and uses the proceeds to provide clean water in Zambia. To date, she has raised $1.2 million and built 84 clean water wells in Zambia. 

“Thank you so much for the amazing award, I am so honoured. I will not stop raising resources for the cause until everyone has safe and clean water,” said Sawyer in reaction to the recognition.  

Youth Changemaker Awards 2023 

The Youth Changemaker Awards were identified through a regional competition in South Asia and through the Global Integrated Flood and Drought Management Competition for Youth Lead Projects 2023, managed by GWP, WMO and Water Youth Network at the global level for integrated drought and flood management. The winners are recognized for demonstrating commitment to social change. The following three are 2023 winners: 

  1. Water From a Rock Initiative South Africa 

By Martha Djan, Jack Kgwale, and Mulisa Mudau from the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics, & Meteorology of the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Through the use of geofencing techniques on university campuses and in vulnerable regions, the trio developed an early warning system to ensure timely responses before extreme weather events. 

  1. Yessica de los Rios Olarte from Iguana Project – Colombia 

The project contributes to flood resilience through young student and community empowerment using participatory mapping tools. 

  1. The Electronics Design and Innovation Centre EDIC, from the Department of Physics and Electronics, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka 

The team developed a stand-alone wireless water quality monitoring and automated rainwater harvesting system. 

The winners of the Youth Water Changemakers Awards expressed their gratitude for the recognition and also mentioned their future plans. Some of them intend to initiate their projects in 2024, while others aim to complete their ongoing projects. These projects are being supported by  investments from the two youth competitions associated with the Youth Water Changemakers, with the shared objective of contributing to their respective countries and striving towards a water-secure world 

The Convenors  

The Water Changemaker Awards are convened by the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme, K-water, the World Bank and the Global Water Partnership. 

Various partners are also supporting the awards including Africa Renaissance Partners, Ambo Ventures, Saudi Water Partnership Company, Kaist Venture Investment Holdings, Deutsch Kasachische Universitat (German Kazakh University), HIMangel, K-Fund, KAIST Ventures, Mercy Corps Ventures, Yonsei University, WBCSD, Youth Water Network, South South North, Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), Wilo and WWF.  

The Water Changemaker Innovation Awards 2023 were officially launched during the largest gathering on water in Asia, the International Asian Water Week in South Korea on 6 July 2023 where the 8th Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon delivered the keynote address, stating that climate-resilient innovations with potential for scale and replication can expedite our progress by providing governments with technologies and approaches that were not only previously unavailable, but that also have the potential to create sustainable jobs and improve livelihoods. 

The Water Changemakers Secretariat and its partners congratulate the winners.  

To explore more about the winners and their innovations, visit the official Water Changemaker Awards website: waterchangemakers.org.   

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