Published in May 2020

The beginning of 2020 will, I suspect, go down in history as the time when the world was caught in the grip of a new and deadly virus. It’s likely that the rest of 2020 will be dedicated to bringing that same virus under some kind of long-term control. It’s still too early to know what a long-term solution to COVID-19 looks like but here at Excellent, we are closely following developments at home and abroad to understand how we continue to operate safely during these very uncertain times.

It’s understandable that minds remain focused on the pandemic but there was a time, less than four months ago, when the sole focus at Excellent was delivering our ambitious programme for 2019/20. And while it can be hard for many to remember life ‘before COVID’, I recall with great pride that we were successfully doing our job of supporting the most vulnerable of dryland communities to secure clean water and food.

"For Excellent, our new normal will be to adapt, to keep our London-based staff and overseas partners safe, and have a deliverable programme for a new generation of sand dams across the arid regions of the world."

During 2019/20 we enabled 62 sand dams to be built, which brings the running total of dams we have enabled to 1,160. Together those dams are providing water for 1,083,000 people (to date). That’s a lot of women, men and children able to collect and drink water when they are thirsty rather than having to wait for many hours while they walk to the nearest water point. And those same people are now able to wash their hands, and clean their households when they need to, which is essential for public health.

Our sand dam projects (often coupled with climate-smart agriculture training by our in-country partners) have also meant that 1,131,000 trees have been planted, yielding much-needed fruits, fuel and fodder.

Understandably, COVID-19 disrupted the final month of our 2019/20 programme and the first few months of this operating year. As a result, we are taking short-term steps to manage and progress the organisation during these challenging times, whilst also making plans for when disruption at home and abroad lessens.

The task has never been more urgent. One of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all by 2030. However a recent report suggests that given the current rate of progress, that target won’t be achieved until 2131. That’s over 100 years late.

There is much talk here in the UK about the “new normal”. No one quite knows what that means; it can differ from person to person and from one organisation to another. But for Excellent, our new normal will be to adapt, to keep our London-based staff and overseas partners safe, and have a deliverable programme for a new generation of sand dams across the arid regions of the world, with a mission to ensure 0.5 billion people have access to clean water that is close to home by 2040 (in turn helping to deliver the UN’s SDG for water).

Indeed, circumstances around the world may be shifting on a regular basis, but our dedication, focus and goal remains the same.

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