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El American spoke with Nermine Khouzam Rubin, Founder & CEO of Water 4 Mercy.
Nermine emigrated from Egypt at the age of 8 after she, her parents, and her 4 siblings lived through the 6-day Arab-Israeli War in Port Said. She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Health Sciences (MHS) from the University of Florida and has held executive positions in healthcare.
In 2018, she founded Water 4 Mercy and recruited the world’s leading experts in solar, water, and agriculture to provide a permanent solution to Africa’s problems, she believes the answer to permanently break the vicious cycles of poverty, is clean water and innovative agricultural solutions.
In 2019, Nermine initiated AITeCs, Agricultural Innovation and Technology Centers to teach innovative solutions for knowledge development, nutrition sensitivity, climate resilience, income generation, teacher training and youth empowerment.
AITeCs sustain the opportunities for advancement that Water 4 Mercy offers to the villages it serves through educational and technological advancements and teacher training. Education is at the heart of a dynamic, life-changing opportunity.
AITeC’s intention is permanent self-sustainability throughout Africa by “teaching its teachers how to teach” and training a new generation of agronomists and growers. In this way, Water 4 Mercy brings Israeli technology and expertise in solar, water, and agriculture, proven in the desert and shares its knowledge through the largest Catholic training school in the world.
The AITEC model does the following:
1) Transfers knowledge to students, teachers, farmers, extension agents, and local communities in appropriate techniques to maximize production.
2) Increases profitability and rural prosperity in underserved farming communities.
3) Addresses critical needs for improved training and development internationally.
4) Increases diversity in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics (STEAM).
AITEC’s unique capacity-building program is designed with the intention of being scalable.
The goal is to implement AITECs in all 102 Don Bosco Technical Institutes (TVETs) for skills development and economic empowerment.
This is what Nermine told us about her big initiative:
Nermine, tell us a little bit more about Water 4 Mercy’s defined objectives for the next decade
Our goal is for the expansion of water/agriculture into more remote villages and additional agricultural innovation and technology centers (AITEC) for transferring knowledge. We are promoting self-sufficiency in agriculture with excellent Israeli technology. Israel has ‘flowered the desert’ and they are the world leaders in water and agricultural solutions. We are sharing Israel’s technology via the largest and best catholic training schools in the world. There are 106 Don Bosco Technical Institutes located throughout 36 African countries; that would make a tremendous impact if we could do them all. that is our objective – all are doable if we can secure the funding.
How is the organization financed?
Through my personal contributions and donations from individuals.
For almost a century the developed nations of the world have been sending billions of dollars in resources to alleviate poverty in Africa, yet despite all the money and handouts their countries are getting poorer and poorer, what is your position on this?
They have provided band-aid solutions and not focused on the root causes of the problems. Giving money to governments is not our approach. No one is doing what Water 4 Mercy is doing. We have a formidable team of Israeli NGOs who all share the same heart to uphold human dignity.
With our team of experts, we install programs ourselves that include solar, water and agricultural technology and knowledge transfer. Our offering of water and agriculture solutions gives them a hand-up, not a handout. Our funding goes directly to our projects to set up the necessary infrastructure for our solar/water projects and our agricultural innovation and technology centers (AITEC) are implemented with Don Bosco Technical Institutes of Africa, the premier vocational training schools in the world.
In one of your videos, you mention that people should be taught to fish, not given a fish, how does Water 4 Mercy plan to put this premise into practice?
Our work offers permanent solutions to water and agriculture. It is not a one-time thing and then we are gone. These are permanent solutions to a lack of water, and with that, agriculture is possible on a regular basis with world-class technologies. After installing the systems, there is remote monitoring of the systems to be sure that they are maintained and stay functional. If something breaks or stops working, we are alerted immediately and our ‘boots on the ground’ fix the problem within a few hours. education is key in transferring Israel’s world-renowned knowledge and empowering the locals so that they have a sense of pride as to what they are able to grow and to sell the surplus at the market.
Our villagers are motivated and get up at 5:00 am to work the fields. Our solutions start with making sure that we have good soil and good seeds. This results in eating nutritious foods that help eliminate malnutrition, childhood stunting, blindness, etc.
They are ‘eating the rainbow’ and the abundance of growth is sold at the market and provides an excellent income to the locals. Our seedlings and our products are sought out due to our superior quality.
Are there any current projects in which you are collaborating in which, beyond giving donations to African people, you are providing them with the tools to become self-sustainable societies?
Same as 5, we do not give donations to the African people, we are transferring knowledge and setting up the infrastructures that include solar-powered water pumps, drip irrigation, remote monitoring systems, greenhouses, soil, seeds, education, etc.
In Africa, there is a very uncomfortable situation, and that is that in order to process stimulus programs, subsidies, scholarships, you must negotiate with local governments, which are usually quite corrupt, how do these situations affect aid programs and what to do to improve it?
We do not directly give to governments, our money is directly used for projects, never given to others with the hope that it will be used as intended. The dollars are used to set up the necessary infrastructures to empower the locals.
If you had to implement three projects to improve the quality of Africans and create self-sustainable societies, what would they be and why?
Water, agriculture, and education. These provide a means for them to become independent and grow. Having solved these critical problems for communities, they can then focus on entrepreneurial activities and become self-sufficient in time.
Finally, do you have a message you would like to give to people who could collaborate with this initiative
Our solutions are the direct and proven way to improve the lives of locals to learn proper agriculture without having our efforts waylaid by others. We implement our own solutions to be sure it gets done properly. Our team is unique, and our solutions are built on a solid foundation.
Emmanuel Rincón is a lawyer, writer, novelist and essayist. He has won several international literary awards. He is Editor-at-large at El American // Emmanuel Rincón es abogado, escritor, novelista y ensayista. Ganador de diversos premios literarios internacionales. Es editor-at-large en El American