James Thuch Madhier: Sourcing clean and sustainable water
As a child growing up in South Sudan in the late 1990s, James Thuch Madhier witnessed starvation and extreme hunger due to the ongoing conflict. At just 15 years old, he was forced to flee to northern Kenya, going on to study in Canada. The memory of suffering during his childhood haunted him for years, and he decided he could do something about it. As an adult, he noticed that some of the things that had forced him to flee his home country were still unaddressed, despite the presence of the international aid development communities during all the intervening time. As a recipient of aid but also someone now working with the aid sector, he says that the established institutions often lack a real penetration or connection with local communities. Aghast by the disparity between the amounts of money spent at conferences for policy discussions and what actually exists on the ground, Madhier wanted to make more sustainable and locally led solutions. “I just felt that I needed to act and start with my own community, where I came from, and try to showcase a different approach to actually empower people that have been affected by some of these humanitarian challenges.” He says he decided the best entry point would be water, because “in humanitarian and conflict situations like South Sudan, infrastructure is the first to suffer.” He says that while the larger conflict dynamics may be addressed, those underlying issues that may feed the conflict tend to be ignored and can continue to destabilise the country. “I wanted to critically look at the root causes of the problems, address them there, and find solutions to those problems,” he says. In 2017, Madhier launched the Rainmaker Enterprise, an initiative that uses solar power to provide water and mechanised farming services to communities in South Sudan. “We’re not just providing water to communities for drinking… but for farming, for feeding livestock, and creating livelihoods.” So far, it’s helped 3,000 families access clean and sustainable water. He’s hoping to bring it to more.