70s - a young engagement

Join For Water is founded by Antoon De Pesseroey, a industrialist patron from Ghent. On 14 January 1977 he founds Protos, together with a number of professors and young graduates from the universities of Ghent and Leuven. In October 1977, the organisation is recognised as an NGO and receives government subsidies for its first projects. In the early years Protos only works in Haiti, from 1982 onwards the DR Congo follows. Until 1986, secretarial work and technical support are exclusively in the hands of volunteers and administrators.

Early 1980s - a first major project in Haiti

In 1982 Protos commits itself to a first important drinking water project: the drinking water supply of the provincial capital Hinche in Haiti. In 1985, the state service SNEP takes over the management, as planned. But the income of the users is not invested in the maintenance of the system, and a few years later the first problems arises. Protos learns an important lesson.

Mid '80s - you don't drink water alone

Since 1985, the users themselves are being more closely involved in the construction and management of the drinking water supply. More attention is paid to raising awareness and to setting up drinking water committees to manage the drinking water installation. This is necessary to keep the water supply liveable, and strengthens the local development organisations. In this way, Protos is evolving from a fairly technically oriented NGO to an organisation with an eye for the technical as well as the social aspects of its projects. Other drinking water projects with the involvement of all parties will start in the Central Plateau of Haiti and in north-eastern Congo.

Early 1990s - a global approach

At the beginning of the 1990s, there is a growing awareness that this basic work is insufficient to ensure a sustainable drinking water supply, and even less so to set in motion an autonomous development process.

From now on 3 aspects will be emphasized:

  • Building local expertise and strengthening local NGOs and local governments so that they can plan and implement their own participatory drinking water programmes.
  • Work on regional planning and management structures to respond more efficiently to the immense needs. These regional management structures also support the young and weak drinking water committees.
  • Influence policy and networking to refine the drinking water and sanitation policy of the national authorities and of the international financing organisations. Protos stands up for participation, for greater local and international solidarity, and for sustainability.

The field of work is expanded: first to Benin (1994), Mali (1995), and later to Rwanda, Burundi and Ecuador (1997). Uganda followed in 2000 and Madagascar in 2006. In 1997 there are also activities in Flanders: Protos goes to the schools with an educational programme and seeks out the wider public with an awareness-raising offer.

2002 - Radical choice for drinking water and sanitation

Protos has been growing strongly since 2000. Protos increasingly sees its actions as levers for sustainable social, economic and structural change. Protos places the water challenges in the South in their global context. After all, the right to water cannot become a reality for everyone without reviewing the power and economic relations between the North and the South. Protos chooses to focus on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and water for agriculture and thus acquires a unique position as a water NGO in Belgium.

Together with the other local actors, Protos applies the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which manages natural resources such as water and land in a coordinated manner. IWRM has an eye for the needs of everyone - people, animals and nature - today and in the future.

The decentralisation process in which the competences for, among other things, the supply of drinking water are transferred from the central to the local level, is gaining momentum. Protos responds to this with attention for good local management. Together with all parties, Protos seeks a good division of roles and understanding between the local authorities, the organised water users, the state services, and the local private sector.

By means of action research, Protos identifies the bottlenecks in a situation, seeks solutions with all parties involved, and then evaluates them and passes on the lessons learned.

2016 - …

After a long collaboration with our partners in Rwanda, Protos closes a fruitful chapter in 2016. Both the local government and the partner organisations COFORWA and UGAMA have evolved considerably and can further develop without Protos. After all, the goal of development cooperation is to make yourself superfluous...

At the end of 2016, Ecuador's local team has set up its own organization to continue its activities independently and as a partner of Protos from 2017 onwards. 

Protos completed its activities in Madagascar at the end of 2018, after 12 years of presence in that country. Drinking water solutions for tens of thousands of people were installed in the Central Plateau, with a great deal of attention being paid to proper management and follow-up. In the city of Toamasina, Protos was mainly active in the field of sanitation.

In 2017, the programme in Belgium has been given new emphasis. Project W is working on a change in water use and water behaviour in municipalities and schools. Protos makes the link between our water consumption and the global water challenges. The water footprint is a concept that is becoming more and more accepted.

2019 - Protos continues as Join For Water 

On World Water Day 2019 Protos changes its name to Join For Water. Fresh, activating and focused on cooperation. Together with our local partners and our partners in Belgium, Join For Water goes further down the road for sustainable, qualitative solutions. The approach of Join For Water remains unchanged. With its new name, Join For Water wants to position itself even more strongly as the water NGO in Belgium.