December 14, 2015

Going green: SPARK’s sustainable startups in Palestine

In early 2015 SPARK began a new partnership with cewas Middle East, in Palestine. The new startup programme provides professional training, mentorship and consulting services to startups aiming to begin a business in sustainable water, sanitation and resource management. Cewas’ water and sanitation oriented business development programme is the first of its kind in the Middle East and hopes to make a positive difference to local communities by supporting young social entrepreneurs to launch their businesses. Currently the region suffers from excessive pollution and water shortages. SPARK’s MFS-II programme manager Marc de Klerk emphasises: “this initiative has positive implications for the local environment, and will help create solutions for the region’s urgent resource management needs.”

The programme began with a business plan competition held in partnership with Birzeit University and Leaders Organization, both members of SPARK’s network of local partner organizations. The authors of the 10 strongest business plans were selected to receive one year’s business support services. A central theme of these submissions was sustainable water, with 4 of the competition winners submitting business plans which address that water crisis in Palestine. Israel’s control of Palestine’s water supply has created severe problems for the Palestinian people, who are constantly faced with irregular, limited and often contaminated water supply. Such challenges create problems both in terms of health of Palestinians and also as a detriment to their environment, which is a country which is heavily dependent on agriculture also creates economic problems.

So what are the solutions? Well to combat the consumption of polluted water entrepreneurs Ahamd, Muawiya, Feras and Naji proposed ‘AQUA’; a business which makes smart water sensors that measure water quality parameters and create water treatment service industries in Palestine. Wala Abdallah wants to create innovative new treatment systems for the waste water produced by olive mills, a key industry in Palestine. Ali Alzeer’s business proposal focuses on non-revenue water; water which is produced yet ‘lost’ before it reaches the customer. Elias and Munif’s business ‘GREEN Palestine’ also focuses on providing water saving technologies and services. By addressing the causes of waste of this valuable resource these businesses aspire to relieve some of the strain currently felt by Palestinian communities.

As well as sustainable water solutions, entrepreneurs proposed business plans ranging from solar thermal energy for bakeries to nutrient recovery from organic waste to precious metal recovery through sustainable electronic waste recycling. Each startup demonstrates the innovative range of possibilities for the private sector in water and resource management in Palestine.

The competition was held in partnership with Birzeit University in August 2015, and the support services which SPARK and local partners are providing the selected startups include idea generation and training sessions with business coaches, support legally founding their businesses and acquiring partners, as well as networking opportunities and exposure to investors. It also includes a mentorship programme with each startup benefiting from a monthly meeting with respective mentor to support them until July 2016 which marks the first anniversary of their initiation.