It all began in 2004 when François Jaquenoud, an experienced management consultant, met a Cambodian water engineer named Chay Lo, through their common friend Virginie Legrand, also an ex-consultant and volunteer for international NGOs. Together, they discussed the living conditions of the people in Chay Lo’s village, located in a poor province of Cambodia. The tremendous health issues faced by the communities emerged as a strong concern.
Inspired by Louis Pasteur’s quote “we drink 90% of our diseases”, they decided to start an inspiring journey to provide safe drinking water to vulnerable rural populations with the ambition to improve their health. Together, they designed the water kiosk model to enable small, isolated communities to fulfill their drinking water needs in an independent and sustainable manner. 1001fontaines was born!
Since then, 1001fontaines has progressively grown and evolved, always relying on our core values : keeping a pathfinder mindset, being field-driven, delivering operational excellence, and adopting a collective approach.
From one kiosk in 2004 to 300 in 2022, we have learned how to provide safe drinking water at a large scale. Along the way, we have adapted logistics to cover 18 of Cambodia’s 25 provinces with 4 regional platforms, and standardized training modules to be able to empower 30 new entrepreneurs every year. Our model has now proven its efficiency, its economic sustainability (operating costs 100% self-covered), and its long-term quality of service for each of our 840,000 consumers.
Our ambition to replicate the Cambodian success started in Madagascar in 2008. In order to cope with a difficult socio-economic context, we had to turn constraints into assets and to design a context-based approach in which the high water sales in poor urban areas cross-subsidize the rural sites.
It wasn’t enough for our founders, who were permanently looking for an increased impact. That is why we developed the Water in School program in Cambodia and Madagascar to provide free safe drinking water to primary schools. Children are the most affected by waterborne diseases and register an important mortality rate due to diarrhea. Thanks to this initiative, we have observed a 75% drop in absenteeism, better concentration and an improvement in children’s health. Altogether, 315,000 children now have access to safe water on a daily basis.
In 2019, capitalizing on our previous 15 years of experience in Cambodia and Madagascar, we embraced the challenge of deploying water kiosks in the Dry zone of Myanmar. We strengthened our engineering and quality expertise and drilled 300+ feet deep tube wells to ensure a sustainable supply of drinking water.
In 2020, 1001fontaines decided to take up another challenge and started supplying safe and affordable drinking water to vulnerable households in the Greater Ho Chi Minh City, generating promising evidence of impact and sustainability.
On our 18th anniversary, we have all the reasons to be proud of where 1001fontaines stands: a full proof-of-concept in Cambodia, 3 other country programs moving towards scale and sustainability, and above all 1 million people enjoying everyday the benefits of drinking safe water.
At 18, we are still young enough to believe in our dream to play a major role in solving the water crisis, and experienced enough to make that dream come true. We are more than ever thirsty for scale, for sustainability and for impact!
The way ahead is clear: another million consumers by 2025, and by 2030, become the preferred drinking water solution for vulnerable people in 5 countries and reach 10 million consumers.
None of this would have been possible without our loyal partners who have constantly brought us support, advice and trust during this amazing adventure.