Portrait of Ariane Kirtley, initiator of Marcher sur l’eau, and “PRECIOUS WATER!” challenge laureate

Jul 9 · 4 min read

Could you introduce yourself briefly?

I was born in the USA, from a French mother and an American father, I grew up in Africa. At 6 months, I crossed the Sahara with my parents who were photojournalists for National Geographic and Géo France. We were living with Tuareg artisans from Niger and panthers men from Côte d’Ivoire. One of my best friends was Julia, a baby gorilla that we were trying to reinstate into the Gambian forest. It inspired me into becoming a primatologist. After passing months into the jungle, studying chimpanzee from Uganda, I understood the only way to preserve the forest was by helping the surrounding villagers manage their natural resources. I then changed my studies towards anthropology and public health, to work afterward in sustainable development.

Why do you work in the water area? What is your motivation?

After an internship done at Care International in Niger in 2003, I raised awareness among the link between hygiene, water, and health. I developed a hygiene project and culturable adaptable stabilization for my master thesis at the Yale School of Public Health. I went back to Niger as a grant holder from Fulbright to implement my thesis. I was living among Peuls and Tuaregs farmers in the area of Azawak, a vast plain crossing Niger and Mali, and big like a third of France. Children walked up to 50 kilometers a day, looking for water, and most of the time only to find a small puddle of mud, with non-drinkable water. Almost half those children died before the age of 5, because of the lack of water, which is growing from year to year because of climate change. Facing it, I created the NGO Amman Imman: Water is life in 2006. Since then, the NGO gave water, support in various fields such as health, education, local economy, dietary and environmental conservation to more than 100 000 persons. The NGO also works with students across the world to raise awareness on climate change, desertification, environmental conservation, and gender parity.

Could you present your project? What is its environmental impact? What is your goal?

The “Marcher sur l’eau” project has as a goal to increase 40 000 persons’ resilience living in the Sahel and suffering from one of the most worldwide serious water shortage. We implemented a “sustainable management of wetlands/agroforestry” project and solar drilling to multi-villages. Worldwide speaking, it wants to raise awareness to millions of people on climate change, desertification, gender equity, and the lack of water. Thanks to a documentary intended to an international diffusion, its goal may be reached. Hydraulic projects will be implemented by the NGO Amman Imman: Water is life, and the movie will be created by the production firm Bonne Pioche (the Emperor Walk), with a partnership with Echo Studio, distributed by Disney-France and realized by the actress Aissa Maiga.

Our hydraulic projects will help re-establish 70% of the marshy forest, as well as the fauna and flora, and also at least 50% of the pasture area. They are going to allow the reforestation of indigenous trees through agroforestry, maximizing food security. Water will allow access to education for 5000 children and will increase their diligence by 83%. They will help decrease childhood mortality by 40%. Through its Disney distribution, the documentary will touch a global and varied public and will contribute to raise awareness and mobilize millions on those subjects. By highlighting a community that searches for ecological and sustainable solutions to face water shortage, this project could be used as a model to answer more global problematics. Thanks to those solutions, other parts of the world suffering from desertification and climate change could use them and replicate them.

What are your daily actions for the environment?

I am vegetarian since I am 12 because I do not want to be a part of the deforestation and over-exploitation of resources (water, soil...) for farming livestock. As a Yale student in the USA, I founded an association enabling the conversion of our 16 cafeterias in biological and local food and created a biological farm on campus. Everything is still there, nearly 20 years later. With my husband and my 3 children, we reorganized our farm into an eco habitat, and we are doing permaculture on our 5 hectares ground. We are living in a minimalist way, with the majority of our goods recycled or retrieved, and by educating our children as humanitarian eco-citizen given our choice of life and our works in Africa. I am also a photographer and a short story writer, and so I am using them to raise awareness on ecological and humanitarian subjects.



Written by


We are an independent family foundation that supports innovation in the field of environnement. The foundation organizes every year an International Challenge.