Our Team


Marcela Olivera

Marcela Olivera is the Director of the Blue Planet Project and a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Since 2004 she has been developing and consolidating an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA. She sits on the coordinating committee of the Platform for Public and Community Partnerships of The America (PAPC). She was previously the BPP’s regional coordinator for Latin America.

Leonard Shang-Quartey

Leonard Shang-Quartey is the Africa Regional Coordinator for the Blue Planet Project. He is a public policy and management expert and a water rights activist in Ghana with links to several international human right to water movements. He has expertise and experience in water sector policy analysis and lobbying, formation and coordination of advocacy networks, development and dissemination of advocacy messages. He is currently one of two civil society representatives on UN Habitats’ Global Water Operators Partnership Alliance Steering Committee and coordinates the Africa Water Justice Network.

Adrian Murray

Adrian Murray manages research and outreach for the Blue Planet Project. He is also a Research Associate at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg. His research explores labour and social movement opposition to the neoliberal restructuring of public services in the face of ongoing austerity across the global South and North.

Rachel Woods

Rachel Woods supports social media and outreach for the Blue Planet Project. She is also a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Her research examines Canadian social impact investments in rural Senegal, looking at food sovereignty and social reproduction.

Board of Directors

Koni Benson

Koni Benson is a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape, working in the areas of gender, urban, public, and oral history. She is a research fellow and worked with the Blue Planet Project, supporting struggles against pre-paid water meters in Cape Town and the growth of the water justice movement on the continent. Her research is on collective interventions in histories of contested development and the mobilization, demobilization, and remobilization of struggle history in southern Africa’s past and present.

Koni is the author of Crossroads: I Live Where I Like, a graphic novel history series on women’s organized resistance to forced removals in Crossroads South Africa and a forthcoming book with PM Press. She is the co-author with Faeza Meyer of Writing Out Loud: Interventions in the History of A Land Occupation. With Feminist Alternatives, she co-produced My Dream is to Be Bold: Our Work to End Patriarchy (Pambazuka/ Michigan State UP, 2010). Her writing has been published by the Journal of Southern African Studies, African Studies Review, Feminist Africa, Gender Place and Culture: Feminist Geography, Education as Change, South African Labour Bulletin, Zambezia, Khanya College Journal, Pathways to Free Education, ILRIG, Zmagazine, and newspapers in South Africa, Canada, Kenya, and Namibia

Meera Karunananthan

Meera Karunananthan is the former Director of the Blue Planet Project. She works with social movements around the world to challenge corporate water grabs and promote community-based strategies for water justice including the Blue Communities Project – a project she co-created as national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians in 2009, which has now taken root in local campaigns around the world.

Meera is also a lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University and is currently completing her PhD focused on the struggles for access to water of racialized women living in townships and informal settlements in Cape Town.

Laila Malik

Laila Malik is a desisporic settler and writer living in Adobigok, traditional land of Indigenous communities that include the Anishinaabe, Seneca, Mohawk Haudenosaunee, and Wendat. Her work has been widely published in literary magazines and journals, including Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, Qwerty, Room, Sukoon, The Bangalore Review, and Archetype. Malik’s essays have been longlisted for four different creative nonfiction contests and she was a fellow at the Banff Centre for Creative Arts in 2021 for her novel in progress. archipelago is her debut poetry collection.

Mary Ann Manahan

Mary Ann Manahan is a feminist activist researcher, academic assistant and PhD student at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University. Prior to her post, she has worked with various social movements and civil society groups on different national and international initiatives that demand equity, environmental, gender and social justice, and alternative development for the last seventeen years.

Outside academia, she is involved with the women’s and peasant’s movements in the Philippines on advisory capacities, and serves as co-facilitator of the Beyond Development Global Working Group, a diverse global platform of activists, community organizers, and academics working on radical and systemic transformations supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

She was former Senior Programme Officer with Asia-based think tank and advocacy NGO Focus on the Global South. She was also a former coordinator of the International Financial Institutions Advisory Board of Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) that provides small grants to NGOs and grassroots organizations around the world working on the intersections of development finance, human rights and environmental justice.

She received her undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of the Philippines-Diliman (magna cum laude). She finished her MsC on Globalization and Development (greatest distinction) at the Institute of Development Policy and Management at the University of Antwerp. Her master’s thesis on REDD+ and forest tenure won the Belgian Prize for Development Cooperation in 2016. Mary Ann has written and published various book chapters, journal and NGO articles, op-ed pieces covering the ‘commons’, land politics, agrarian reform, water privatization, international financial institutions, environmental justice, women’s rights, violence against women, resistance struggles, food sovereignty, and alternatives.

Adriana Marquisio

Adriana Marquisio has been working for the Uruguayan public Water Company, OSE, for 35 years. She is the founder of OSE’s cooperation department. She was president and vice-president of FFOSE, the water workers union, for 10 years. Adriana is also Co-Founder of CNDAV, the coalition that promoted the constitutional reform to elevate the human right to water and sanitation to constitutional status that was achieved in October 2004. Founder of the Red Vida and the Platform for Public and Community Partnerships of the Americas, Adriana is also OSE’s focal point for monitoring the rights agenda in the Human Rights Directorate, particularly in access to drinking water and sanitation at the level of the Uruguayan State. Adriana is also a member of the Historical and Cultural Assets Management Committee for the promotion of a Historical Archive and Water Museum in Uruguay.

David McDonald

David McDonald

David McDonald is Professor of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, Canada, and Director of the Municipal Services Project, a global research network that explores progressive forms of public services with a focus on equity, sustainability and democratic engagement. He has published widely on debates around public water in countries around the world.

Anuradha Mittal

Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, is an internationally renowned expert on development, human rights, and agriculture issues. Recipient of several awards, Anuradha Mittal was named the Most Valuable Thinker by the Nation magazine.

Since 2008, under Anuradha’s leadership, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in the developing world which reveal a disturbing pattern of a lack of transparency, fairness, and accountability. The dynamic relationship between research, advocacy, and international media coverage has resulted in an amazing string of successes and organizing in the US and abroad.

Mittal has authored and edited numerous books and reports. Her articles and opinion pieces have been published in widely circulated newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Bangkok Post, Houston Chronicle, and the Nation. Anuradha has addressed the US Congress, the United Nations, given several hundred keynote addresses including invitational events from governments and universities, and has been interviewed on CNN, BBC World, CBC, ABC, Al Jazeera, National Public Radio, and Voice of America.

Anuradha currently serves on the board of the Environmental Defender Law Center that she joined in 2020.

Ruth Nyambura

Ruth Nyambura is a Kenyan feminist and organizer whose research interests are primarily on the agrarian political economy/ecology of Africa as well as other parts of the Global South. She has previously worked as the head of advocacy for the African Biodiversity Network (ABN).

Nyambura has written extensively on various aspects of the current agrarian transformations in Africa with her overall work focusing on the ideological underpinnings of the ‘New Green Revolution in Africa’ and its ties to philanthro-capitalist organizations such as the Gates’ Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Ruth’s research also analyzes the rapidly changing policy and legislative frameworks across the continent related to biosafety and Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regime which are not only criminalizing the rights of small-holder/-peasant farmers to use their traditional/indigenous seeds but are also opening up the space for foreign agri-business companies on the continent.

Nyambura is the founder and convenor of the African Ecofeminists Collective as well as the No REDD in Africa (NRAN) Collective which challenges forest related carbon markets and documents the impacts of these schemes on local communities in Africa. She is a board member of the Climate Justice Fund (CJF). Ruth holds an LL.M in Comparative Law, Economics and Finance from the University of Turin (UNITO), Italy and has been a judge on the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature.

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