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Enviro-Stewards latest project helps deliver safe drinking water in Uganda

In parts of the world where people are experiencing a water crisis there is a water source available, but it’s just is not safe to drink. That’s where an Elmira organization’s latest project comes into the picture.

To help residents in such developing countries, Enviro-Stewards has created a project which would not only bring them a safe and consistent source of water, but also empower locals to create a sustainable business.

A market assessment done in Uganda, for instance, found that 90 per cent of the people there were consuming untreated water from the Nile River. More than 50 per cent of hospital patients were being treated for water-borne illnesses.

Based on information gathered and interviews conducted, the purchasing of a water purifier would save the average family about $1,000 over the 25 year span of its life, expenses that are primarily related to medical treatment and care.

Thanks to seed funding provided by Elmira chemical producer Lanxess in 2020, the new safe-water project was started in Pakwach, Uganda.

Dubbed Safe Water Social Ventures (SWSV), the project helps entrepreneurs in these parts of the world by helping them to build, test, and sell bio-sand filters in their communities. Locals are taught the business from the ground up through teaching materials, and are then able to maintain the business independently, becoming self-sustaining in the long run.

Bruce Taylor, president of Enviro-Stewards, says this project is not just about giving people access to water by giving them a filter. Instead, the model they use allows residents to purchase the filter – sometimes at a very discounted price – ensuring that they will use the filter for years to come, rather than simply let it sit by the wayside.

“What we want to do with the Safe Water Project is to build up the local capacity, so 100 per cent of staff are from those countries. We build up the local people, train them how to run it – we have a series of five training modules [which are then used to train staff on the business]. The local team there (in Pakwach), knocked on 25 families’ huts and asked them things like ‘where do you get your water and how much does it cost?,’ then they went to the hospital to gather more information,” said Taylor. “We don’t just want to give these away to people … if people are just getting this filter, they may not use it because it was free and they just didn’t want to learn how. But when people buy this, it encourages them to use it.”

The cost of the filter is US$100.

Taylor said people who took the time to earn the money are prouder to use the item compared to families who might have received it for free. He says when the team went back to talk with people who had used the item for a year, 100 per cent of them were still using it daily.

To further help residents, Lanxess has provided funding this year to help 240 families purchase purifiers. Those who make less than $2.50 each day are eligible for a discount, which would see the cost reduced by 50 per cent.

Taylor says the funding will give 20 people each month the ability to sign up for the discount and purchase a purifier. Each year they plan on reducing the number of discounts given out until the project has become self-sustainable within the community.

LANXESS operations head Helder Botelho said one of the things the company likes about the project was that it focused on encouraging people to create a sustainable solution by gaining the knowledge and ability which will help them to continue sharing with others.

“Being that we are neighbours with the Enviro-Stewards team, we’ve naturally gotten to know each other very well over the years. The more we learned about the life-changing work their team is doing, we realized this was a perfect opportunity to work together with them and support a project that aligns with many of our corporate values. As a global company headquartered in Germany, we are very much in line with and striving to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – and the biofilter project certainly helps us towards achieving those goals and helping so many people in the process. We’re very thankful for this relationship and the opportunity to support Enviro-Stewards with this project,” said Botelho.

Businesses and individuals that wish to help can click here.

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