Mobile and Web Apps Tackle Sanitation Challenges | Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, May 9, 2013
Mobile phone and web applications that enable people to talk to local policymakers and allow children to learn through games have won a competition for technological innovations that address sanitation problems in developing countries.
One in three people today have no toilet and the global economic losses due to lack of access to sanitation amount to US$260 billion a year, according to the World Bank.
The three winners of the World Bank’s Sanitation App Challenge were announced on Friday (19 April) during the 2013 Spring Meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, United States. Representatives from each team were invited to the event and are now on a week-long tour of Silicon Valley, California.
The three apps — mSchool, SunClean and Taarifa — were chosen from ten finalists announced last month (22 March). The winners were chosen by a combination of public votes and scrutiny by a group of tech experts and World Bank members.
One judge, Jesse Shapiro, thewater, sanitation and hygiene adviser of the US Agency for International Development, tells SciDev.Net that each app was assessed on its originality, quality of user interface, technical feasibility, economic viability, how it tackles an identified problem and the team effort involved in its development.
“A lot of the apps that came out of this initiative were about accessing information and were based on the idea of transparency and the public providing information to decision-makers,” says Shapiro.
One of the winners, mSchool, works along those lines. This text-messaging tool from Senegal allows students, parents and teachers to report sanitation breakdowns and repairs required in schools.
“We set up mSchool as a platform for monitoring [sanitation] conditions in schools,” says Daniel Annerose, CEO of Manobi, the Senegal-based IT firm that developed the app.
“It’s a system that can teach children to defend their basic rights and services,” he says.
Another of the winning apps, called Taarifa, allows people in developing nations to link up with their local government, and is already in use in Uganda.
It is an open-source app that allows communities to report and address local sanitation issues by collecting and visualising information, and enables public officials to respond.
One of its developers, Florian Rathgeber, a computational scientist at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, tells SciDev.Net: “The idea was to provide a platform which one could use, especially from mobile devices, to report infrastructural issues and to get feedback on how they were processed and dealt with.”
The last of the winners, SunClean, was developed by students at the University of Indonesia. It uses games to teach children about waste disposal and hand-washing.
Jaehyang So, manager of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program that developed and funded the competition, says that they did not expect an entry that featured a game about sanitation.
“But we thought it had a very strong messaging purpose and captured a part of life that is so common to everybody,” she adds.
The app contest was an offshoot of the two-day Sanitation Hackathon events held simultaneously in 40 cities around the world last December. During these, programmers worked intensively with subject matter experts to find innovative solutions to local sanitation challenges.
“Each of these hackathon events was very local to the cities. We wanted to create a global, virtual community and the App Challenge allowed us to do that,” says So.
THE HULK OF HANDWASHES | Source: Unilever, Mar 11, 2013 |
Lifebuoy has introduced a colour changing handwash to make handwashing fun for kids and reassure parents that their family’s hands are germ-free.
It contains tiny bead particles that release their green colour when squished during handwashing. After about 10 seconds, the green coloured lather means that 99.9% of germs have been removed so it’s time to rinse them.
The new handwash campaign uses Marvel’s famous comic character ‘The Hulk’. It features a boy’s hands turning into powerful, germ-busting Hulk hands as the Lifebuoy foam changes colour.
- Watch the Lifebuoy ‘Hulk’ TV advertisement.
HURRY WITHOUT WORRY
Most people spend around seven seconds washing their hands – and rarely more than 15 seconds. Kids are usually in even more of a hurry.
Srirup Mitra, Lifebuoy Global Brand Director, said: “For kids, washing hands is a chore, that’s why they tend to do so in a hurry. This new product will encourage them to keep washing until the colour changes. And by doing this, they get complete germ protection and, at the same time, mothers have visible proof that their children’s hands are totally germ free.”
The colour changing handwash has been launched in India and Indonesia before being rolled out across other markets in Asia and Africa in 2013.
This launch marks another step towards achieving Lifebuoy’s aim to change the handwashing behaviour of 1 billion people by 2015.
Disruptive Innovations Bring On ‘The Female Sanitary Revolution’ | Source: Ecopreneurist, March 7, 2013 |
Every 28 days across the globe, half the world’s population menstruates. Yet despite this is one of life’s most natural occurrences, for millions of girls and women across Asia, Africa, Central and South America the high cost of sanitary napkins ensures menstruation is a significant challenge.
The inability to afford sanitary napkins during menstruation means that many of the world’s low-income women are forced to use primitive alternatives, such as newspaper, rags of cloth, bark, ashes, banana leaves, hay or mud, which are both ineffective and unhygienic. All to often these alternatives lead to long-term health risks such as Reproductive Tract Infections, Toxic Shock Syndrome or Cervical Cancer.
The medical implications and unpredictability of alternative sanitation methods, coupled with the widespread societal taboo of menstruation, frequently results in girls skipping school and women missing work. Research indicates that girls in several developing countries miss up to 50 school days annually due to menstruation – in rural India alone a shocking 300 million girls and women are under monthly house arrest.
For the average woman living in poverty the lost work due to ineffective menstruation options amounts to five years of unearned wages over a lifetime – income that could otherwise be put towards much needed family healthcare, education or food expenses.
While new product, service and process innovations in a variety of sectors have resulted in lowered costs for many widely used healthcare products, the humble sanitary napkin continues to remain prohibitively priced.
India’s Menstrual Man
In a May 2012 TED talk, Arunachalam Muruganantham, also known as the ‘Menstrual Man’ in India, mentioned that there are limited innovations in menstrual products because the machinery necessary to convert fiber used in sanitary napkins into absorbent cellulose costs more than half a million U.S. dollars. For most entrepreneurs this is simply an unmanageable cost, despite the potential long-term social and commercial impact.
Now more than ever the global sanitary napkin industry is ripe for disruption. The emergence of various innovations across the globe addressing the high-cost – and subsequent health and income risks – of sanitary napkins signals that the ‘Female Sanitary Revolution’ is gaining momentum.
In India specifically, Muruganantham and his company Jayaashree Industries is a strong example of the growing ‘Female Sanitary Revolution’. Recognizing that the root cause of sanitary napkin expense is the fixed production cost, he has created a sanitary napkin-making machine to produce quality products at a lower cost to the consumer.
Muruganantham said that his investigation into sanitary napkins began when he realized that his wife used rags during her periods, as buying napkins meant no milk for the family. He tried various techniques for creating a viable sanitary napkin alternative but lacked willing research candidates as neither his wife, nor the girls at the local medical college, would give him honest feedback.
Finally, after using goat’s blood and a plastic bag as an alternative uterus, Muruganatham developed a pilot handmade pad, which he then distributed for free to college students for test subjects. Gathering insights from the pilot, Muruganantham was able to develop a simple machine to make viable sanitary napkins.
Today the Jayaashree Industries sanitary napkin machine is powered by electricity and foot pedals and can make 1,000 napkins a day for as little as Rs 16 per 8-pack. However, rather than selling the sanitary products commercially, Jayaashree Industries helps rural women buy one of the machines, at a cost of approximately Rs 80,000, through NGOs, government loans and rural self-help groups.
This approach has enabled the creation of multiple women micro-entrepreneurs now empowered to create awareness about the benefits of using sanitary napkins, thereby increasing the impact of Jayaashree’s innovation. Since inception, Jayaashree Industries has sold more than 745 machines across 23 Indian states resulting in approximately 3.5 million women now wearing comfortable and safe sanitary napkins.
Azadi – Freedom
Another early-stage Indian enterprise, Azadi, is also well placed to disrupt the sanitary napkin industry with their product. Azadi has developed a 100% biodegradable sanitary napkin that is 43% cheaper than the average retail price point. As a result of the high commercial and social potential of their innovation, the Founders, Dhirendra Pratap Singh and Ameet Mehta, have already raised US $115,000 from angel investors and Chicago-based incubator, The Impact Engine.
Recognizing that reaching low-income markets can be challenging, Azadi plans to distribute through two main channels; selling to organisations that already have access to rural distribution networks as well as harnessing a network of Indian female entrepreneurs to sell the pads themselves through a direct selling model. To identify and train these entrepreneurs, Azadi will partner with mission-aligned Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who work in the areas of health and hygiene, reproductive health, microfinance etc. In five years, Azadi aims to build a network of over 13,000 female entrepreneurs who will directly reach 4 million rural girls and women.
By forming profitable partnerships with local organizations to market, manufacture and sell affordable pads to their communities, Azadi believes that the impact of their innovation can be multiplied with each partnership having the potential to change 100,000 lives. In five years, Azadi aims to build a network of over 13,000 female entrepreneurs who will directly reach 4 million rural girls and women.
Beyond India, a number of forward- thinking approaches exist to address the sanitary napkin challenge through for-profit innovations.
Uganda Startup – AFRIpads
Ugandan based startup AFRIpads enlists unemployed Ugandan women to manufacture low-cost reusable cloth sanitary pads, which are uniquely sold as part of a menstrual kit containing a holder, pads and bags for used napkins. These kits are priced at approximately 20% of the total cost of a one-year supply of commercial sanitary napkins. Moreover, since the pads are washable and can be reused for up to one year the product is both affordable and environmentally friendly.
A further low-cost alternative to sanitary napkins is the menstrual cup – a cost-effective sanitation solution that can be reused for a period of 10 years.
Kenya – Menstrual Cup
Kenya is a global leader in the menstrual cup solution, having done an accessibility study of the acceptance of the innovation in low-income communities. Recognizing this, early-stage enterprise Ruby Cup established themselves in 2011 and developed a menstrual cup both leveraging the insights from the study and through direct product development. Ruby Cup is now partnering with NGO networks across Africa to distribute their product and has recently started to sell Ruby Cup at conventional retail outlets, such as pharmacies. Ruby Cup also sells the product worldwide through its online shop.
From these innovations, it can be seen that to create a world where 100% of women use sanitary menstrual solutions, the key challenge, especially in India continues to be distribution. Both Azadi and Jayaashree Industries demonstrate that for the impact of affordable sanitary napkins to be maximized, the focus needs to be on partnerships with local organizations.
AFRIpads and Ruby Cup further showcase the need for solutions that are not only affordable but also environmentally sustainable. Both, the re-usable menstrual kit and the menstrual cup are long-term solutions that will not create new problems of waste disposal and pollution for communities that adopt them.
Importantly, all of these innovations recognize that to fuel the ‘Female Sanitary Revolution’ it is necessary to educate and empower women. Whether it be by training unemployed women to make menstrual kits or by going a step further and setting up women-led micro enterprises that market, manufacture and sell sanitary napkins, these organizations are slowly changing the perception that women should be ashamed about menstruation.
To ensure that the ‘Female Sanitary Revolution’ continues to gain momentum, it is vital that the business models of early-stage organizations such as Azadi, AFRIpads and Ruby Cup be refined and developed so that they can be scaled globally. Innovation accelerators, such as Ennovent, play an important role in this regard as they provide the integrated support of mentors, investors and experts required to grow operations and scale impact.
POTENTIAL ENERGY: FUELING THE COOKSTOVES MARKETS IN EAST AFRICA | Source: USAID Development Innovation Ventures, Feb 20, 2013 |
DIV Stage 2 | $1.5 million | Darfur & Ethiopia
Many models for high-efficiency stoves exist to replace traditional open fire methods, but few have achieved widespread use or commercial sustainability.
The Solution: Potential Energy’s high efficiency stove, developed as part of the Berkeley Darfur Stoves Project, is the product of extensive market-testing and end-user feedback. Using lessons learned from early work on cookstove adoption in Darfur, Potential Energy is pursuing a market creation strategy in Ethiopia. The organization will grow its distribution and marketing network and develop innovative pricing models and flexible financing options for consumers. With support from Development Innovation Ventures, Potential Energy and partners will assess the group’s impact and the relative effectiveness of the different marketing strategies it pursues.
Potential Cost-Effectiveness: Because the Berkeley Darfur Stove requires half as much firewood as traditional cooking methods, users save more than $300 per year in fuel costs, or half the labor time and effort gathering firewood. Over the five-year lifespan of the stove, this savings is approximately $1700 per household.
2,000,000 people die each year from illness related to breathing smoke from cooking fires. This figure is equal to that of the entire AIDS epidemic and three times as large as annual deaths from malaria. In addition, many women are exposed to violence as they travel up to 7 hours a day, 3-5 days a week in search of usable fuel wood with which to cook their food. Many models for high-efficiency stoves exist to replace traditional open fire methods, but few have achieved widespread use or commercial sustainability.
Originally the Darfur Stoves Project, Potential Energy was founded as a volunteer organization in 2005 by Dr. Ashok Gadgil, Faculty Senior Scientist and Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Gadgil led a team of Berkeley scientists and engineers in the development of a Berkeley-Darfur stove, aggressively pursuing market-testing and end-user feedback in Darfur. With the Berkeley Darfur Stove, users require half as much firewood, saving them more than $300 per year in fuel costs. Over the five-year lifespan of the stove, this savings is approximately $1700 per household.
In 2012 Potential Energy established itself as an independent 501(c)3. The organization has thus far distributed more than 22,000 fuel-efficient stoves in Darfur; most were donated to women in IDP camps in North Darfur in the wake of the humanitarian crisis, however in the past year the organization has moved to a market-driven approach and the remaining stoves have been sold to women in urban and rural locations outside of the camps.
Through its work, Potential Energy has developed critical partnerships with organizations like Oxfam America and Plan International, increased the capacity of local organizations in Darfur, built its distribution and marketing network, and is developing innovative pricing models and flexible financing options for consumers. Based on its success in Darfur, Potential Energy will replicate its market creation strategy to develop and sell stoves in Ethiopia in 2013.
The $1.5 million, three-year grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures Initiative supports Potential Energy’s transition to a social enterprise approach by supporting it to test pricing strategies and market and distribution channels via local organizations. Potential Energy is collaborating with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies for research and development, and has engaged with the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) to assess the project’s impact and relative effectiveness of different marketing strategies.To learn more:
- See what the stove looks like
- Track Potential Energy’s progress on its website
- Learn the backstory with this video on the Darfur Stoves Project
Award-winning Students Find Sustainable Solution for Water Sanitation | Source: Penn State News, Feb 22, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Worldwide, more than 780 million people lack access to potable drinking water and 2.5 billion live without proper sanitation. A team of Penn State graduate students are addressing this global health crisis with interdisciplinary solutions and innovative technologies.
In December 2012, Roland Cusick of civil and environmental engineering, Marta Hatzell of mechanical and nuclear engineering and Michael Parks and Emily Smith-Greenaway of sociology proposed a simple solution for disinfecting wastewater to make it fit for drinking. The team won the grand prize of $10,000 through the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) at Penn State sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company.
The proposed technology is based on a microbial fuel cell (MFC) design. The cells process wastewater and generate an electrical current. Natural bacteria consume biodegradable material and electrons flow into a conductive surface (anode). Electrons flow out of the anode, through an external circuit and into a cathode where oxygen typically reacts to form water (H2O). The team’s winning design efficiently converts electricity recovered from the anode into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) instead of water in a separate chamber. The hydrogen peroxide can then be used to disinfect wastewater.
The team hopes to use the technology to improve drinking water and sanitation in Africa and to help local communities become more healthy and sustainable. Dow’s SISCA program is designed precisely to promote this type of forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility. “If the world’s greatest challenges were easy to solve, they would already be solved,” said Neil Hawkins, vice president of global EH&S and sustainability at Dow.
A Young African Entrepreneur And His Water Saving Business | Source: Ventures Africa, Mar 2, 2013 |
VENTURES AFRICA – 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation. To mark this year’s water celebration, attention will be placed on the importance of freshwater and sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Last year, I did a feature on Ludwick Marishane, the CEO of Headboy Industries. Ludwick is the brain behind DryBath™, the world’s first and only bath-substituting skin gel, which he invented in 2008 while he was still an undergraduate. His invention won him the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award (GSEA) at the Global Entrepreneur Week (GEW) for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). To mark this year’s event; Marishane’s company, DryBath™, is organising a no-bath weekend to encourage water management (saving).
In this interview, Ludwick talks about his company role in marking the international year of water cooperation, the essence of saving water in this modern age, his business challenges, lesson learned, and his future plans.
VA: Please tell us about yourself (aside being the CEO of Headboy Industries) – your background, hobby, fond memories?
LM: I’m a recent graduate from the University of Cape Town. I grew up in both rural Limpopo and Johannesburg, so I have experience on both sides of the income-level fence. My hobbies include critically analysing movies, hiking, and reading philosophy and psychology books. My fondest memory was when my baby brother was born. I had been an only child for 17 years, but nothing was more exciting than having him come into my life.
VA: 2013 is the international year of water cooperation, what is your company doing to mark this event?
LM: We were not aware of the theme given to the year, but we had already decided to launch our first DryBath™ No Bathing Weekend in July this year. While developing our campaign, we became aware of the year’s theme and realised the great possibility for synergies.
VA: What is this year’s theme for the project and what is the synergy between it and your plan?
LM: 2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. It also focuses on how the world’s aqua-system is used to benefit humanity in a sustainable manner. We believe DryBath can play an integral part in assisting society to achieve that objective.
VA: You are organising a no-bath weekend from 5 to 7 July which will coincide with the fourth anniversary of the invention of DryBath™ and the celebration of this year’s international World water day; what does your company aim to achieve with this programme and how hygienic is the idea of not bathing?
LM: Our personal goal is to get people to skip 10 million baths this year, but our campaign goal is placed at a modest 1 million baths. We want to make people aware of the wasteful act of unnecessary daily bathing, and we’d also like to bring awareness to the adverse health effects of too much bathing.
If you research the history of bathing, you’ll realise that daily bathing only became prevalent in the 40s as a way to practice good hygiene for those who did heavy physical labour. We have abused that practice and now bathe two or more times a day. This has lead to our skins becoming sensitized by all the purifying chemicals in the water, and that’s why every new skin lotion is always touted to be twice as moisturising as the last. We bathe all the time and try to repair that damage with expensive lotions which we shouldn’t need in the first place. We want companies and communities to get involved with the campaign.
VA: Your goal is to get at least 10-million people to hygienically skip a bath once a week during 2013, why is saving water crucial in this generation?
LM: Some popular research theorises that water-shortages will reach extreme levels from the year 2030, and I believe that “wars” will be fought over water in a similar way to how they have fought over oil. I’m far from a believer in climate change, but the scarcity of water is a very real problem, and it is something that is far removed from the citizen of a developed economy, but can be the difference between life and death for a person at the bottom of the pyramid.
VA: Tell us about your product, DryBath™, and what it does? What is the inspiration behind formulating this product?
LM: DryBath™ is the world’s first and only bath-substituting skin gel. You simply put it on your skin instead of bathing, and it will provide you with a cleansing effect that mimics the effectiveness of bathing. It won’t feel as great as bathing, but it will sure leave you feeling fresh.
I invented the product in high school when a friend didn’t want to bathe. As a teenage boy, I knew I wasn’t a fan of bathing, mainly because I found it tedious sometimes, but also because I liked the smell of my body’s natural pheromones.
VA: How has your growing up in Motetema influenced creating DryBath™?
LM: I moved to Motetema in the 9th grade – a move which gave me great anxiety because I was turning my back on a great Catholic school and the advantaged lifestyle I had with my dad in Johannesburg. In retrospect, the move to Motetema was the most important decision I made at that age, and living there really gave my life purpose by showing me how much change was still needed in the world.
Headboy Industries aim to become Africa’s most innovative conglomerate, making products that improve society, how far has your company come along since it officially began operations in 2008?
We’ve completed the development and commercialisation of DryBath™. We have spent the last two years developing the world’s first entrepreneurship league, we plan to take it live in 2014 and we already have partners in Russia that want to replicate it there. The company is profitable and we expect revenues to triple this year.
VA: Shed some light on the development of the world’s first entrepreneurship league
LM: The entrepreneurship league is going under the name of the “Art of Business Challenge (ABC)”. It is a youth development enterprise that leverages the youth’s interest, advertisers who are dying to reach the 15-24 age-group, and the low entrepreneurial drive within society’s youth. It is going to be teaching youth stuff they can’t learn in a classroom, and we aim to make the process more entertaining for the television spectator than the FIFA World Cup. The league has been under development for 2 years now.
(You may view Marishane’s short presentation of how it works here)
VA: I read somewhere that DryBath™ is manufactured commercially for clients such as hotels, music festival organisers, major global airlines and governments for soldiers in the field but it is not yet available for consumer use; why is this and when will this be made available for consumer use?
LM: We have realised that our team is not passionate about the retail side of business, and we also didn’t have the capital necessary to service the household consumers with the quality we would want them to have. We have started negotiating distribution deals for countries all over the world, and we will be choosing great partners who can sell the product to the retail consumer. Selling to corporate organisations has been our main priority because our value proposition to them allows us to donate sachets to charity.
VA: How have you been able to market a novel product to the public?
LM: People’s general attitude to bathing has been very entertaining to us. Our surveys revealed that almost everyone finds it tedious sometimes, but society’s general attitude is that not-bathing is a taboo thing to do. On average, people already skip bathing once a week, but they feel very guilty about it. DryBath™ allows these people to have a very convenient substitute without the guilt of feeling dirty for not bathing. Our marketing has been very frank and has aimed to make everyone become more accepting, if not enthusiastic, about skipping baths.
VA: What challenge(s) did you face marketing DryBath™/getting the product accepted and how far have you come with these challenges?
LM: We had a great deal of difficulty in designating the product into a category. Being a new health care product, we had to decide if it was a medicine (which would require clinical trials, etc), or if it was a cosmetic. After consulting with the authorities, the final designation was “cosmetic”, and that has really made it simpler for us to distribute the product worldwide. Customers still find it hard to get the concept in their heads, and we have decided to produce marketing videos to help with that, but we have noticed that detractors often change their mind about the product after the concept has lingered in their minds for a week or two.
VA: You have experienced some failures and challenges as a young entrepreneur/innovator before achieving success with the creation of DryBath™. Can you share some of these failures and how has this experience help you in your present business venture?
LM: My journey has been riddled with projects that were too big for me, too resource-intensive, and those which were too early for society. I invented a healthy cigarette in the 10th grade, but realised I didn’t have the resources to take on the tobacco industry. I failed to become South Africa’s biodiesel baron in the 9th grade because I was too young, and I authored a mobile dictionary and magazine supplement which society just wasn’t ready to publish.
However, with each entrepreneurial failure, I learned skills that optimized me for future opportunities. I also think DryBath hasn’t finished its journey yet, and that it may still fail at some point in the near future, but it has taught me business skills that will make my next venture an even bigger success.
VA: You are/were a student social entrepreneur who has combined schooling with entrepreneurship. How practical is this and does your academic discipline play a role in managing your business, Headboy Inc?
LM: I think the best time to get a business off the ground is while you’re still a student, being at university was a great incubation phase for the company and I. I studied a commerce degree, so the learning definitely added substantial value to the business. Being a student entrepreneur also posed a difficult challenge, but I found that the more I worked on the business, the better I did at school because the work ethics translated well between the two.
VA: As a student, how did you get the start-up fund for your product and what advise will you give young entrepreneur in getting start-up funds?
LM: I was rejected by all the venture capital firms, and I had no security to secure a loan from any bank. However, I did enter business plan competitions, and I quickly realised that they were the best way to raise funds for my business. I raised over $50, 000 from competitions, and they also provided valuable media attention, access to potential clients, and validation for the company and product.
VA: You have served as an intern with Goldman Sachs, operate as campus ambassador for Google (among other internship) and you were once the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year; how far has these internships and accolades help you as a young entrepreneur/innovator?
LM: The Goldman Sachs internship was my first job ever, and it made me realise how much I hated being an employee. It was a great opportunity to be in London during summer, and I got to work with some of the sharpest minds in the world. The work we did gave me insight into securities sales & how I might do an IPO one day. The other internships were in start-ups generally, and they felt more aligned with my way of working. All in all, the internships and awards have added substantially to my network, and I often tell my mentees that an entrepreneurs’ network must be more valuable than their business, otherwise it becomes useless.
VA: What do you think young entrepreneurs should emulate when they are starting their business?
LM: The most important skill you need to cultivate is the ability to teach yourself things very quickly, and to fail very quickly in order to learn. If you work on something you’re truly passionate about and have social support for the work you’re doing, the rest sorts itself out.
VA: What are your future plans for the business?
LM: We plan to launch even more long-term products to the market and change the world one product at a time.
VA: Any word for young entrepreneurs that may/are following in your footsteps?
LM: Do it for the love of power…the power to control your life, the power to change society, and most of all; the power to live your dream. If you don’t feel like pursuing that power, then you’re not working hard enough.
Let’s hear your opinion on DryBath™. Follow us on Twitter @Venturesafrica /leave your comments below.
Innovative Water Purification Tablet for Developing World | Source: Science Daily, Feb 8, 2013 |
PureMadi, a nonprofit University of Virginia organization, has invented a simple ceramic water purification tablet. Called MadiDrop, the tablet — developed and extensively tested at U.Va. — is impregnated with silver or copper nanoparticles. It can repeatedly disinfect water for up to six months simply by resting in a vessel where water is poured. It is being developed for use in communities in South Africa that have little or no access to clean water.
“Madi” is the Tshivenda South African word for water. PureMadi brings together U.Va. professors and students to improve water quality, human health, local enterprise and quality of life in the developing world. The organization includes students and faculty members from engineering, architecture, medicine, nursing, business, commerce, economics, anthropology and foreign affairs.
During the past year, PureMadi has established a water filter factory in Limpopo province, South Africa, employing local workers. The factory produced several hundred flowerpot-like water filters, according to James Smith, a U.Va. civil and environmental engineer who co-leads the project with Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, director of U.Va.’s Center for Global Health.
“Eventually that factory will be capable of producing about 500 to 1,000 filters per month, and our 10-year plan is to build 10 to 12 factories in South Africa and other countries,” Smith said. “Each filter can serve a family of five or six for two to five years, so we plan to eventually serve at least 500,000 people per year with new filters.”
The idea is to create sustainable businesses that serve their communities and employ local workers. A small percentage of the profits go back to PureMadi and will be used to help establish more factories.
The filters produced at the factory are made of a ceramic design refined and extensively tested at U.Va. The filters are made of local clay, sawdust and water. Those materials are mixed and pressed into a mold. The result is a flowerpot-shaped filter, which is then fired in a kiln. The firing burns off the sawdust, leaving a ceramic with very fine pores. The filter is then painted with a thin solution of silver or copper nanoparticles that serve as a highly effective disinfectant for waterborne pathogens, the type of which can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
The design allows a user to pour water from an untreated source, such as a river or well, into the pot and allow it to filter through into a five-gallon bucket underneath. The pot has a flow rate of one to three liters per hour, enough for drinking and cooking. The filtered water is accessed through a spigot in the bucket.
U.Va. medical school studies are showing that use of the filters significantly improves health outcomes for users and are particularly beneficial to people with compromised immune systems, such as people living with AIDS. HIV prevalence is more than 17 percent among the general population in South Africa, and millions suffer each year from waterborne diseases. Smith said testing has shown that 99.9 percent of the pathogens in water can be removed or killed by the filter.
MadiDrop is an alternative to the flowerpot filter, but ideally would be used in conjunction with it. The plan is to mass-produce the product at the same factories where the PureMadi filters are produced.
“MadiDrop is cheaper, easier to use, and is easier to transport than the PureMadi filter, but because it is placed into the water, rather than having the water filter through it, the MadiDrop is not effective for removing sediment in water that causes discoloration or flavor impairment,” Smith said. “But its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and simple manufacturing process should allow us to make it readily available to a substantial population of users, more so than the more expensive PureMadi filter.
Testing shows that the filters are safe to use and release only trace amounts of silver or copper particles, well within the safe water standards of the developed world. The filters also would be useful in rural areas of developed countries such as the United States where people rely on untreated well water.
Why Sanitation Business Is Good Business | Source: Forbes, Jan 28, 2013 |
“Sanitation is more important than independence,” Mahatma Gandhi said in 1925. In 2006, Ashoka Fellow David Kuria decided Gandhi was right—improving sanitation by thinking beyond the toilet became his chosen mission. In this post, Nikki and Rob Wilson explore why David’s innovation has been so successful in urban settings.
Going to the toilet while you’re traveling in Africa is not an experience you look forward to. To be totally frank, it can be so bad that invariably it makes you gag. But in Kenya, ask anyone for the nearest “Ikotoilet” and all your dreams come true. For just five shillings (pennies on the dollar) you get to do your business in a spick-and-span public loo. What’s more, once you’re done you can top up your phone, buy a cold Coke or get your shoes shined.
David Kuria, an Ashoka Fellow since 2007, launched the social businessEcotact to challenge toilet taboos and make sanitation sexy. Sound a bit crazy? Not one bit. Poor sanitation kills millions every year and David’s “toilet talk” strategy is saving lives. “I wanted to re-invent the whole sphere,” David told us, totally disenchanted by tokenistic toilet-building.
After hours of hard graft and research, the Ikotoilet concept was born, and with it, three core objectives that have guided widespread shifts in health and hygiene:
Objective 1: Transform the architecture of the toilet
An architect by training, David believes all buildings should be beautiful. “No one has given any thought to the toilet as a piece of art,” he said to us, not even breaking into a smile. Determined to prove that with beauty comes respect, David purposefully designed every block of toilets to be a striking landmark. Using funky shapes and bright colors, it’s fair to say the Ikotoilet isn’t easily missed. What’s more, both the staff and the customers take time to keep the loos in great condition, proving David’s mantra that if you build something beautiful, people will want to take care of it.
Objective 2: Implement a business model that disrupts the status quo
For just five schillings, an affordable price for all, the general public can go to an Ikotoilet and access clean, safe and hygienic sanitation facilities—services that before Ikotoilet simply didn’t exist. This might not sound revolutionary but here’s the twist. The Ikotoilet block is also known as a “Toilet Mall.” The space surrounding the loo block is rented to local businesses that provide a range of services like hair cutting, shoe shining and money transfer. Drawn in by the opportunity to advertise to a captive audience, bigger businesses also pay for wall space to promote their brands.
Income from entry fees, rent revenue and advertising deals covers all the overheads of each Ikotoilet and leaves enough left over to repay David’s investment loan. In fact, within five years, each Toilet Mall will be turning a tidy profit. Aside from being a nice little money-making scheme, the beauty of this model is that it removes the stigma around stinky toilets, creating instead a space where communities can convene. In turn, this places important pressure on the Ikotoilet staff to keep their standards high and their facilities 100 percent stench free!
Objective 3: Get people talking about sanitation and hygiene
Using innovative mass media campaigns, David tackles cultural taboos which keep the toilet business a hush-hush topic of conversation. To date he has recruited Miss Kenya to serve toilet tissue to customers, at the same time talking to them about the link between hygiene and beauty. He has also brought in other public figures to do the same, including Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, key religious leaders, and Kenya’s top comedian Makhoha Keya. In 2010, he took an even wackier approach. He brought together 18,302 children, 1050 adults, 40,000 liters of water, and 23,000 bars of soap at one venue to break the Guinness World Record title for “Most Number of People to Wash their Hands in One Day.”
Unsurprisingly, this campaign and others successfully keep hygiene in the headlines. “We have got people talking about toilets,” David told us, explaining that driving behavioral change is the objective which underpins everything within the Ikotoilet strategy.
The success of Ikotoilet in Kenya has come as sort of a shock to David, especially because Ikotoilet almost failed to get off the ground. In 2007, when David was trying to get started, he was turned away from every Kenyan bank for a loan. “They would give me an audience but when I told them it was about a toilet, they would look at me as if there was something wrong.” On the brink of chucking in the towel, David managed to convince Acumen Fund (an investment company solely focused on social ventures) to take a chance on him, granting him a $750,000 loan in three installments.
Luckily, this risk paid off. Within just three years, 50 Ikotoilets have been installed in 20 municipalities across the country and in 2011, Ikotoilets expect to receive 10 million customers, an average of 30,000 per day. This might not build their environmental credentials, but Ikotoilets make every effort to keep themselves green. They use waterless urinals, low-flush toilets and water-saving taps. They even try to make use of human waste by converting it into bio gas for cheap cooking fuel and fertilizer for community gardens.
David estimates that Ikotoilet is only responding to 10 percent of the demand in Kenya, which means there’s ample space for growth over forthcoming years. Within Kenya, he’s also branching out into sanitation for schools. Using donations to cover the initial building costs, he’s already built 10 Ikotoilets on school grounds and will use corporate advertising to pay for the ongoing overheads. Hoping to shape the views of the next generation, each new installation is also supported by an education program which promotes hygiene, sanitation and good health.
Not content to stop at the Kenyan borders, David is also looking at scaling Ikotoilet across the whole continent—this expansion is essential as currently it’s estimated by the United Nations that only 60 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to basic sanitation facilities. With the financial support of East African Breweries, a 10-toilet trial has launched in Uganda, and there are plans in the pipeline for facilities in Tanzania, Ghana andLiberia.
In Swahili, Ikotoilet literally means, “There is a toilet.” After our Ikotoilet visit, we decided we wanted to add a few extra words: There is a toilet … that is changing the world.
This post was adapted from one of 18 stories about social entrepreneurs who are transforming Africa featured in Nikki and Rob Wilson’s book, “On the Up.” Rob is a senior staff member in the Ashoka UK office. He is also an award winning social entrepreneur in his own right as founder of READ International and NoPC. Nikki runs the UK division of Red Bull’s Charity Foundation, Wings for Life, and co-founded READ International alongside Rob when they were students.