The majority of Ugandans lack what so many of us take for granted – clean water. As a result, water-borne illnesses, like diarrhea, are the number one cause of death for children under five. To protect themselves, most people boil their water. Unfortunately, the wood consumed to boil water has led to massive deforestation.
In addition, fetching and boiling water are laborious tasks. The burden falls largely on women and children who are thereby hindered from going to school or attending to other important responsibilities.
Appropriate, Affordable Technology
In response to these problems, a group of Harvard University undergraduates founded Spouts of Water in 2011. Working to develop technology suitable for an emerging market, they created Purifaaya, an affordable ceramic filter made from local materials. The device is easy to use and maintain; unlike other devices, Purifaaya requires no replacement filters. The one-time $20 outlay can be financed through local microfinance institutions.
A Successful Startup
In 2011, the developers moved to Uganda to start up Spouts of Water (Spouts). After establishing a factory, they set up a distribution process through multiple channels: NGOs, government agencies, and supermarkets. In 2014, Spouts established a second factory in Uganda; production tripled to 600 filters a month. By 2015, Spouts had installed 3,800 Purifaaya filters, including 2,000 filters in public institutions, like schools, hospitals, prisons, and refugees camps.
To date, over 44,000 persons are using this innovative, affordable technology, and Spouts staff are seeing users’ health improve. Spouts has also begun the process of quantified impact assessment with a local partner, Innovations for Poverty Action.
Demand continues to exceed capacity! Spouts is now working to build a larger factory that can produce 2000 filters a month. The next steps are to optimize the current operations and scale up to keep improving Ugandans’ lives.