Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Sylvia Santelli

Mobile and Social Strategies are Bringing Clean Drinking Water to Kenya

On September 22 I attended Blogging for Good(#blog4good)  in NYC, an event that begged the question—Can blogging stories of women’s  challenges around health and development issues  really cause change?

While that is truly a great question, which turned into a great debate I come to share perspective around the main cause and company of the evening: Clean drinking water in Kenya and Vestergarrd Frandsen.


So many problems…

Problem 1: In west Kenya there is no easy access to clean drinking water.

Problem 2: It is a woman’s responsibility to collect water from local contaminated rivers, regardless of how many miles away it may be, or how young she may be. This trip may take hours.

Problem 3: Since the water is contaminated, the women are also responsible to boil the water and need to collect/buy branches to build a fire.  The fire is usually built indoors. The smoke and fumes stay in the household which causes breathing and lung related health issues.

Problem 5: Many families and children do not even know or understand that their water source is unsafe. Many women and children get very sick.


A Sustainable Finance Model is Developed: Carbon for Water

Is there a sustainable finance solution? It’s unrealistic to think that an entire county can be brought fresh water on a regular basis. Vestergaard-Frandsen took it upon themselves to become a “profit for purpose” company. For the record, they are the same ones who distribute mosquito nets.  This time, they developed a household water filtration system aka Life Straw. They had a plan of attack, distributors out in the field teaching about water safety. To date, they have successfully affected 900,000 households which means more than 4.5 million Kenyans have access to clean drinking water!

“This funding model gives companies in developed countries potential revenue, in the form of carbon credits, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Carbon credits can then be sold to carbon credit buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint or improve their environmental stewardship. The revenue generated, in large part, will be re-invested into the program to make it sustainable over a 10-year period.”  (source)


Watch this promo video to see the whole story:


They Also Have a Mobile and Social Strategy!

How can they measure their success and effectiveness? Good question. They had a mobile and social strategy in place! Each distributor waas equipped with a mobile device. At each household, for auditing and follow up purposes they would:

  • Take a photo of the family
  • Record the home’s GPS coordinates
  • Take the family phone number

You can actually see it for yourself! Watch the demo video or play around on google earth!


As for social, they were able to utilize Twitter to help spread messaging about the program and let families know when a distributor was in the area. This opened a two way conversation in case families had questions or concerns at any point.

Elisabeth Wilhelm from Vestergaard-Frandsen spent a few minutes with me explaining more about their strategy.



Real World Impact

Life Straw will end up impacting 4 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals:

  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability*


*Carbon emission reductions from this program are estimated to total more than two million tons per year.


In Closing

On October 31 our planet is hitting a pretty significant mile stone,a world population of 7 Billion !  Jeanne Carboni Support 7 Billion Actionsall about it.



All attendees received their own Life Straw!


Assigned tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      "How can they measure their success and effectiveness? Good question."

      Taking a family photo, phone no and GPS coordinates is the answer according to this blog.

      Any indicators on how successful they have been (any resources other than their promotional videos and company website)? How much does it cost, how much can those families afford who supposedly have to walk miles to fetch water? And how is it different from generic filters available in market?

      And, how exactly does this filter system avoid getting the water by walking for hours (as the blog says)? You still need water - to use a filtering device upon. Maybe I missed the part where 'mobile and social strategies' were described to be producing water for them so they were no longer walking for hours.

      The more I read this blog the more I realize how superficial and lazy blogging can get. And such pretentious title - par for the course I assume. This is stuff I would expect in marketing conferences, not at SDN.

      Author's profile photo Sylvia Santelli
      Sylvia Santelli
      Blog Post Author

      I really hope you don't attack other community members like this. Ajay, your tone and approach was completely uncalled for.

      I recently attended this conference and found an aspect that I thought was relevant to the SCN audience: how a company is using social and mobile tactics to solve world problems. This was my personal efforts around supporting the 7 Billion Actions campaign (which SAP is sponsoring).

      "Any indicators of their success?"
      Perhaps you missed the fact they reached 900,000 households or 4.5 million people. Perhaps you missed the google earth link. Perhaps you missed the first video link which was produced by Good Magazine. Perhaps you missed the link to their website where you can find sources like The New York Times, Fast Company, Columbia Journalism Review, Yahoo! Canada, or Global Health TV (should I gather more?)where they speak about the program.

      As for the financial aspect I explained the main concept in the Carbon for Water section of my post. Maybe this section needed more explanation though. It is free to families because there is a trade, Carbon for Water. This infograph explains it easily:

      "How is it different from other filtration systems on the market?" If it was not obvious to you, this one was built to save lives in Kenya. These families are not able to afford Brita filters or buy bottled water. We are talking about another country that does not have the luxury of that choice.  If you watched the first video you might get an idea of their surrounding area. This company developed a sustainable strategy--do you know of any better?

      Not sure I understand why this is a superficial or a lazy blog. It took a lot of time for me to pull this together: I spent one evening attending the event and although it may not look like much, it took my whole evening to pull the blog together. The blog itself was intended to highlight great things being done with simple technology. I don't get anything from writing this. You mean the points? Note to moderators: don't give me any. That's not why I wrote this.

      SCN was designed to encourage conversations. If you disagreed with my blog, my content, my approach--I do welcome that, I am here to learn and grow. There is a professional way to present opposition without name calling and attempting to make others feel small.

      All community members have the right to express their opinions and view points, but there is never an excuse for rudeness. I actually wonder how much clarification you wanted from my blog as opposed to an opportunity to simply criticize it.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I see that you have put some effort in responding to my comment and I appreciate it. I will come back to your reflections of my commenting style at the end. First let us look at the criticism/questions.

      I said there is no mention in your blog and your response (and not in the video and not in the google earth link you provided) as to how they get the water now as opposed to earlier (which is sited as one of the biggest pain points with much gutso). What was your response - nada.
      I asked for price comparison and your response is about poverty in Kenya and how people can't afford brita. This is not the answer to my query. A number with price (per litre, per family or per unit) with comparative numbers from competitors(and there are generic brands from china - Brita is not the only other vendor). As far as poor people from Kenya or any other place are concerned, suffice to say I know enough first-hand about poverty - and that is beside the point.
      Maybe the company doesn't charge the people anything as you say now in your response and it is fully subsidized by carbon-credits but it was not clear from your blog or links hence the question.

      As far as references from fast company, and nytimes and other such sites are concerned (on the company's website) - I would recommend looking up Greg Mortenson on web (how he was this great big savior of Pakistan/Afghanistan kids - till he was not). A healthy skepticism is not a bad thing in the world I come from. I am sure you will find an order of times more articles extolling the virtues of Greg M - which eventually proved nothing. I am only asking for more resources independent of the vendor - quoting vendor provided resources praising them is called 'marketing material'.

      I may have been harsh in my comments but there was nothing in the substance of my criticism of original blog that you have refuted.

      'Saving lives in Kenya' as opposed to 'finding a way to making profit while helping people' still sounds pretentious to me - but that is a matter of opinion.

      And in the end, about calling me a 'bully' and 'rude' and what not, I will let it pass.


      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      We do welcome diverse opinions, and yes even contentious ones on SCN.
      We don’t sanction personal attack.
      I must admit your comments took me by surprise as well.
      I remembered that you yourself took a foray into blogging and raised some interesting points in your blog entitled BI Redux
      I don’t recall there being outrage that you promoted your ideas or chose not to link back to sources or substantiate your claims there. Nor did I see folks attacking you or your claims. There was an open invitation to debate.
      And you also posted an additional piece which you aptly tagged as:
      while it lasts  Titled: “while it lasts”.
      You may not agree with Sylvia’s conclusions here but it is indisputable that she has done diligence in reading, research and further sources, giving proper attribution.  I also wondered if you fully read the links and followed the additional content she provided.  If you did, perhaps you have substantiated counter contents?
      The SAP Community Network hosts posts around emerging technologies as well as defined solutions.  We have always played host to content that raises issues of concern to a technology community. One of the frequent questions asked me this year at Innojam during TechEd Las Vegas was, how can we link our technology solutions to business cases that are “good business”?  I think this blog provides some very interesting use cases.
      I don’t know about you, but I do know that there are many in this community who care deeply about the way we do business.  This is certainly NOT a marketing blog.  The company cited provided free distribution of their product and Sylvia took time and thought and energy to engage with a group of women who are dedicated to using technology to effect change.   Social media helps topple governments.  That is fact, not fiction. I applaud Sylvia as a social media ambassadress doing her part to educate, learn, question, be informed and help inform. 
      Perhaps the use of mobile to help geomap water sources, the proliferation of simple technology to the poorest of the poor should be a model and an inspiration.  I would hope that others in our community would use this piece to spur thought of how to invest our talents, skills, intelligences to create a "better world".
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I'm really shock about your comments...I think it's really unfair...I know Sylvia very well, and she's just blogging about an event she attended, and that she thinks it's good enough to comment on SCN, we encourage diverseness...not everything have to be SAP related...also, for the title, even the slightest use of Mobile or Social strategies, would allow this blog to us it...

      I know we all have good and bad days, and I really hope this was one of your bad days, because I really expected more from you...


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I'm really shock to read your comment, which for me it's pretty unfair and out of the line...I know Sylvia very well, and she's just blogging about an event she attended and that she thinks it's important to share with the community. Here on SCN we're not exclusive to SAP related blogs...everything that adds value to the community is welcome, and I personally encourage blogs like this one.

      You ask where are the Mobile and Social Strategies? If you have a phone and you do something for people, then you have enough for Mobile and Social Strategy...

      We all have good and bad days, so I hope you comment it on one of your bad days...I really expected more from you...