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
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.
All attendees received their own Life Straw!