This summer, myself and 2 KITE Dar es Salaam (KITE DSM) members of the WaSH Project have been exploring new avenues of work, in light of the project’s aims to handover its successful simplified sewerage project. The team, known internally as the Innovation Team, has been making use of our Tanzanian contacts to do some consultancy work for Blue Tap, a Cambridge-based start-up.
Blue Tap is a technology company that creates products to improve access to high quality drinking water in low resource settings. They came to CDI and KITE DSM’s WaSH Project this summer looking for a partner in the running of a feasibility study in Dar es Salaam. Through the promotion and sale of 50 water filters licensed for use in Tanzania, valuable lessons can be learnt regarding microfinancing and making filters affordable, distribution channels, how to incentivise vendors, the best way to advertise and promote filters, and how to convince community members that clean drinking water should be a priority. These lessons will be invaluable when Blue Tap comes to launch its novel water treatment product in the near future: a 3D printed chlorine injector.
Due to the extensive work that the CDI and KITE DSM WaSH Project has carried out in the informal settlement of Vingunguti through its simplified sewerage project, our organisations have developed good working relationships with the chairperson of the district and local community members. Consequently, getting permission to conduct surveys with the residents, and run and publicise workshops, is relatively straightforward. Our Tanzanian KITE DSM counterparts can help give local knowledge on the best districts to target certain market segments, give guidance to ensure we respect cultural etiquette and local laws, and speak Swahili to the locals and Tanzanian organisations. These links and contacts made us especially appealing as a partner for Blue Tap. The project also dovetails with our own interest in pursuing other clean water initiatives in the future. Although any future projects are still in the ideation stage, gaining a deeper understanding of the current situation will enable us to come up with the most effective solutions to tackle the challenges facing community members at present.
So, what exactly have we been doing this summer? The first thing we did was conduct a questionnaire to community members living in Vingunguti. This helped us to better understand their current drinking water situation, money saving habits, and attitudes towards investing in water filtration technology. We realised that due to CDI’s previous involvement in Vingunguti (running health workshops and implementing the simplified sewerage system), this area might not be entirely representative of other informal settlements in Dar es Salaam. To make sure our results would be applicable to a wider target group, we’ve put in applications to conduct questionnaires in other districts too, although we are still waiting to find out if permissions have been granted.
The second main task was researching microfinancing organisations in Tanzania. This is something that CDI has always been mindful of as it is very relevant to the work we do with lower income individuals. Through microfinancing loans, lower income individuals can invest in products and projects to improve their WaSH standards which they would otherwise have been unable to afford. Contact was made with several microfinancing banks, and the meetings we’ve had have shown great potential, with Blue Tap keen to collaborate with them.
Research was also done into similar water filtration companies operating in Tanzania and elsewhere in East Africa to try and predict the challenges Blue Tap might face during its feasibility study, and when rolling out larger-scale distribution of its chlorine injectors. Through the exchange of emails and phone meetings, we were able to learn about the strategies these organisations had used to make their filter distributions financially sustainable, methods of engaging the community to purchase water filters, and how to ensure continued proper use of the technology. This helped inform our decisions when planning a workshop to raise awareness on the importance of drinking water, that was held this Saturday at a venue in Vingunguti. We had a doctor in preventative medicine come in to explain the dangers of unclean water to give the workshop more credibility, we had a live water filter demonstration to show how crystal clear water can be produced from ‘muddy sludge’, and we collaborated with a microfinance organisation who came in to speak about the loans available if people want to invest in a water filter or other WaSH projects. We had 75 people attending the workshop and one lady that came forward to say she wanted to become a vendor of the water filters in her area. Fingers crossed, we’ll be seeing some sales in the next few weeks, with added publicity from our instagram campaign, posters and whatsapp presence! We’ve also been contacting hardware shops and retailers in advance to see if they’d be interested in stocking our filters if sales take off and scaling up proves a viable option in the future.
The Blue Tap feasibility study has been a really exciting project to be a part of, and I’m learning lots about business development and marketing which will be extremely useful when I begin work as a technical consultant in October. My handover report for CDI will ensure the information I’ve gained won’t be lost, and CDI can continue to build on the knowledge and contacts made this summer in future projects. Perhaps this will be the start of a new CDI specialism: consulting for external companies!
By Natasha Wilson, WaSH Project Volunteer 2018/19
Natasha is fourth-year studying Engineering at Emmanuel College.