Groundwater is Tanzania’s major source of drinking water; however, it is not always clean. Close to half the country’s population is understood to lack access to safe drinking water, especially people living in rural areas. As a consequence, preventable waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid still remain a threat. NM-AIST developed the Nanofilter – a low-cost water purification system that aims to bring a sustainable drinking water supply to communities across Arusha Region in Northern Tanzania. The Nanofilter is unique because it selectively removes any water contaminants (such as bacteria, chemical contaminants, turbidity, and organic matter). It is locally manufactured and can produce 20 litres of clean and safe water per hour.
NM-AIST provides the Nanofilter through its implementing partner Gongali Model, which sells the system to individual households and leases them to third parties who in turn sell purified drinking water to their communities. So far, Gongali Model has established 30 Nanofilter stations, with HDIF providing funding for an additional 100. The stations are run by trained operators, almost all of whom are women. The process of establishing a water station begins with identifying an appropriate location, followed by gaining the government permits needed to operate them. Other start-up activities include testing water quality, kiosk installation, and recruiting and training operators. Each Nanofilter station is monitored and evaluated regularly.
- By September 2018, the project had provided clean and safe water to 80,000 beneficiaries through 60 water stations and sold filters to 55 institutions and 400 households.
- To date, the Nanofilter initiative has provided 130 women and girls with employment and business opportunities, and provided 5,180 women and girls with safe and clean water services.
- The project has also provided employment for 15 Gongali Model staff and has engaged the services of a further 120 local entrepreneurs including welders and guards.
- Nanofilter has won five different awards locally and internationally. These include the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation by the British Royal Academy of Engineering, Pitch@Palace, the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Award and the World Health Organization Health Prize 2019.
Gender and Social Innovation
Innovations that expand opportunities for women to start a business can improve their access to resources and build their self-determination to succeed and take on new roles in the community – leading to greater economic security for them and their families. All the entrepreneurs running the stations are women, often from poor backgrounds with little or no education.
Principles for Digital Development
Design with the user: The project continuously solicits feedback from stakeholders in order to improve the way in which the Nanofilter system is used and run. These insights have led to changes in how the project is implemented; for example, the product has evolved into an employment model following the realisation that while communities might not be able to afford the filter itself, women could serve their communities by selling the filtered water to them. The initiative has also responded to the safety concerns of women kiosk operators by introducing mobile money payments via MPesa.
The project plans to scale up the water system by establishing franchises through which private owners will be allowed to run the water stations while Gongali Model provides quality assurance. At present there are six franchises in Tanzania and one in Kenya.