Tawi Inc.

Vision: To see international development promote sustainability rather than dependency & empower instead of paternalize. Mission: To support intellectual & cultural exchange among stakeholders in international development, health, social & environmental initiatives & research.
Jun 28, 2013

Final Report


One of the goals of the EDGE Project, which remains a facet of the values held by Tawi Inc., is the empowerment of women and children on Lingira Island in Uganda. Most women in the community have long been oppressed and are generally limited to the restricted life of a subordinate to their male counterpart. This past summer of 2012 we worked alongside Women’s Rights Initiative, an NGO local to the Jinja, Uganda area. They serve to empower and educate youth as well as provide trade training to women who have fled from domestic abuse relationships. During our stay we hosted WORI on Lingira and under their direction, taught a lesson on HIV/AIDS. Through this lesson, several misconceptions and important fact about sexually transmitted infections, AIDS, and basic human rights were exposed. Children were able to anonymously ask any questions they had regarding sexual health or health in general. We received hundreds of questions ranging several topics and after gathering the questions we were able to draft answers to most which we explained during the lesson. Once and initial barrier had been crossed – several students, both male and female, actively participated in the discussion of these topics which otherwise may be considered taboo.

Several of the female students who live and attend school on the island are forced to choose between finding whatever means to pay their school fees or returning home uneducated. For many, prostitution can be the only solution to paying for their tuition. There remains a constant dilemma between the necessity of education and the preservation of human rights.

Groups like WORI who have themselves faced such issues and have been born and raised in these communities are a great asset to the women and children of Uganda and communities elsewhere. They continue to remain a great partner to Tawi Inc.

Feb 11, 2013

GlobalGiving visits Lingira Island

A view of the camp we visited on Lingira Island
A view of the camp we visited on Lingira Island

This morning, my colleague Katherine and I took a beautiful 30-minute speedboat ride from Jinja, Uganda to Lingira, a small island about five miles around, where the EDGE project partners with a group called SHIM to provide clean water, agriculture, education, and more to the several thousand residents of the island.

About three years ago, EDGE was part of a program in partnership with GlobalGiving, the Rockefeller Foundation, and InnoCentive, an organization that crowdsources innovative solutions for business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges.  This program was opened to all GlobalGiving partners, and EDGE was one of only five organizations selected to present challenges they are facing to the InnoCentive community.  The challenge submitted by EDGE was to find a water purification solution for the residents of Lingira Island that filled three requirements:

  1. Removed a sufficient amount of bacteria from the water to make it drinkable;
  2. Affordable for the local community;
  3. Could be produced locally

After sifting through the almost-100 potential solutions submitted for the challenge, the EDGE team selected a clay pot filtration system that seemed to have great potential for the Lingira community.  The team purchased over 100 clay pot filtration systems to pilot the solution over the summer.

While talking with the team and community on the island, I struggled to determine whether this project was a success or failure.  In the end, it was both.  While the project was not a success in a traditional sense – the solution did not meet the three requirements listed above – the team quickly experimented, was honest about the challenges, and learned from the pilot in a way that will help them be more successful going forward.

As previous reports have discussed, the clay pot filtration solution removed about 98% of the bacteria in the lake water.  However, the water contains such high levels of bacteria that even just 2% of the bacteria remaining leaves it unsafe to drink.  The remaining water would be safe for cooking or bathing, but training people to only use the filtered water for cooking/cleaning and not for drinking would be too risky.   Second, this filtration system cannot be produced locally on the island.  Currently they are being imported from Kenya, which makes the product overly expensive.  Third, the cost remains too high for the families on the island, as compared to other potential solutions.

About a dozen clay pot systems were distributed to families on the island.  We visited one camp where four of the pots had been given out, although currently only one is being used.  The other three have never been used.  The women we talked to who own the unused pots said they were not used because the women did not have the buckets and taps required to use the system (this would cost them about Sh30,000, or just over $11).  We did talk with one family using the system, which seemed pleased with the result.  We were told that the family saves about Sh36,000 a month (about $13.50) because they are not required to buy firewood to boil water, which is how most families in the community currently purify their water. 

Despite these challenges, we were impressed with the team on the ground.  Their quest for a solution that is both innovative and appropriate, coupled with their honesty about the challenges faced showed their passion and commitment to a sustainable solution for the Lingira community.  They are currently making plans to distribute the remaining clay pots to another NGO that can use them on the Uganda mainland, and are continuing to search for better solutions for the communities on Lingira Island.

A woman who received a clay pot filtration system
A woman who received a clay pot filtration system
The source of drinking water for the community
The source of drinking water for the community
One family using their filtration system
One family using their filtration system
Feb 1, 2013

Tawi & the future of EDGE Project's 'Quench Lingir

As Paul began to explore in our previous project reports (links above), the social, financial, and engineering-based obstacles that prevented ‘Quench Lingira’ from taking root are all players in a more complex challenger to development and aid around the world, one that we were not able to responsibly address in our brief time abroad. Though disappointed, we found solace in our plans to donate the unused ceramic filters to another NGO in another area of Uganda.

Following our summer in Uganda, however, EDGE entered a rather odd semester. Initially, after reflecting on Quench Lingira, we were determined to think differently about development and rethink the role of our organization in communities like Lingira. In the words of former director Paul Atwell, “what started as an attempt to reform the way the organization and its members thought about development snowballed into serious discussions about whether the current mission was the right vehicle to convey the most important lessons about development and working abroad.” After several weeks of discussion, we decided the EDGE Project was not in a place (lack of adequate research, too short of a time-frame abroad, etc) to address the complexities of microdevelopment that in the past we had acknowledged but seriously overlooked.


More importantly, we decided to use the lessons we learned and perspectives we gained through the EDGE Project as a springboard to developing a new and improved organization, an evolution of the EDGE Project, culminating with a full-on rebranding process--new name, new look, same audience, and same motivations. Beginning with a three-day leadership summit, the board of directors along with a reinvigorated alumni network, compiled and reflected on the valuable insights from the last five-years of EDGE. With those insights in mind, we began to cultivate the vision of a new organization, a seedling that would grow into a new tree, helping students to connect to the complex world around them--thus Tawi  was born. (Tawi: “branch,” Swahili)

The plan to donate the unused ceramic filters remains a high-priority project for Tawi. We have a few potential partner NGOs in the area, including an organization that Julius (a SHIM employee) is connected to, though we may wait to move the filters until one of our directors can facilitate the donation in-country this summer. Until then, the filters remain boxed and protected at the Lingira Living Hope Secondary School on Lingira Island.