Our project to develop a low-cost indicator for Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) keeps advancing. Two of the organizations we are in contact with now have prototypes of electronic indicators and they are currently in talks with investors in order to finance the production of initial series. We hope to see these series produced within a few months so that the first projects in the field can start soon.
In the meantime, we will be working on an alternative approach: We have been contacted by researchers from Queens University in Belfast (Ireland) who are working with materials which change color according to the amount of solar radiation received - for example, a plastic which turns from blue to transparent after some hours in the sun. This mechanism enables users to know immediately if their water bottles have been exposed to sufficient amounts of sunlight in order to be safe for consumption. Our ultimate goal is to have such devices which are re-useable, but for a start we will work with disposable indicators. The informal parthership with this research organization is a great step ahead and we are looking forward to hearing from the first phase of field tests, which is planned to take place in June - we will keep you updated.
More good news: Until Sunday, May 12, there is a special campaign for gift cards on Global Giving: each supporter who buys a gift card for a loved one or colleague will generate an additional $5 for our project ($5 for each card, that is!). $8,000 are available in matching funds and a $1,000 bonus will be awarded to the project with the most tribute card donors. So please, send a gift card to say Happy Mother's Day or just greet friends and family in the next week to help us reach our target (e-cards and hard copy versions are available - simple choose the "Gift or In-Honor of"-tab in the window with the donation options).
Best regards from the whole project team,
As you may know from our previous reports, the project to promote improved sanitation solutions through micro-credits in Cochabamba has been advancing, but the number of people who finally obtained these micro-credits were below our expectations. We analyzed the situation at several moments and continuously improved our model - and at two moments our local micro-finance partner as well - but the results kept being somewhat disappointing.
Our analysis of the experience as a whole led to the identification of the major obstacles:
- Many families living in peri-urban areas rent their house and thus are not entitled to change infrastructure, and the landlords often are not present or not interested in investing in improvements in sanitation.
- Sanitation seems to be a low priority of families in peri-urban areas - in spite of the fact that in urban areas of Bolivia, only 35% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities. When offered a flexible micro-credit, many families decided to invest in building a wall for their lot in order to increase security.
- The market conditions for credits have been changing drastically in Bolivia over the past few years. As an example, one of the leading micro-credit institutions decided to raise the minimum amount for micro-credits to $ 2,000 - which by many standards no longer is considered a micro-credit.
All these factors led to few cases of micro-credits given to families, in spite of training and informing thousands of families. Therefore, the costs of promotion are very high in comparison to the number of credit approvals, and if we wanted to recover some of these costs through the micro-credits, the interest rates would have to be very high. As we have a clear mandate to improve water and sanitation conditions of low-income households, we consider that we need to be able to offer conditions which are significantly better than the commercial micro-credits, which is not possible at the moment. As a conclusion, we decided to suspend promotion activities for the moment.
However, we do not give up on the idea of improving sanitation conditions through micro-credits. The need for adequate water and sanitation solutions in Bolivia continues to be enormous, and the social and economic benefits of these solutions are very significant. We think that the model we have developed and tested is good, and so are our local and international partners. We now need to find a way to finance our promotional costs before we can launch a next phase of this project. Please stay tuned to this platform (or to the institutional website of the SODIS Foundation: www.fundacionsodis.org) and keep looking for the latest developments regarding this project.
In the meantime, you can also support our other projects, for example a project to improve water and sanitation conditions (without micro-credit) in 40 schools. Each donation made as a gift to someone will generate an additional $5 until May 15, so please consider making use of this opportunity (Mother's Day is approaching).
The last few weeks have been very busy for us: assembling filters, training staff of 15 day care centers on how to use them, and then making sure they are being used properly. The response from our partners at the day care centers was very positive and we continue to receive requests for additional filters and trainings.
Previous to our intervention, in some day care centers kitchen staff had been boiling large amounts of water every day, consuming a lot of time and energy, while at the same time being a complicated process with some risks involved (burning). Now, it is a matter of pouring the raw water into the filter and enjoying the safe drinking water which comes out at the bottom.
As you can see from the pictures, these filters - and the accompanying training and education activities - had a major impact at the day care centers. 50 filters have been distributed, improving the drinking water of more than 1,000 children. On average, this micro-project will avoid about 2,000 cases of diarrhea per year, and if we take into consideration the improved hygiene conditions achieved, the numbers are even more impressive.
At the SODIS Foundation, we are very satisfied about this project. With a very focused approach, we can reach out to the population group which is most at risk to contract diarrhea and other waterborne diseases (children under five), and we can do this in a very cost-effective way (the whole intervention costs less than 5 dollars per child). And the best about it: we are creating a healthy habit with children and their caretakers, which also impacts the community at large and leads to healthier lives, less expenses on medical treatments, and improved quality of live. What else can we hope for?