Summary

The Kenya Ceramic Project (KCP) and CeraMaji together manufacture, market, and distribute household ceramic water filters in vulnerable communities across Kenya and East Africa. The water filters are inexpensive, efficient, and sustainably produced. A single filter costs less than one course of antibiotics for a diarrheal illness and can serve an entire family for several years. KCP represents the local and sustainable manufacturing operations of the project and CeraMaji represents the marketing and distribution functions.

The Story

The Kenya Ceramic Project (KCP) was a foundational project for ICChange and brought together much of the Executive team that currently serves ICChange. KCP was first launched in 2007 when Abdullah Saleh and Abraam Isaac met as medical students at the University of Alberta and shared their passion for serving not just their local community but the global community at large. Addressing one of the most basic and universal global needs, access to clean drinking water, was the perfect place to start.

The concept behind the Kenya Ceramic Project was simple – to design an intervention that would improve access to clean drinking water in an inexpensive and culturally appropriate way. The first stage of the project focused on identifying possible techniques for water filtration that would result in a simple design both to produce and use, while not sacrificing microbiological efficacy. The filter would also have to be designed so that people would utilize it in their homes at the water’s “point-of-use.” This would reduce the risk of water becoming re-contaminated as it is transported from a central source.

A bucket-based design that utilized a ceramic filter element insert with small pores and a colloidal silver coating was chosen as this allows water to be filtered quickly and for the filter to serve an entire family or dwelling.

Once the technology questions were answered, the next focus for the team was developing a model of sustainability that would result in the filter serving a large population while being produced locally within community it is meant to serve. This would mean that a factory would need to be designed and built. Multiple sites were evaluated in several countries, but ultimately support from a local landowner and the availability of suitable raw materials would mean that the first high-output production site would be near the western Kenyan city of Kitale. It would take several trips and three years to build the factory and make it operational.

Getting the filters into the community

The final question before the filter could reach people would be whether the target customer was non-governmental organizations and charities or the end users of the filter itself. The ICChange team believed that relying on charities and NGOs as middle-men for filter distribution had several downsides:

  • Inconsistent orders for the factory resulting in rush production that lowers filter quality and leads to inconsistent employment for the factory team.
  • The end user of the filter would not value the filter and would not be able to replace the filter if it broke.
  • Most importantly, the filter would not reach as many people

As a result, the filter is sold in supermarkets and through health care and health good providers for around twenty Canadian dollars. This price is lower than a course of antibiotic treatment for a child in Kenya and provides clean drinking water for a family for several years.

For more information on the development of the social enterprise and marketing and distribution systems that have been developed from the Kenya Ceramic Project, see the CeraMaji page.

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Need

The United Nations reports that 783 million people lack access to clean drinking water and between six and eight million people die annually from water related disease. The greatest burden of morbidity and mortality is in children under the age of five.

Idea

To sustainably produce and sell a water filter that will be effective at preventing waterborne infections using local material, equipment and expertise, in a vulnerable community with limited resources.

Vision

Our vision is to have ceramic water filters available globally in communities that have a need for clean drinking water. This will mean adding more factories and distribution systems in other nations beyond Kenya.

The Results

Ceramaji filters have provided clean drinking water to over 100,000 people in communities in Kenya and neighbouring countries. At its current capacity, the KCP factory is capable of producing 500 filters each month. This means that on average, an additional 30,000 people are given access to clean drinking water each year.

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