Improving Drinking Water Quality for Rural Villages in Africa: A Pedagogy for Empowerment

Hope College, 2006 - $40,215

This Hope College team plan uses Manz Biosand Filters to address the drinking water needs of approximately 900 people living in the rural village of Nkuv, Cameroon. Their model for implementation, developed in collaboration with a West African NGO, is the Community-Based Team (CBT). A CBT was designed to consist of five key people recruited from the local population: a Health Specialist, Construction Specialist, Maintenance Specialist, Evaluation Specialist, and Management/Promotion Specialist. The idea was to recruit, train, and deploy a group of locals with the ability to build, maintain, and evaluate the filters without help from the outside. This project represents a first step toward empowering communities in the developing world to actively solve their drinking water problems.

Summer 2009 update: Filter technician training started in May 2006. The team’s health education manual was field tested in May 2008 with additional modules tested in May 2009.  They established a relationship with the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology. By August 2008 this team completed 2 new filter projects in Nkuv in different communities and was preparing to start a third. They received external funding from Thirst Relief International. The team shifted their focus from investigating technology transfer in rural communities to working with the community to develop a financial system whereby homeowners who wanted a filter could buy the materials to construct one. Over 6000 customers have been serviced as of spring 2009 and the team has received $15,000 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and about $7,000 from the Crossroads project at Hope College. These funds have been used primarily to fund student research assistants.