Overview

Water, Education, Research (WatER) is an interdisciplinary research project learning about how to sustainably increase access to safe drinking water in rural communities in East Africa, and specifically in the community of Longido, Tanzania.  As per the name, the work rests on 3 key pillars:

  1. Water: Water refers to the fact that the research project centers around a technology called a Ceramic Water Filter (CWF). A CWF is a low-cost water treatment system that is used in the homes of individual families, removing harmful contaminants like cholera, typhoid and E. coli. Part of the support from this FutureFunder Campaign will go towards the purchase of filters from our local partner to study how they can be best integrated into the local culture and praxis.
  2. Education: This research also understands that the best technology in the world isn’t helpful unless people are willing to use it. And in work of this nature in the past, this fact has proven to be a major challenge. 3 years of consultation with local stakeholders have shown us how important education is to facilitate behaviour change in the rural Tanzanian context, which is why the second pillar of this work is focused on just that. We are providing women and schoolchildren with education on proper water, sanitation and hygiene practices.
  3. Research: The final pillar of this work is research, which takes form in both natural and social science contexts. Currently, the filters cost $50 CAD, which is well beyond the means of many people in rural Tanzania that often earn less than $1 per day, so a major element of this project is studying material manipulations to make the filters more affordable. In addition, we are not only focused on studying the technology, but are also investigating pedagogical methodology to learn how to ensure that the people using the technology will continue to use it in the long-term.

The Background

Longido, Tanzania is a rural community with a long history of challenges with water. During the droughts there is not enough water available and women have to walk long distances to obtain small amounts of dirty water. And during the rainy season, surface contamination gets into their water ways and many people often fall sick with diseases like cholera or typhoid. 4 years ago, Dr. Onita Basu (Project Supervisor) was asked to assess the challenges with water in the community and her and a group of students proposed using Ceramic Water Filters to village leaders, who supported the idea. Now, we are trying to reduce the cost of the filters to make them more affordable for Tanzanians, and learning more about how to use these tools to bring long-term and sustainable change to this community so that there may be improved health.

But we are taking our time and we are moving carefully.

In the past, international development projects have seen continuous failures, where people do not use the technologies that they are provided and conditions return to where they were before any intervention took place. To us, these types of situations arise from work that assumes a product with inherent value to the Western actors will have the same resonance for those in a different cultural context. This research is also addressing this crisis of methodologies, and trying to create a model for sustainable development to help those in this sphere of work improve their practices and yield longer-term results moving forward.

The Rollout

We are hoping to raise $15,000 to facilitate the continuity of this research project.

Our previous fundraising effort yielded an amazing outcome that helped us buy 200 filters to be distributed as part of our study, hire a local Water Champion to help conduct the research on the ground in Longido and purchase necessary lab supplies to do important experiments that help us learn more about the filter functionality and how to improve performance.

Now, we are asking you to help us keep that success going! To really make sustainable, and long-term change within the community, we need our local Water Champion to be available for our study participants and regularly travel to homes to help them with issues related to their filters, or interview them for the study. In addition, we need to be there interfacing with study participants and our project partners to maintain trust and commitment to the rollout of this research project. This is why much of this funding would go towards local spending in Longido, like paying for our Water Champion’s salary, for her (and our) transportation throughout the community, and for local supplies to keep the research running smoothly.

We also very strongly believe that the cost of these filter units can be drastically reduced, but there is a lot of experimentation that is needed to achieve this. A major portion of this fundraiser is dedicated to supporting the purchasing of lab supplies and laboratory services to study these filters in detail and help our local Tanzanian industry partners yield an effective, highly functional, and cheaper filter for their users.

Finally, we also want to expand our studies to include more people, which means we need more filters. At $50 per filter, we are limited in the number that we can purchase and therefore limited in the number of people that we can work with and learn from. By supporting this research, you are helping bring more people into our studies and more filters into the community.

The Impact

The impact of this work will be felt by many people. First, as Carleton researchers, support for this project provides us with a basis to conduct sound and meaningful work, learn more about an important topic and share our findings with peers. It helps us conduct academically sound and valuable studies that can improve the state of understanding on how to make safe water more accessible for low-income communities in the long term.

But of course, the impact is also felt by those in the Longido community that will receive a filter as part of our research and that will receive education from our Water Champion. This research supports women with a means of accessing safe drinking water, which not only improves their family’s and their own health, but can provide them with opportunity to economically develop as well.

The work also impacts our industry partners, Wine to Water East Africa, as the technical research is directly applicable to their production process. Everything that we are studying about the filters is geared towards helping them improve their product and develop as a business, supporting their growth and expanding their market potential to lower income families.

The Team

Robbie Venis

PhD Candidate

I am a PhD Candidate in Environmental Engineering and the Project Lead on this work with Water, Education, Research. I started my Masters at Carleton in 2016 and fast-tracked into the PhD program in 2017 when I realized that good, meaningful and long-lasting work takes more time than a 2-year program could afford. Since then, I have developed a number of studies that aim to learn how to sustainably improve access to safe drinking water in rural Tanzania.

I have experience working with organizations like the Canadian Water Network, LoyaltyOne, Engineers Without Borders and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on projects related to water. I am also the host and editor of the WatER Podcast, available on our website.

Dr. Onita Basu

Supervising Professor

I started working in Longido in 2015 when a colleague asked me to come to the village and think of how to address any and all challenges related to water. Over time and after consultation with local leaders and other stakeholders, it became clear that clean drinking water was a major challenge for Longido residents. It has since become the primary focus of my work in Longido.

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carleton University with a focus on water treatment, and specifically filtration and membrane technology.

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