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Kenya Ceramic Project Updates – October 2011

The Kenya Ceramic Project is a student-led international health initiative aimed at creating access to clean, safe drinking water to areas of rural Kenya through the production of innovative ceramic water filters. The filters produced by the Kenya Ceramic Project are 99.9% effective at eliminating bacteria and other pathogens from local stream water, and are capable of producing clean water for a family of five for up to three years.

 

The vision of the Kenya Ceramic Project is to achieve a self-sustaining system where ceramic filters are made widely available to all Kenyans at affordable prices with all revenue going toward sustaining production and further expansion. Through all this, our goal is to also invest in local infrastructure and economy by creating jobs and relying solely on local materials for production, as well as local leadership for direction.

 

Over the past year, the Kenya Ceramic Project has made significant advances toward these goals, which have brought us yet closer to the model of sustainability we have envisioned. On the leadership front, the KCP has added exciting new members to its personnel, which we hope will serve to transition the project into Kenyan hands. Over the summer we promoted a new Production Manager, Sammy Barassa, as well an interim Executive Director, Joshua Machinga. Most notably, our attention has been focused on a region-wide marketing campaign for our ceramic filters and as such we have hired a new Marketing Manager, Stephen Karanja. Stephen comes to the project with a wealth of local experience and training in business and marketing from Elgon University. With this latest addition, the internal leadership structure of the KCP is entirely local, answering to a Board of Directors which comprises Kenyan and Canadian membership. Today, we can see the vision of a Kenyan led organization that incorporates local values and culture starting to take shape.

 

On the partnerships front, we have seen the KCP grow from a relatively obscure peripheral project to a well-known and reputable name that stands for equality, integrity, and consistency. We have recently solidified a partnership with the Moi University Faculty of Medicine in Eldoret, which has agreed to host our impact assessment and epidemiology research. We have begun a working relationship with the UNICEF Kenya Country Office, which has expressed interest in purchasing our products for disaster relief in Northern and Western Kenya. Nationally, we have begun professional relationships with key players in water sanitation including SWAP (Safe Water and Aids Project) and PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), both of which have purchased mass orders of filters from the KCP for distribution within and outside of Kenya.

 

On the production and innovation front, the KCP has grown from a manually-run, inefficient operation to a smooth, well-oiled machine. We have recently transitioned to an entirely machine-based production process, with two hydraulic filter presses and formal training for all technicians on factory machinery. This has increased the rate of filter production by more than 50%, and improved efficiency so that we can focus on other areas of production including microbiological testing and quality assurance. In fact, this past year the KCP gained certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards, after our products were tested in a government laboratory and deemed to meet the national standard for a public health product. This news is very exciting for the KCP, as it means that the filters can now be marketed nation-wide.

 

Finally, the goal of all of these initiatives is to successfully get the KCP filters into the hands of the people who need them most, and this is where we have experienced our greatest success this year. Over the past several months, we have successfully landed our products in all of the largest supermarkets in the region, including Suam, Transmatt, and Khetias Gigamart, which are stocking the filters not only locally in Kitale, but in other locations across Kenya. Through this, the vision of a locally sustained project that invests in local industry and economy is also taking shape. On a smaller scale, we have experienced success selling the filters at local open air markets and independently owned shops throughout Kitale and other nearby cities and rural centres. Our Marketing Manager and his region-wide marketing campaign have been an instrumental part of this. In fact, since May 2011 we have sold more than 1500 filters to local Kenyans at a price that is not only affordable, but promises to ensure sustainability for the future. For the simple investment of $13CAD, people all over Western Kenya have made the choice to purchase a product which can provide clean water for their families for three years. At the same time, they are contributing to the sustainability of a local organization that now needs rely less and less on foreign support, and has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of Kenyans all over the country.

 

The heart of what this success really means can be found in the experiences of our volunteers. This past summer, instead of providing our volunteers with bottled water for their stay, we provided them with a ceramic water filter for each room, and all of them chose to drink local water from a bore hole which was filtered through our ceramic filters. Only then did the true strength of this project become clear. It has taken the world hundreds of years to realize that our water can make us sick: to realize that we had a problem. Today, our water filters are solving this problem: a simple, cheap, efficient pot that can eliminate disease simply by pouring water through it; a product that is being used by thousands of people as we speak. In fact, with the projected impact of 5 persons per filter used, our simple technology is currently affecting the lives of 7,500 Kenyans as you read this article. The vision of the KCP is no longer a vision: it is a reality. Our filter is no longer an idea: it is a real solution that is saving lives today. With the support of people like you, we can continue the momentum that we have started this summer, and persist on the path toward not only sustainability, but a healthier future.

Open Panel

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