There’s nothing more essential to life than water. It composes over half of our human body and it is a vital nutrient to the life of every cell. However, what happens when this critical “ingredient” to survival is not clean? Unsafe drinking water can transmit harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites, all contributing to waterborne illness and disease.
Clean drinking water is not something I gave much thought to in U.S. It seemed to always be at hand, in the form of a water cooler, bottled water, or even just tap water. However, this basic commodity back home is something that very few schools in Uganda have access to. The consequences of untreated water include students becoming sick, having difficulty focusing in school, ceasing to retain nutrition from food and unfortunately (in extreme cases), dying...All from a very preventable "problem".
Over the last two months, I have been working with Kiva Partner, Impact Carbon (IC), who works hard to tackle this problem. This young Kiva partner (of only two years) is providing water filtration systems to schools throughout Uganda. I had a chance to travel with IC to conduct borrower verifications. Spoiler alert: they received glowing reviews from headmasters and student alike. I also gained a much deeper appreciation for clean water and its importance in improving health and well-being of students.
I would like to share some of what I learned with you and of course, tell you more about Impact's wonderful work.
THREE CURRENT COMMON WATER SOURCES IN UGANDA SCHOOLS
Firstly, some context for common water sources at schools in Uganda today that I observed.
IMPACT WATER’S INNOVATIVE SOLUTION
One small but mighty Kiva Partner, Impact Carbon (IC) is tackling this issue in Uganda. IC owns a social business called Impact Water, which delivers safe drinking water to schools throughout the country. Impact Water began in Uganda in 2012 and soon became a Kiva Partner. Unlike a more traditional microfinance loan, the money funded on Kiva actually goes towards the purchase of a water tank and filtration system for the school, who then pays back lenders from school fees over five or eight school terms (depending on if it is privately owned or government owned respectively).
Impact in Numbers: In two years of partnership, 470 schools have been funded by Kiva lenders. This means ~260,000 students are receiving ~400,000 liters of clean drinking water every day. Their goal is to expand into 5,000 Uganda schools (~20% of market) by 2018.
Here's how it works:
FEEDBACK FROM SCHOOLS
As I've traveled all over Uganda to visit schools with clean water system. I have heard excellent feedback about the system and Impact Water's customer service. It is a partner that balances "social" impact and "business" sustainability, to create a strong (drumroll please...) social business. 2015 marks Kiva's 10th birthday and part of its evolution is expand beyond traditional microfinance institutions and banks to partner also with small businesses with a compelling mission like Impact Carbon. Thank you to Kiva Lenders, Impact Carbon has a stable source of capital to be able to expand at an exponential rate despite its' young age.
The United Nations considers universal access to clean water a basic human right, and an essential step towards improving living standards worldwide. Water-poor communities are typically economically poor as well, their residents trapped in an ongoing cycle of poverty. Thank you to Kiva Lenders and Impact Water, we are alleviating problems, and providing drops of hope, one school at a time. Cheers to clean water!
To learn more about Impact Water, check out their website and look out for future Kiva loans. You can read more about my Kiva Fellowship adventures here.