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Solar power brings clean water to the poor in East Africa

  • By Pamela Okutoyi
  • May 6, 2021
  • 0 Comment

“Water is life, sanitation is dignity”—this slogan sums up the development challenges faced by Kenya, which by the early 2000s held the dubious fame of being home to the biggest slum in Africa. The consequences of inadequate access to water and sanitation are particularly devastating in the peri-urban and rural context, where high population density leads to the rapid spread of diseases. In addition, in urban areas, public and private water sources tend to be heavily contaminated and are often unsuitable for drinking. Kenya does not stand alone in facing this problem or its scale. In most Sub-Saharan African countries, 30 to 50 per cent of the peri-urban population have no access to safe water or adequate sanitation.

Tackling this problem head-on is Samuel Kinyanjui through his enterprise, Water Kiosk Ltd. Powered entirely by solar energy, the company, through a desalination process, can deliver water that is safe to drink and can be used in other applications such as irrigation. 

WaterKiosk Ltd has successfully installed 26 solar-powered water desalination stations in several parts of Kenya, including Mombasa, Lamu, Wajir, Naivasha and Nakuru. “The solar water project has had a big impact in addressing the perpetual water shortages in these areas and has drastically reduced the prevalence of water-borne diseases like cholera and bilharzia,” Samuel explains. 

According to the co-founder, one kiosk can serve 1000 households, reducing the pressure to search for clean water.  It also has the potential to offer decent livelihoods to poor communities who previously had to walk long distances or pay more for a jerican of water. 

The company has also spread its wings in Tanzania and Somalia in communities that have suffered the long-term impacts of drinking contaminated water. Samuel says his company has installed four water kiosks in Somali and two in Zanzibar. The effects on the rural poor have been tremendous.

During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company got funding to set up desalination centres in Mombasa and Coastal hospitals. This project cushions patients and the public in the Coastal region by providing free access to clean water.  

While delivery of hygienic drinking water remains the main focus of the organisation, Samuel says that the by-products from the desalination process are used in fish farming, vertical farming and sanitation centres. 

“Our solar kiosks have supported fish farming and vertical farming in several parts of the country. In Mombasa for instance, farming is not a common practice, however, through our project, most households have been able to set up fish ponds which are a significant source of food,” Samuel explains.  

The water company has also partnered with Atmosfaire GmbH to sell carbon credits created from the use of these solar water desalination systems. “Each water kiosk offsets 264 tonnes of CO2 per year. In collaboration with Atmosfaire, we can do carbon trading to meet our goal of making the world a better place,” Samuel says.  

WaterKiosk Ltd is a beneficiary of Kenya Climate Innovation Centre through its Green Growth and Employment Program (GGEP). Samuel says that through the program, his company has been supported both financially and technically.

“We could not be where we are without the support of KCIC. They are helping us accelerate our business.”

In future, Samuel hopes to service more institutions in Kenya and Arusha.