Over 2 years working as a water engineer in East Africa, I saw a need.
I went to bring hydroelectric power, green energy for lighting homes and enabling business, but another need was even more pressing. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I lived, 51 million people – 75% of the population – has no access to safe drinking water. As a result, DRC has the fifth-highest mortality rate of any nation for children under 5 years. With two-thirds of the population working as subsistence farmers, the average wage is $1.14 per day – far too low for those in need to afford current purification options like iodine tablets, microfilters, and slow sand filters.
The job of collecting water alone is taxing and time-consuming, and this job falls almost entirely to women and children. They must walk an average of 6 km to the nearest water source, and their current method of transporting water is to fill a 20 liter (5.3 gallon) plastic jerry can – over 44 pounds when full – and carry it home by hand. This requires energy and many hours each day. Because of the time needed for transporting water and farming, more than a quarter of Congolese children ages 5-14 must work. 4.4 million children – nearly half the school-age population – do not attend school. This group is disproportionately made up of girls (2.5 million) and displaced children (400,000).
To address the problems of water purification and transport in this setting, we are developing the Kopo container. Using solar disinfection with specific materials and geometry, the Kopo container purifies river water to WHO drinking water standards by just sitting for 6 hours in direct sunlight. A spout is antimicrobial to protect the water after it is purified, preventing bacteria from being introduced by people or animal touching the spout. The Kopo container it is a similar size and shape to the currently used jerry cans. Our goal is a price point of $1.50 per bottle, the current cost of a 20 liter jerry can in much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Finally, we offer a roller for transporting multiple Kopo cans along the ground without the need to lift them and fatigue the user. The roller can be taken apart for compact shipping and is cheaper than current rollers that provide no purification options, e.g. the Hippo Roller and the Wello WaterWheel.
In early 2015 Kopo was accepted by the Thrill Mill startup incubator in Pittsburgh, and they have promised us initial funding. In May-July, 2015, we conducted market exploration and channel development in Rwanda, Kenya, and India. If you are interested in learning more and donating or investing, and please write to us through the Contact tab above.