Atmospheric generator brings safe water to drought hit-Kenyans

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In Kenya, water scarcity remains a challenge.

The country is among the most water-scarce countries across the world.

Rosario Kisui, who lives in Nairobi, collects water from a stream near her home.

It takes Kisui and her neighbours around thirty minutes to fetch the water needed for daily chores.

"We live here with my children. I gave birth to my children here and raised them here. Since I moved here, there has been no water. We wonder what's the purpose of this tap is or whether we can uproot it and throw it away because there is no water. We fetch water from the river. It is the water we use to bathe, drink and cook with. At times, our children have suffered from stomach aches. When our stomachs hurt, we go to the hospital but sometimes we do not need to go to the hospital .Let us just survive because there is no other way. This is our water," explains Kisui.

David Nyaga has been living in Nairobi for three years and only receives water to his home once a month because of water rationing.

Without regular supply, he has to collect water from a well within his compound.

"I have been living here for three years now, but the main issue that we are facing now is scarcity of water. So here, water comes only once in a month. So I have to have a plan 'B', which is the borehole, but the borehole water is not safe for drinking. So, I just use it for cleaning, washing and other things - because sparkling and bottled water prices are very high, which I cannot afford," explains Nyaga.

In Kenya, 9.9 million people drink directly from contaminated surface water sources, estimates UNICEF.

Beth Koigi, CEO of Majik Water, had her own experience of having to buy contaminated water while at university.

Koigi explains she wanted to find a way to curb the issue of water scarcity in Kenya's informal settlement areas.

Majik Water is a social enterprise that specialises in air-to-water technologies. The company was started in 2017 by three founders - Beth Koigi, Anastacia Kaschenko and Clare Sewell - and began production at the end of 2019.

"Basically, this machine is called an atmospheric water generator, and it can produce up to 500 litres of water (per day). But sometimes if the humidity is higher than 60%; relative humidity - it can produce all the way to 700 litres of water. But basically, this machine uses dehumidification processes so we basically condense the water vapour in the atmosphere," Koigi explains.

There are twenty machines in Kenya.

The cost of the machines range from $9,000 to $12,500, once installed the water supply is free.

Each day the machine produces from 50 litres per day to 1,000 litres.

"In this device, we have four major components. So, we have the fans which basically bring in air and then we have the condensation bit which is inclusive of you know, the refrigerant components, the condensing coils. And then we have now the filtration system, which we include as an added component, but that depends on the contaminant that we may have. For example, here in Kibera we may have contaminants that is related to sewage, because we have open sewage here. So, we may add a filtration system to remove that. So, that is very dependent on the place and then we have now the collecting tank," explains Koigi.

Several machines have been installed all over the country - including at this school in Kibera.

Nelson Mandela Safu, a teacher at St. Juliet Primary School, explains:

"Previously, before we received the machine, we had an issue with our school hygiene. We used to wash our toilets once per week and the same, same water of the same, same container that we used to fetch water in from the nearby sellers are the same, same water that our children used to drink. And we had a lot of cases on a daily basis: 'Teacher, I have a problem, I have a stomach ache' and all that. But today as we speak I am very happy to say that our toilets are clean, the machine can produce water that we can use to wash toilets. The same, same clean water our children are able to take. Even us as teachers are comfortable in school because we have fresh water to drink."

The U.N. warned earlier this year that an estimated 13 million people are facing severe hunger in the wider Horn of Africa region as a result of persistent drought conditions.

The extreme drought in Kenya, where 3.5 million people are affected by severe food insecurity and acute malnutrition, has exacerbated the factors causing people to go hungry.

But air-to-water technology is costly and under funded, explains Nelson Owange, chief of party livestock market system program and advisor on drought at Mercy Corp, an NGO and humanitarian aid organisation.

"Equipment and machines, that are able to suck water from the atmosphere, as long as the machine is connected on a power source - and then those water can then be used for household consumption. These innovations have not been scaled-up due to, of course, lack of funding and quite a number of them are expensive. So that we can get good enough water, not only for household consumption, but also for irrigation and for livestock consumption,"

The UNCCD says climate change is expected to increase the risk of droughts in many vulnerable regions of the world, particularly countries that are experiencing a fast growth in population.

It says 129 countries will experience and increased exposure to drought because of climate change.

After flooding, drought is the most widespread disaster threatening the world today according to the UN and it says Africa is the worst hit continent.

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