Lanxess Canada staff are partnering with Elmira-based Enviro-Stewards to bring clean water to Uganda.
This year, Lanxess is donating $24,000 to the cause.
Originally, the initiative began when Bruce Taylor, founder and president of Enviro-Stewards, helped build an orphanage in South Sudan in 2004. While there, he learned that people travelled long distances to gather clean water from the nearest available well. Then, it turned out that the well was contaminated anyway.
In places where there is no access to clean water, people often get sick and spend much of their income on hospital bills. Being able to filter the water helps people stay healthy, saves them money that they can use for other things like sending kids to school, and also means people don’t need to boil their water using firewood, which reduces their carbon footprint.
Taylor had brought over the instructions and materials needed to build a bio-sand filter for the orphanage. That’s an old piece of technology, the concept for which is one of the first ways developed to filter water. He had an open-source patent from the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology.
Eventually he returned to help train people to build and sell their own bio-sand filters.
Since then, the organization has grown, with local people running their own bio-sand filter businesses. Enviro-Stewards works to help train and guide these entrepreneurs to run their own businesses and employees to build and sell the filters. Taylor and the Enviro-Stewards company use donated funds to help people purchase the filters and help with the start-up costs of expanding the program.
The organization was set to expand further in Sudan, when the civil war broke out. Both the entrepreneurs and the intended recipients of the filters were displaced to Ugandan refugee camps, where they opted to continue with the program.
Taylor notes there’s a difference between a traditional foreign aid and his group’s approach.
“In a normal approach, we would just get them some tents and pots and pans and stuff for the refugee camps. But instead, we rented a conference hall and they taught 40 Ugandans how to sell the filters – they sold 27 filters the first month. So the first month from a refugee camp, they were more than breaking even and making water filters,” he said.
The money donated from Lanxess at the time was used to help with the market assessment and start-up costs of the venture.
“We first learned of Enviro-Stewards and all of the great work they do by simply being neighbours in Elmira. Over the years, getting to know the team and learning of their updates from global projects and efforts, we all realized that their efforts aligned with Lanxess’ core values and met the criteria of our corporate responsibility program,” said Michael Mackin, a spokesperson for Lanxess.
The money donated this week by Lanxess will be used to help more Ugandan families purchase the filters at a discounted rate.
Taylor estimates in total, Lanxess has donated just over $100,000 to the Safe Water Social Ventures project.
Mackin said the work of Enviro-Stewards to meet the UN Sustainability Goals reflects many of the core values at Lanxess.
“Not only does the program aim to provide clean drinking water, it also helps to educate the recipients on the biofilter systems and how they operate, so that they can then take that knowledge and further help those within their community to attain access to clean water.
Taylor says people should be aware of “the benefits of development and walking with people rather than just relief-based approaches which don’t respect dignity.”
Next, Taylor is working toward certifying the organization so that it can be accepted as carbon credit for other organizations. Basically, since the use of this technology reduces the carbon emitted by individuals by eliminating the need to boil the water, once certified, other companies can purchase carbon offset credits by investing into the Safe Water Social Ventures project.
Individuals can also help. This week, Taylor expects to release a call for the organization’s second film festival about inspirational development. It will screen at the Apollo Cinema in Kitchener in November. Proceeds will go toward the work of Safe Water Social Ventures.