November 2011

We arrived in Tanzania to a wonderful welcome from the Kimieri family which left me speechless. My husband Mike, my son Izac and I were all given hugs of welcome, and a huge bouquet of flowers each. The welcoming committee was so large as to make us wonder how we were all going to fit into the rented van to get back to Arusha. We managed to squeeze in and make the hour trip back to Ngulelo, Arusha and the start our life here in Tanzania.

Upon entering the village of Ngulelo we were immediately aware of how the local people live. We drove through a market on our way to our house. Women everywhere sit behind piles of vegetables, clothes, shoes, charcoal, and household goods. Men sit behind similar piles, or are fabricating metal gates, minding stores, or generally hanging around. Huge numbers of children are everywhere and the twenty-something crowd is highly represented. After settling into our house and overcoming jet lag, we jumped at the chance to really explore our neighborhood.

Right away, it was easy to see the need for safe water. The methods of acquiring water locally are from city tap water (unreliable because of breaks in the water line allowing contamination), streams, ditches, and gutters. Gutters are filled with garbage including, coincidentally, an inordinate amount of crushed and flattened disposable plastic water bottles. Many people here suffer from diarrhea disease on a regular basis, not to mention typhoid and malaria. Scores of school and work days are lost due to stomach problems and diarrhea and the aches, pains and fever caused by malaria.  Most people boil their water to clean it as they have done historically for a long time. However, boiling uses a lot of charcoal and requires a lot of time. If boiling is not done properly, the results can be less than adequate for safe drinking water.

Some people of the middle-class buy their water in large containers. The debris of plastic bottles is part of the landscape here. Empty bottles are seen on every roadside, every gutter, and every footpath. Most of these bottles are half-liter or full-liter size. The water bought for home use comes in 15 liter bottles. These bottles can be recycled if the effort is made, but mostly they are wasted. There is very little evidence of recycling although I have heard of some efforts.

At Safe Water Ceramics of East Africawe are producing silver infused ceramic water filters for safe water. We are working hard to market the filters locally, to non-government organizations (NGO’s) and other groups. The water filter is a new technology for the people of Tanzania and it takes time to get this method of water purification accepted by the local population. The cost of the filter is high for the local population, considering their yearly income. But with the proper education on filter benefits and use, I believe many individuals will come to understand that the long-lasting and very effective ceramic water filter will be extremely cost effective and will be the method of choice for obtaining safe water.

My job at Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa is exciting and challenging every day. Mesiaki (Kim) is a wonderful partner to work with as we try to break down the barriers of production and marketing. I have learned huge amounts from the short time I have been here and feel very positive about SWCEA growing its business over the years. My family and I have been completely accepted into the Kimieri clan, as members of the family. This experience is invaluable and a joy to be a part of every day.