Abundant Water in Laos
Lao has an abundance of water - however, a large proportion of the population live in remote villages without access to a reliable supply of clean drinking water. This inadequate supply of drinking water, along with poor sanitation, sewerage and hygiene causes a high incidence of gastro-intestinal diseases, such as diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
The World Bank estimates that each year in Laos there are 3 million cases of disease and 6,000 premature deaths directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation.
In 2011 we established our training compound and filter production facility.
During 2011 we also trained five potters from remote villagers to produce clay-pottery water filters. The course lasted five weeks and at the completion of training course all of the potters were able to produce a filter that produced drinking water that met the Laos national drinking water standard.
Initially, we travelled to 12 villages to conduct water use surveys, take water samples for testing and find our trainees. We used our new filter production facility as a training resource to communicate how to use the filter correctly and why it is important to do so. We also managed to capture the training process and produce a training video and a Lao language booklet.
The jump from rice farmer to business person selling water filters, however, was too great a leap for our trainees and we were unable to provide them with enough support. We learned, however, that developing a business model is a process that can take years of feedback and revision and informed our program for the next three years.
In 2011 we also worked with our partner CDEA (Community Development and Environment Association) to install filters in 95 households. Monitoring and Evaluation indicated that 60% of the households were using the filter correctly and we used this feedback to remedy the other 40%.
In 2012/13 Abundant Water made a giant leap in manufacturing and installing the clay pot water filters. We also adapted our filters so that they could be used in schools, and by mid-2013 the team had installed 533 household filters and 11 filter systems in schools.
In 2014 we worked with Water Empowerment in Zambia, providing remote mentoring, via the internet, to local potters to produce water filters themselves, for which we were nominated for a UN award.
2014 also saw our commitment to establishing micro-businesses, with Lao business people selling our filters independently, pay off! Khampang became our first micro-business vendor, followed quickly by another named Bounsee. We are also in the early stages of working with several new vendors.