on travel and biosand filters

In case you were wondering, I have not forgotten you. It is simply that travel has been a bit consuming as of late. As I travel with Blood:Water job, I will post on occasion on our Blood:Water blog. My best guess is that you don’t read their site, so I figure the least I can do is post those entries here as well. This was written while I was in Zambia:

Today I returned from village tired from my time in the sun, from laughing with the children, and from sharing knowing looks with the women. The afternoon was spent installing 15 biosand filters in village, not long ago an informal settlement outside of Ndola, Zambia. Like so many technologies, the construction of a biosand filter is relatively simple: a concrete exterior created in a metal mold, a small pipe to carry water, layers of washed gravel and sand covered by a metal plate, all sealed by a wood cover. This simple technology has the potential to work for 15-20 years, is inexpensive to produce, and can reduce waterborne disease by 97%. But the expertise to create the filters and the money for the materials and labor is not enough. No where near enough. It takes education and the building of strong relationships to change long-established practices within a community. Though this takes longer than simply placing a filter in a home, it comes with the hope and possibility that the filter is the first step towards continued change, change that will come from the strength within the village.

For example, in a village not far from where I was today, where biosand filters have also been installed in some of the homes, our partner’s ongoing relationships and conversations with the locals led to a realization that the large garbage dumps within their village needed to be moved as they bred disease. The locals decided to move the dumps and clean their village. The combination of these efforts has led to such a great reduction of waterborne disease in the community that they said that, last year, for the fist time in their history, there was no cholera within the community.

Yes, a biosand filter is a fantastic technology, but it is the education and the relationships that are key to long term success. It is because of these things I am hopeful that, if I return to Zambia in 10 or 20 years, these communities will not only have clean water, but will also have taken significant other steps to reduce disease and further community development. Tonight I turn to bed tired, but hopeful.