Field visit to Bimbe, Zambia – a field visit success! In April, Jackie Linnes and her husband Michael traveled with our World Vision Zambia partners to Bimbe, Zambia, 40km northwest of capital city Lusaka. The trip was an important milestone in our effort to improve our product before we produce it on a mass scale. It had two goals:

  • Learn more about the community: what were their current drinking water activities and thoughts on solar disinfection?
  • Get feedback from real-world users of our PotaVida Solar Water Purifiers: a critical step in helping us improve its utility and potential for impact.

We’re thrilled to report we met both goals. (If you’ve been in the development world a while, you know field visits can be full of surprises, not always the good kind; meeting your trip objectives is never a sure thing!). Here’s a rundown.

In terms of sourcing, we learned the people of Bimbe get drinking water from two main sources: an unprotected hand-dug well and a stream (which runs past numerous agricultural fields). In the past safe water came from a borehole and a deep protected well. But the well collapsed, and the borehole is now obstructed -- it takes nearly two hours to hand pump water to the surface, say villagers. That means both sources presently yield water that’s not safe to drink.

When it came to disinfecting the water for drinking, because of World Vision's previous WASH campaigns in Bimbe, the community is acutely aware of the dangers of unsafe water. They presently disinfect their water either with chlorine or by boiling it. The government only runs free chlorine promotion campaigns in the rainy season, so chlorine is unavailable for the dry season – six months out of the year. During that time women have to gather firewood to boil drinking water. They boil water at night, so it can cool overnight for drinking the next day.

Given these circumstances, community members were excited about using the PotaVida Solar Water Purifiers (below left). They had had the prototype purifiers for several days in advance of our visit, and were ready to discuss them with us when we arrived.

The photo at right shows the Solar Water Purifier prototypes in the community. The top bag is filled with tap water, while the bottom one contains water from the local borehole, colored by iron oxide particles.

We learned most families chose to put the purifiers on their dish drying rack: it was a readily available sunny location, where animals wouldn’t disturb the purifiers and the disinfection process (below right). We answered many questions, and we got incredibly useful feedback on the purifiers. Some examples:

  • More water is better –use 10L instead of 2L bags
  • Make the on/off switch easier to access
  • Change the zipper top
  • Brighter and different colored indicator lights would be easier to see and understand

We left our current models in the village for the community to continue testing. We’re excited with the info we came away with: the feedback from real users gives us confidence we’re on the right track, and gives us ground-truthed suggestions for ways to make our product even more useful!

purifier on dishrack