SPECIAL REPORT by XINHUA CORRESPONDENT Njoroge Kaburo
KAKAMEGA (Xinhua) –
Four million rural Kenyans received safe drinking water thanks to a new Lifestraw “Carbon For Water” program.
Close to one million LifeStraw Family water filters were donated and installed in households in the Western Province of Kenya beginning on Tuesday.
The province-wide, door-to-door, free distribution program will last five weeks and will reach about 90 percent of all homes without access to safe municipal water sources.
It will provide at least ten years worth of safe drinking water for Kenyan residents and do so without any cost to local residents, governmental agencies or donor groups.
Vestergaard Frandsen is making the initial investment of more than U.S. $25 million dollars needed to launch the program.
“Start-up costs are especially steep considering the need to manufacture and transport 900,000 LifeStraw Family water filters to a rural community hundreds of miles from a major port, and to hire and train more than 4,000 community health workers and 4,000 drivers to distribute and educate residents on proper usage of the water filters,” says Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, CEO of Vestergaard Frandsen.
“Longer term, the company will employ hundreds of Kenyans for at least ten years to maintain more than 30 repair and re-placement centers that will be set up throughout Western Province, and to provide ongoing community education.”
Vestergaard Frandsen fully funded the “Carbon For Water” program, which will be reimbursed with carbon financing.
The “Carbon For Water” pro-gram holds the potential for long-term sustainability of a point-of-use water purifiers program.
“This is one of the largest water treatment projects ever done without government or public sector funding.
“It will also be the first that directly links carbon credits with safe drinking water,“ says Dr. Evan Thomas of Manna Energy Limited which partnered with Vestergaard Frandsen to develop the carbon finance architecture and smartphone informed database.
The “Carbon For Water” pro-gram will be coordinated in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.
This unique funding model gives companies in developed countries potential revenue, in the form of carbon credits, for sponsoring programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.
Carbon credits can then be sold to carbon credit buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint or improve their environmental stewardship.
The revenue generated will largely be reinvested into the project to make it sustainable for at least ten years.
Each LifeStraw Family water filter delivers at least 18,000 liters of U.S. EPA-quality drinking water, enough to supply a family of four with safe drinking water for at least three years.
Kenyans who receive them will no longer have to treat water by boiling it using wood fuel, which generates greenhouse gasses.
This behavioral change is expected to produce more than two million tons of carbon emission reductions annually.
While Africa is considered among the most at-risk areas for climate change, less than five per cent of carbon projects are based there.
The “Carbon For Water” pro-gram makes a very important correction to the imbalance that exists in the global carbon market.
This is important because environmental experts believe that it’ s preferable to encourage a country to build environmental protection into long-term development plans, rather than force them to clean up after industrialization has occurred and negatively impacted the health and environment.
The program can combat disease and insure environmental sustainability by reducing the use of wood and other fuels for cooking fires and removing tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
This should make the “Carbon For Water” program a key element in achieving the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal on sustainability and access to safe drinking water.
As the supplier of the water filters, Vestergaard Frandsen will earn the carbon credits.
Since the company only gets paid for the performance of the water filters in reducing emissions, it has a strong incentive to invest the revenue it earns back into the program – to maintain and replenish the LifeStraw Family water filters and to educate residents on proper and consistent usage.
Vestergaard Frandsen has received ongoing collaborative support for the “Carbon For Water Program” from the United Nations Development Programme.
In February, after a rigorous validation process, the program was approved as a voluntary project under the prestigious Gold Standard certification scheme.
Once the program is operational, monitoring by an accredited independent auditing agency will take place every six months.
The auditor will verify that the emission reductions are accurate, and carbon credits will only be issued after each verification.
“Innovative and sustainable solutions to the global water crisis are critically important,” explained Vestergaard Frandsen.
According to 2010 World Health Organization data, almost one billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water.
Diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, and is responsible for killing 1.5 million children every year.
Children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are most at risk of life-threatening diarrhea.
“We are hopeful that the “Carbon For Water” program will also have a positive impact not only on diarrhea disease but also reducing respiratory disease by reducing particulate matter in the homes, a major killer of children in Kenya and the developing world,” added Vestergaard Frandsen.
According to the WHO, pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide.
“The use of the LifeStraw Family water filter can reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by providing access to safe drinking water.
“When considered in these terms, access to safe drinking water from LifeStraw Family can effectively address Millennium Development Goals 4, 5, and 6.”
Every year, pneumonia kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five years, accounting for 18 per cent of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide.
Environmental factors, including indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels such as wood, increase a child’s susceptibility to pneumonia.
If the “Carbon For Water” pro-gram can become a model for significantly reducing diarrhea and respiratory diseases it will be a home run for the people of Kenya and many other developing countries for achieving MDGs,” Vestergaard Frandsen said.
“Point-of-source solutions are often not completed because of bureaucratic gridlock or break down due to a lack of maintenance.
“Point-of-use solutions, such as LifeStraw Family, are widely seen by academic researchers as the most effective intervention to deliver safe drinking water,” he added.
Vestergaard Frandsen is a European company specializing in disease control products. It operates under a unique Humanitarian Entrepreneurship business model.