Giving Compass' Take:

• Maxwell Williams reports that LifeStraw is training students in Kenya to use filters to provide clean water.

• How can funders help water projects succeed in the long-term? 

• Learn why reliability needs to be the top priority in water projects

Here in Western Kenya, it’s hot enough for Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen to have a ring of sweat around his collar. It’s almost always hot enough here to need constant hydration. Vestergaard Frandsen takes a sip of water from a water bottle and leaps like a lion in front of a murmuring crowd of students in candy-colored blue and pink uniforms.

When it comes to clean water, there are few options. Iodine and chlorine chemical treatments are scarce and not as effective as other methods. Boiling is an option, but part of the reason Kenya has been deforested so aggressively in the past few years has to do with a need for wood for fires used to heat water. And the flames from these personal fires add up to big carbon emissions.

In other words, the quest for clean drinking water is destroying the Kenyan environment.

Vestergaard is a Switzerland-based for-profit public health company that owns LifeStraw, and Vestergaard Frandsen is the CEO. In the U.S., LifeStraw is an emergent water filter retailer known for its filters that hikers use to decontaminate almost any source of water. It sells bottles as well as the straws themselves, which can be used for people to drink directly from streams and puddles. Vestergaard and LifeStraw run a program called Follow the Liters, which promises to provide drinking water to one student per year for every bottle sold.

Vestergaard and LifeStraw take meticulous data on the population of each school they visit. They are doing a big push, splitting up into teams of five or six members, hopping in SUVs and driving hundreds of miles across the region. The LifeStraw teams set up and demonstrate the filters to students and then to smaller groups of prefects, class leaders chosen to be responsible for the tanks.

Read the full article about Lifestraw by Maxwell Williams at GOOD Magazine.