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Henry Othieno (l.), co-founder of Tusafishe, plants trees with students at St. Bruno Secondary School, Ggoli, south of Uganda's capital Kampala.
Environmental education is another key concern of the social enterprise Tusafishe Image: Julius Mugambwa

Water filters save trees in Uganda

May 5, 2021

With clean water scarce in the country, locals use wood and coal to boil and sterilize it. A new climate-friendly filter system hopes to change that.


Uganda: Water filter innovation

Clean water is a human right. But in Uganda, children die every year from diarrhea caused by diseases contracted through polluted water. Worldwide, acute gastroenteritis is the second leading cause of death in young children up to the age of five.  

The large refugee settlement of Nakivale in western Uganda is no exception: access to clean drinking water is very rare. Dina Nabintu, who fled violence in Congo (DRC) with her family, has to boil water from the nearby lake. But boiling consumes large amounts of wood and coal, resulting in deforestation and high CO2 emissions.

Two young social entrepreneurs, Saudah Birungi and Henry Othieno, want to change that with their company Tusafishe. They have installed large granite sand-based water filters in thirty schools. The filters cost approximately €500 ($604). Each set of parents has contributed just under 1 euro. Using this method, the water is cleaned without having to boil it.

According to Tusafishe, each filter saves 1,500 kg of CO2 every day. For their water project, Saudah Birungi and Henry Othieno were given the "SEED Low Carbon Award" in 2019.   

These days Dina Nabintu and the other residents of the refugee settlement have learned through the project how to build smaller, efficient water filters to use at home themselves. 

Project objective: The SEED project supports sustainable businesses from the initial start-up phase through to scaling up. Companies in Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Thailand are supported. 

Duration: April 2013 to December 2022.  

Project partners: Implementing partners include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP). 

Budget:  The German Environment Ministry is supporting the SEED project with just over €7 million within the framework of its International Climate Initiative (IKI)

A film by Julius Mugambwa and Wolf Gebhardt 

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