After a second day in the village of Mbai, I’m starting to see some trends related to the four key research questions. Of course this is just one village, so we’ll conduct interviews in other villages as well as the urban areas around Kitale over the next week to further validate the findings or see how answers differ in other regions. I won’t mention every key finding here, but I’ll list some of the highlights.
1. Develop an understanding of the needs/demands of the community regarding drinking water
- Every household we interviewed gets their water from a public source like a stream or a well. Nearly everyone recognizes the need to purify water, often because they were told to by a doctor after contracting typhoid.
- The overwhelming common theme throughout each interview was price. When people didn’t purify, it was often because they felt it was too expensive. When people did purify, they complained that it was too expensive and said they would be very interested in anything that reduced the price. Interestingly, there are commercial products like chlorine solutions that are far cheaper than the most common method of boiling, but many people didn’t actively search out these lower cost alternatives despite their desire to cut costs. For the filters to be sold effectively, we’ll need adequate promotion to make people aware of the benefits like long-term cost effectiveness.
2. Determine competition / alternatives to water filters and their pros and cons
- There are three clear alternatives in this village; boiling, using chlorine (WaterGuard), and drinking contaminated water.
- Boiling is the most common method, and also seems to make the least amount of sense. It takes up to 30 minutes to boil and then cool the water. It’s the most expensive option if you don’t have wood on your property and have to buy firewood as many do. It’s also bad for the environment, though I don’t think that’s a factor for most people. However, it’s simply the most familiar to people and it’s easy to understand. While it’s not cheap (20 shillings worth of firewood can boil 20 liters of water), it’s certainly an amount most people can raise every day. There are also no side effects in terms of bad taste or the fear of unknown chemicals.
WaterGuard is a chlorine solution that some people use. It’s extremely cheap, with a 20 shilling bottle supposedly purifying 600 liters of water. The main problem with WaterGuard is that people don’t know about it or assume it’s expensive. Many people looked shocked (in a good way) when I told them about WaterGuard. Another problem is that you have to let the water sit for 30 minutes after you add the chlorine. Most people here don’t have watches and some don’t wait the full 30 minutes. Lastly, some people say it gives water a bad taste and smell. I bought a bottle, and plan to test it out this weekend.
- Of course drinking contaminated water is both fast and free, right up until you contract typhoid. Then it costs upwards of 3,000 shillings for treatment plus lost wages while you’re recovering.
3. Determine a price people will be willing to pay for a filter
- The key finding here was the overwhelming request for the ability to purchase the filter in installments. Most realized that even at 1,500 shillings, the filter was cheaper than firewood over a long period of time, but they didn’t have that kind of money to pay up front. Having flexible terms was important, as some wanted to pay 500 shillings over 3 months while others wanted to pay 100 shillings over 15 months. One person said he’d prefer to just make payments whenever he had money available.
4. Determine viable distribution channels for filters
- The first common theme that emerged here was that they wanted to buy the filter from someone they knew, especially if they were buying it in installments. Nearly everyone went to the market in Kiminini once per week and knew many of the vendors. They said that would be far better than buying it at a large store where they didn’t have a personal connection with the staff.
- The second request, consistent with the first point, was to sell them close to where they live. Public transportation is not great here, and traveling a long distance with a fragile filter would not be ideal.
- This topic in particular will be interesting to compare across geographic regions.
I’ll write another post and put up more pictures over the weekend, so be sure to check back soon. I’ll also try to get in a fun, non-work related post with pictures if possible. In the meantime, enjoy some new pictures below and on Flickr.