It’s been a little while since my last month and boy has a lot changed. A couple of posts back I mentioned that I accepted a job with Unitus, a non-profit focused on international economic development, specifically in the area of micro-finance. Unfortunately, about two weeks after I started, the Unitus board announced that they were shutting down operations and the entire staff was laid off.
Fortunately, an interesting position opened up with PATH, another Seattle-based international non-profit that focuses on health care. PATH is in the middle of a 5 year project studying and improving the commercial viability of low-cost water purification solutions like the water filters and chlorine solutions I’ve been discussing on this blog. The role is a temporary consultant position based in Nairobi for several months. I’ve accepted this position and am now back in Kenya. I will act as the liaison between the Seattle team and the African partners, project manage two sub-projects around clean drinking water, and will try to identify and support social entrepreneurs doing work in the water and sanitation space.
There have also been some good developments on the Kibera Kiosk project. We’ve just filed the articles of incorporation for a new non-profit organization and are in the process of obtaining our tax-exempt 501(c) status so we can accept direct donations. Steve, the Kenyan general manager, has moved to Nairobi and we’re working to refine the business plan and register the organization with the Kenyan government.
Stay tuned for a lot more updates in the coming days and weeks now that I’m back in Kenya.
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For those of you who have ever thought about volunteering abroad, know someone who wants to volunteer abroad, or simply want to support an organization doing great work abroad, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about Village Volunteers. Village Volunteers, the organization that I went through for this Kenya trip, is a Seattle-based non-profit that partners with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) all over the world.
Shana Greene Dormitory
If you’ve read my posts on Emmanuel’s school in the Maasai Mara or Joshua’s Common Ground for Africa, which is a school, bio-intensive farming training facility, and water filter plant, then you already know about some of the terrific programs that Village Volunteers supports. They also work with programs in the fields of healthcare, economic development, women’s empowerment, childcare, and more.
Village Volunteers works with these programs in two ways. The first is to send international volunteers like me to work with CBOs on specific projects or to provide general assistance. All the marketing work I’ve done for the water filter project in Kiminini was a direct result of the partnership between Village Volunteers, Common Ground for Africa, and the Kenya Ceramic Project. The second way Village Volunteers supports these organizations is to help them find funding sources through grants or connections to private donors. Many of these amazing organizations simply wouldn’t be able to survive or flourish without the help of Village Volunteers.
Recognition of Shana and Village Volunteers
To give you an idea of how much these global programs appreciate the help of Village Volunteers, Joshua from Common Ground for Africa told me that he named one if his daughters after Shana Greene, the Executive Director of Village Volunteers. There’s also a Shana Greene Dormitory, and Emmanuel’s primary school publically recognizes both Shana and Village Volunteers. I’ve personally been so impressed with the quality of the people and program that I recently joined the board of directors of Village Volunteers.
If you have any interest in either volunteering internationally, volunteering domestically to support Village Volunteers, or supporting Village Volunteers financially, please visit www.VillageVolunteers.org for more information or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I’d like to take a minute and thank everyone who donated to these fantastic water projects in Kenya. I have many friends back home who contributed money. Outdoor Research contributed a number of weatherproof jackets, shirts, pants, and hats, which I gave out at various slums and schools throughout Kenya. I have also received a generous donation from an organization who asked to remain anonymous.
Outdoor Research donated jackets
The Kibera water kiosk project has great momentum and I’m very optimistic that we’ll receive government approval. I’ll then need to raise approximately $20,000 for the initial infrastructure including four 10,000 liter water tanks, the smaller 500 liter containers for all the kiosks, educational signs and materials, and more. Once the initial costs are paid for, the business is set up to be financially self-sustaining. If you would like to support this amazing project that will both reduce disease and create jobs in one of the largest slums of the world, please click on the following link:
When asked to specify the purpose, just type “Jeremy Farkas”. The donation is tax deductible and will go towards supporting a fantastic cause. I’d also like to note that all my time is donated so your donation will go directly towards project expenses. Thank you so much for your support.
Woman in slums enjoying her new jacket
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I wanted to post a short update on the water kiosk project. I met with Steve, my Kenyan colleague, last evening to discuss several details about the business and things are looking very good. I’ll be heading back to Kibera around May 28 to conduct additional market research in the community and hopefully meet with a couple of organizations currently working there to improve health and the general standard of living. I’m also hoping that I can begin flushing out a detailed action plan of steps that must be completed to launch the business. I’m very excited that Steve is on board and it looks like we won’t lose much momentum when I leave Kenya.
I’ll actually be leaving Kiminini in a few days to head to the Masai Mara area before returning to Nairobi. It’s strange to think that things are wrapping up for me on this part of the water filter project, but I do not think it will be the end of my involvement with this incredibly passionate team. I intend to help them in any way I can to ensure the filters are successfully marketed and adopted by the community.
Make sure you check in over the weekend to see several new pictures.
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We were walking through the village where I’m staying last night and came across the stream where many locals get their drinking water. As you can see in the pictures below, the stream contains a makeshift dam with a pipe in it that acts as a faucet. This is known as an “improved” water source because in theory it prevents animals and people from contaminating the water. However, as we stopped to look at the stream, we noticed several frogs (along with quite a few bugs) happily swimming in the water. Not more than two minutes later did a little boy come by to take water from that stream. Not that I had any doubts about why this program was necessary before, but times like this really reinforce how truly important it is.
Frogs in the drinking water
Frogs in the drinking water
Boy getting drinking water in Kenya
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Trying to craft an advertising strategy has been an interesting experience in Kenya. The marketing channels are far more limited than in the US. E-mail, direct mail, search engine marketing, magazine ads, and event sponsorship are all unavailable. Television ads are both prohibitively expensive and not terribly useful to reach a large population that doesn’t own a television (or certainly doesn’t watch it as much as Americans). After spending a lot of time observing what works in Kenya, it seems one of our best options is plastering the area with signs.
We’ll likely use a combination of large road side signs placed on the main road, along with hundreds of small signs that we’ll provide to shops that sell our filters. Here are some mock ups of potential road side signs. If they seem very simplistic, it’s because they are. Advertising here is generally very basic and to the point. In fact, the most common way to produce a sign around Kiminini / Kitale is to have it painted by hand.
Road side sign 1
Of course, like all marketing, a single channel is not nearly as effective as an integrated multi-channel campaign, so these signs will reinforce the messages we’re promoting through live market demonstrations, community group presentations, educational fliers, and more.
Road side sign 2
Road side sign 3
Road side sign 4
Road side sign 5
Road side sign 6
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The interviews are just about done. The competitive research is complete, as is an assessment of viable marketing and distribution options. After several weeks in Africa and many weeks of research ahead of time, I’ve put together a 2.5 page document outlining the key findings and recommendations for the water filter marketing strategy. I’ve previously posted several key findings and won’t repeat them now. Instead, I’ll just include an excerpt of the recommendations. If you’d like to see the full document, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to send it your way. I’d love to hear your comments on the recommendations below. Tomorrow I’ll post the sample road side signs. Also note that new pictures are available through the Flickr link on the right.
Promotion – Overall the biggest barrier to mass adoption will be lack of awareness, which can be overcome with continuous marketing efforts
1. Traditional advertising
- Roadside signs
- In-store signs (similar to Safaricom’s “Top up here”)
- Flyers / brochures
- Joshua’s radio program
2. Community presentation
- Community / Women’s groups
3. Market demonstrations (live performances / demos)
Distribution – A broad distribution network is required to reach a relatively disbursed population, especially given the need to pay in installment
- Dukas in Kiminini, Kitale, and in villages will likely be the primary distribution channel given the quantity of dukas and their ability to sell in installments given their personal relationship with customers
- Direct sales – We can hire and train commission-based salespeople to sell the filters directly to individuals. These people can also give community group presentations and market demonstrations.
- Allow doctors and health offices to sell the filters. In addition, if allowed by law, it would be great to check with the medical community to see where cases of typhoid are being reported so we can quickly target those communities (legitimate fear of typhoid is a huge and valid motivator)
- KCP could sell directly, but I recommend against undercutting the market on price. We can set the price we would like to see in the market, but undercutting dukas jeopardizes those relationships and will drastically reduce coverage.
- Community groups can help members purchase filters in two ways
- Groups can establish a filter merry-go-round fund where x members contribute Price/x shillings every 2-4 weeks to purchase a filter for one member. The process is repeated until all members have a filter.
- KCP can sell filters to the community group either for cash or on credit, and the group can sell to its members using whatever terms they prefer. Selling to a community group on credit is less risk for KCP due to the social pressure to repay, potential joint liability, and greater ability to find and repossess filters from people who default.
- We should sell the filters at the lowest price that allows KCP to operate at a minimum of break even plus profit used to invest in plant maintenance, financial reserves, and fair employee compensation.
- If KCP sells directly to individuals, we can set a fair price but should not undercut the 10-15% markup required by our distribution partners. The 10-15% amount was obtained from Khetia’s (largest store in Kitale) staff, but should be validated with the duka network.
- It will be critical for us to be able to advertise that the filters are available for purchase in installments. As such, dukas selling the filter should be told of this expectation, and we should consider not using dukas who refuse these terms. Exceptions should be made for larger stores like Khetia’s and Subiri supermarket.
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