Cooperation between non-profit organizations and government institutions from Israel, the USA, Germany and Tanzania with the aim of building an innovative water filtration system using ceramic filters in a school in the Babati district reached its peak when a delegation of Engineers Without Borders-Israel from an important project in Tanzania
Africa Team, Engineers Without Borders Israel - Tel Aviv Returned about a month ago from a 15-day expedition in Tanzania. The project deals with the supply of clean drinking water to rural areas in Africa and has 22 volunteers from diverse fields who manage the project from end to end throughout the year: from fundraising and marketing to building and implementing the systems in the field, and has been operating continuously since 2008 in the Babati district of northern Tanzania. The team consists entirely of volunteers who study at Tel Aviv University, and maintains close cooperation with the international school at the university.
The work in Tanzania began after an Israeli traveler traveled in the country and was exposed to the medical problems and day-to-day difficulties of those children and many residents in the village. "Northern Tanzania is suffering from a severe water shortage. Most sources of drinking water are saturated with an unusually high amount of fluoride, 10 times the standard of the World Health Organization, the fluoride in drinking water causes severe developmental problems, especially in children, which are manifested in skeletal deformities, cleft lip, dental problems and more. Other water sources contain high concentrations of bacteria and coliforms that cause neurological and digestive problems," the nine members of the delegation say. The systems built over the years are now able to provide clean drinking water to more than 6000 children in nine schools. The solution to the water problem is simple and sustainable: low-cost water purification and rainwater collection systems that, through proper use, provide school children with water throughout the year.
International cooperation for the development of a water purification system
In April 2023, a collaboration between non-profit organizations and government institutions from Israel, the USA, Germany and Tanzania was launched with the aim of building an innovative water filtration system using ceramic filters at a school in Babati district. "The UN estimates that a third of Africa's population suffers from a lack of water, which causes about a million deaths a year, with the situation worsening due to population growth. Even in areas with a lot of rain, there is a water shortage due to contamination of fresh water sources by bacteria and viruses. To address this problem, the team developed a water filtration system that uses ceramic filters connected in parallel to provide a sustainable and low-cost solution for purifying thousands of liters of water from bacteria and viruses. The ability to adjust the system's capacity according to the size of the population makes it ideal for use in large communities," explain team members Yiftah and Michal.
According to Afek and Sharon, the team led the international cooperation for the purpose of building a ceramic filter system that will provide potable water to the school all year round. We initiated the idea, designed the system and carried out the construction in the field. Wine to Water, an association from the USA that operates in many parts of the world was enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to donate the filters they produce in a factory in Tanzania, andTanzania Government Ministry of Science and Education Government Vocational School Together with experts from Germany, he built the construction on which the system rests and took care of transporting it to the school grounds. The cooperation will enable optimal maintenance of the system since the other organizations have a permanent presence in Tanzania. As far as we know, this is the first school-scale ceramic filter system of its kind. The new system will provide clean water to about 1000 children and staff members.
Rainwater collection system with a volume of 60,000 liters
"In the last two years we have mapped the specific areas and schools where our systems will create the most value for the community and students. It's not a simple matter - there are many, many schools that need water, and the meaning of construction in a certain place is that other schools will have to wait for the next expeditions," say Yuval and Mor. "In this expedition we built the largest rainwater collection system to date, using construction techniques and new work equipment that will significantly improve the quality of the system. The system covers about 1,000 square meters of roof and 115 meters of gutters, it can store up to 60,000 liters of rainwater and provide clean water for 1,000 children.
Assaf emphasizes the importance of entering the project in an orderly manner according to the memorandum of understanding with the district authorities. "Many, many projects in Africa are quickly becoming white elephants. A foreign organization comes, pours money and goes home. A short time later the project was abandoned and decommissioned. We want to avoid this and therefore it is important to us that the authorities and the community be part of the planning and construction of the systems from an early stage. More than that, we want it to be clear that the community is the one responsible for the project. Experience shows that their condition depends directly on the school director's commitment to maintaining and maintaining the components of the water systems. A school principal changes from time to time, so this dependence is not healthy. In April 2022, for the first time, we signed a memorandum of understanding in front of the heads of the district that regulates exactly what each party is required to do before, during, and after construction. This process changed the way of working with the community by 180 degrees. Personally, I was surprised to see that the local community met about 90% of the clauses to which it committed itself. The main lesson we learned in the last year is that most of the community's responsibilities should be transferred to the time of building the system. There is nothing to be done, reality clearly shows that when we are together in the field - the probability that things will happen increases significantly, therefore we have updated the agreement according to this principle. It was exciting to see the head of the village recruit 15 people every day to come work with us. Both parties exchanged ideas and worked together to create the best systems for the school."
Seminar on water and sanitation
The team recently started a new collaboration with SO THAY CAN, an Australian association with a branch in Tanzania. Naama says that one of the most significant days in the expedition was Joint seminar Together with him came dozens of administrators and educators in the district. The seminar dealt with the construction of sustainable water systems by the local community. Naama emphasizes: "We are excited about this partnership, as it provides us with an opportunity to expand our impact and tackle additional initiatives related to water and sanitation. We are determined to expand cooperation with them to build joint projects in the region. "
The delegation was accompanied by a broad "knowledge transfer" program. According to Yuval, "In October 2022, we held a concentrated seminar for all school principals that have systems and we discussed the issue: you as principals, who know the student staff better than anyone, raise the points that you think we should touch on in the educational program. We returned to Israel with the points, and expanded the programs according to the ideas that came up in the seminar, with the main thing that was repeated - you will touch on advanced topics such as how rain is created, what is the difference between water sources, how do you know which water is good and more. The content was delivered to more than 300 children at the school where the water systems were built ".
The drought that hit Africa last year emphasized the importance of creating a variety of water solutions. Ophir concludes "The work in Tanzania illustrates the great impact the projects have in the local community, the activity is in its infancy. We are working hard to expand the activity and reach additional populations that suffer from a lack of clean drinking water. The team relies on fundraising from Tel Aviv University with an emphasis on the international department, companies, businessmen, philanthropic foundations, and the Israeli Embassy in Kenya (which is responsible for Tanzania). The team is in the midst of raising a significant amount of money for the upcoming expeditions, where we intend to build upgraded water systems in several areas of the district and perform a variety of additional trainings. We invite companies and people who are interested in donating and being partners in the project to contact us."