Located on the Western edge of the African continent, Guinea-Bissau has struggled for decades with political instability and extreme poverty. Civil war, government and military corruption, the remnants of colonization and revolution and tropical diseases have left this country with many large challenges to face. The US State Department lists Guinea-Bissau as one of the world’s poorest countries with an average daily income of only $1.40, an infant mortality of 1 in 10 live births and a life expectancy of less than 48 years. One out of every five children will not reach their fifth birthday. With no US embassy and limited transportation options, Guinea-Bissau has remained off the radar of most major aid organizations and receives little help in its efforts to improve the quality of life for its people.
Recently a coup has disrupted the government and disrupted the country’s struggling economy. For more information on the country go to the US State Department page.
However, this description of Guinea-Bissau does not reflect the amazing character of its people and the beauty and natural resources of its land and waters. There is a vast contrast between the factual descriptions of this country and the actual experience of being in this country. Its people have a kind and gentle nature and heroic, home-grown efforts are taking place within the country by its own people to improve the quality of life there. But they could use a little help.
One critical, and basic, need is for safe drinking water. Most wells are contaminated with bacteria and surface waters with parasites. During the rainy season, diseases such as cholera rip through this country like wild fire. More than 1% of the nation’s population will contract cholera each year during these events. Even when clean water is available, it quickly becomes unsafe to drink as it is transported in contaminated buckets, dipped into with contaminated drinking cups or pumped through leaking and contaminated piping. A simple, highly effective and extremely inexpensive solution to all of these water-borne diseases is the use of disinfecting, “point-of-use,” Silver-Impregnated Ceramic Water Filters.
The West African country of Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest in the world and faces serious drinking water quality challenges. To address this most basic need, a project is moving forward that would bring a water-purifying unit into every home in this country of 1.6 million people. This project has three highly unique features:
- This point-of-use, silver-impregnated ceramic water filter is an extremely effective and inexpensive solution to providing safe drinking water in a country that is in great need of just such a solution. The filter has been extensively tested by major universities and international aid organizations and its overall effectiveness in eliminating deadly water-borne diseases such as cholera has been laboratory- and field-proven in countries around the world.
- This water filter system is uniquely suited, both culturally and practically, for use in countries like Guinea-Bissau where water-borne diseases are a major factor in infant mortality, life expectancy and overall quality of life. Recent interviews with international aid organizations working in Guinea-Bissau, with high-level government officials, with non-governmental humanitarian and religious organization leaders, and with individuals across the country have confirmed the need and desire among the people and their leaders for just such a solution.
- This water filter factory can be built by the local people of Guinea-Bissau and can therefore be a sustainable source of these highly effective water filters, as well as employment, into the foreseeable future. It is a well established concept: “give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for a lifetime”. Putting this concept into action is the goal of this project – To empower the people of Guinea-Bissau to save lives and improve the quality of life in their own country – to walk along side them, to provide the funding and technical know-how, to help them bring this life-saving solution to every home in this amazing country that has suffered so greatly.
Below, you will find additional information regarding the country of Guinea-Bissau, the filter, and this project.
Silver-Impregnated Ceramic Water Filter
Above is pictured a similar ceramic water filter courtesy of PottersForPeace.org. PotterForPeace.org has made this filter design available on a no patent no license basis to the whole world. The filter is very simple and works very well, eliminating 99.88% of parasites and bacteria. The ceramic filter sits inside of a 20 liter (5 gallon) plastic bucket with a lid and a spout. Unclean water is poured into the filter, and clean water emerges into the bucket at a rate of 1.5 to 2.5 liters per hour.
The filter requires no power and no added chemicals. The cost of the entire apparatus is approximately $15 to $25 dollars each, and replacement filters can be had for around $7. These filters are typically made by indigenous peoples living in the same areas as the filters will be needed. Thus, the filters provide jobs and economic development along with clean, safe drinking water.
With careful use these filters will last about five years. They never need any type of recharging, but being ceramic, they do break.
The silver-impregnated ceramic water filter was first designed in the early 1980s by the Central American Industrial Research Institute in Guatemala and started being put into wide-spread use in the mid to late 1990s. The filter looks like a large clay flower pot, however the clay is made porous by incorporating a “burnout” material such as fine saw dust or rice hulls during its fabrication. The pores that are left after firing the clay are smaller than bacteria and therefore filter them out as water passes through the filter under gravity flow.
The key to the effectiveness of this system is the colloidal silver that is applied to the surface both on the inside and outside of the filter material. The colloidal silver becomes permanently bound to the clay during the application process. Colloidal silver is an extremely powerful antimicrobial which kills nearly 100% of the bacteria and keeps the filter material free from microbial growth. The filter element fits into a 5 gallon plastic or ceramic receiving vessel that is fitted with a spigot from which the purified water is taken.
This filter system has been described as “a ceramic weapon of mass bacterial destruction.” It has been extensively studied by universities including MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford, plus many more. It has also been thoroughly evaluated by organizations such as USAID and UNICEF. In each study it has been proven to be highly effective at eliminating bacteria and parasites in contaminated water and significantly reducing the incidence of water-borne diseases in areas where it has been implemented.
Since 1998, the organization Potters for Peace has been assisting in the production of these filters throughout the world. Potters for Peace has partnered with other organizations in an effort to create independent factories to produce the filters. So far, 35 factories in 18 countries have been built. For more information on the Silver-Impregnated Ceramic Water Filter you can go click on the link above. Also, click on this next link to see a wonderful video on the workings of the Silver Impregnated Ceramic Water Filter.
Ceramic Water Filter Factory in Guinea-Bissau
After several visits to the country and meetings with many government and non-governmental representatives, the overwhelming need for an effective point-of-use water treatment system was identified as a priority.
After identifying the Silver Impregnated Ceramic Water Filter as the ideal solution to this need, work has begun to help build a factory inGuinea-Bissauto produce these filters. A non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Guinea-Bissau called Central Social has will have primary responsibility in building a factory that will provide this product to the people of Guinea-Bissau. The reputation of Central Social with the people of Guinea-Bissau is impressive and their demonstrated skills in managing extremely limited resources to build many schools and medical clinics throughout the nation makes them an ideal organization to lead this project.
This effort to build the filter factory is in the beginning stages. A relationship with Potters for Peace has been established and the process of organizing a fund raising campaign has begun. A site for the factory has been provided by Central Social and the business structure for this new enterprise is being developed by this organization. This project will save lives and provide for economic development.