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Nairobi
January 27, 2021
County Focus Drinking Water Water Conservation

‘Water from air’ quenches threatened girls’ thirst in Samburu

In this arid part of northern Kenya, water can be hard to find, particularly in the dry season. But a centre run by the Samburu Girls Foundation
– which rescues girls facing early marriage and
female genital mutilation – has a new high-tech
source of it.
Since June, the centre, which has rescued more than
1,200 girls, has used panels that catch water vapour
in the air and condense it to supply their drinking
water.
“We used to have difficulties in accessing water and
during a drought we could either go to the river to
fetch water or ask our neighbors to give us water,”
said Jecinta Lerle, a pupil and vice president of students at the centre’s school.
But now, officials at the school say, the girls no longer
have to travel for water – including into communities
they have left, which could put them at risk.
“The girls can now have more time to study since
there is enough fresh water to go round and there
is no need to walk long distances to search for
water,” said Lotan Salapei, the foundation’s head of
partnerships.
Girls formerly trekked up to five kilometres a day in search of clean water during particularly dry
periods, sometimes bringing them into contact with
members of their former community, Salapei said.
The centre, given 40 of the water vapour-condensing
panels by the company that builds them, now creates
about 400 litres of clean water each day, enough to
provide all the drinking water the centre needs.
The “hydropanels”, produced by U.S.-based technology company Zero Mass Water, pull water vapour
from the air and condense it into a reservoir.
Cody Friesen, Zero Mass Water’s founder and chief
executive officer, said the company’s project with
the Samburu Girls Foundation was an example of
its efforts to make sure the technology “is accessible to people across the socioeconomic spectrum”.
The panels provided to the Samburu Girls Foundation
cost about $1,500 each, foundation officials said.
Zero Mass Water has so far sold or donated the panels
in 16 countries, including South Africa.
SAVING TREES
George Sirro a solar engineer with Solatrend Ltd., a
Nairobi based solar equipment company, said such
devices can be a huge help not only to people but in
slowing deforestation that is driving climate change

and worsening drought in Kenya.
Often people with inadequate water cut trees to boil
the water they do find to make it safe, he said, driving
deforestation.
Philip Lerno a senior chief in Loosuk, where the
girls’ foundation is located, said he hopes to see the
panels more widely used in the surrounding community, which usually experiences long dry periods
each year.
He said community members, having seen the
devices in use at the school, hope to acquire some
of their own if they can find the funding.
The girls can now have
more time to study since
there is enough fresh water
to go round and there is no
need to walk long distances
to search for water,” said
Lotan Salapei

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