How bioengineer uses technology for water access
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The goal is to help as many people as possible to easily access safe water. / Photos: Courtesy
His company can now supply 80000 litres of water per day.
Water is an essential element when it comes to sanitation and ensuring the overall health of communities. However, not everyone has the privilege of accessing clean water.
Clement Gatsinzi, a biomedical engineer and social entrepreneur, observed this challenge in different communities and decided to assemble means that would allow people have access to quality and safe water.
With his skills as an engineer, he established AKWADROP Ltd three years ago with a task to fight for environmental protection, and avail access to clean water by purifying it, easing its collection and distribution.
For him to achieve this objective, he developed a water quality monitoring device that helps to observe the quality of water in natural water sources, quality of water effluents from waste water treatment plants and aquaponics.
He explains that this device is a water quality monitoring technology made up of a water quality device and web platform for water quality monitoring, data storage and reporting. The water data results can then be accessed on any mobile device.
One of his services is responding to the current pandemic ‘Wash Education’ programme where he designed a needs-based, locally customised wash education curriculum that is taught by local teachers and healthcare workers in schools, clinics, and community centres on a weekly basis.
This is aimed at ensuring individuals and families understand and follow proper wash practices like hand washing and proper use of water.
He also offers services in geophysical surveys, maintenance and management of water treatment plants, maintenance and repair of boreholes, and maintenance and repair of solar water pumping system.
His company can now supply 80,000 litres /80m3 of water per day and has so far managed to provide clean water to over 5000 Rwandans, including schools and a health centre through a network of boreholes and water kiosks.
It was in high school that he developed a spirit of entrepreneurship after joining an entrepreneurship club. He recalls growing skills via sharing and learning from fellow students who he says had small but community impacting ideas.
“This awoke the sleeping giant in me. Thus in 2014, my younger sister and I initiated a small agribusiness venture where we grew mushrooms and sold them in the holidays so as to reduce the dependency on our parents,” the 26-year-old says.
This step also propelled him the more towards the area of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, he has observed that learning is a vital key to success and that such opportunities are all over, a person only needs to be ready to grab them.
“In 2017, I became part of the YALI Regional Leadership Centre East Africa fellowship in Kenya. I had to step out of my background in Rwanda and see how others are doing it in other places. This was one of the best things I ever did as I interacted with other young entrepreneurs from East Africa and shared a lot. I vowed to export what I had learnt when I went back home,” he recalls.
He remembers identifying a problem in his community that he says he realised later had existed since he was a kid; water shortage and environmental degradation.
“That is when I decided to venture into access to clean water and environmental protection so as to help and impact my community positively, and with this I founded AKWADROP Ltd.”
At the start, he reveals facing a lot of barriers like lack of capital, age stereotypes, understanding the market and finding customers.
“Surprisingly these are the same challenges I co-share with many young people around the continent trying to make a change,” he says.
“I couldn’t raise enough starting capital by myself and couldn’t get a loan from a bank since I did not have collateral. I, therefore, had to find other ways of raising the needed capital.”
In December 2017, he applied for a grant in a hackathon which was organised by OIF (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie) in Rwanda, the grant prize was equivalent £10,000 which he won.
“Winning the grant eliminated some of the problems but did not solve all of them. The next step was finding a skilled team so as to implement the projects I had. One thing I learnt from this, however, is that one has to be determined, disciplined, have faith and confidence in what he/she does. Your dreams can be possible and achieved,” he says.
Gatsinzi believes that everyone has potential to do great things and impact their community. To him, this is a matter of passion, focus and commitment.
He, therefore, advises young people in various sectors to use the skills they have and opportunities around them to create solutions to the challenges in their communities by responding to people or customer needs and making money from it as entrepreneurs.
“It may not be easy, challenges are all around; challenges and failures can be a learning opportunity. Knowing what you want, staying focused and committed helps you to make an impact in your community. No one will do it but us, the youth,” he counsels.
His work was recognised by different institutions and has been granted different awards and fellowships such as Web2day Festival in France, Hub Africa in Morocco, Kikk Festival in Belgium, “Grande rencontre des Jeune Entrepreneur du monde francophone” in France and Inspirational award by The National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA).
Gatsinzi is currently offering his services in Bugesera District but plans to expand activities across all sectors in Bugesera and even serve people from other districts across the country.
“We want to increase the number of people we are impacting by 50%. Lastly, we would like to see water quality monitoring technologies being used by different government/non-government institutions or private sector working in the field of water and sanitation. This will enable them to ensure quality of water in real time and keep water quality data parameter for future reference.”