Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rainwater Harvesting Brings Clean Water to NepalRainwater harvesting is an effective strategy to combat global poverty and improve health. Having access to clean water promotes hygiene and sanitation, increases crop production, and saves time for other productive activities instead of searching for water. Poverty and water accessibility are inevitably dependent on each other. Without an easily accessible water resource, people spend time and energy trying to find the resource to do things like clean and cook. A lack of clean water keeps children out of school, reduces crop production, and allows diseases to spread due to a lack of sanitation and hygiene.

Infrastructure in Nepal

Nepal’s water infrastructure is underdeveloped. Citizens of Nepal struggle daily to find access to clean, usable water sources. Water containing arsenic and pollution from nearby cities plagues government buildings, schools and rural villages. Arsenic, while visibly undetectable, is a deadly chemical. Nepal’s Department of Water Supply and Sanitation had estimated that 85 percent of the population does not have access to safe water.

Water in Nepal

That is until Zachary Wong, a teenager from California, stepped in and founded Water in Nepal, or WIN. Wong raised about $27,000 to help fund more than twenty water-related projects from cities to villages around Nepal. WIN invests in water filtration systems and rainwater harvesting projects in Nepal. To do this, they “fund locally-appropriate solutions…focus[ed] on buying materials from local markets and [hired] local workers” to complete the project. Wong and his team have helped 11 schools, four rural villages, and five nonprofit groups. So far, he has brought safe drinking water to more than 8,000 people, with plans to help many more.

One of the more recent projects took place at Gita Maata Secondary School in Kathmandu, Nepal. Wong is currently implementing a rainwater harvesting system to ensure that all 2,500 students, staff, and faculty have enough water. Before WIN’s involvement, the school had one water-well that could not satisfy the school’s needs. Forced to pay for water tanks, the school lost money that could be used to improve facilities and education programs. Thanks to WIN, the school has 380 feet of rain gutters and high-quality pipes that lead to a storage tank for excess rainwater.


Between 1990 and 2012, the number of those living without clean water has decreased by half “with 2.3 billion people gaining access to improved drinking water.” Thanks to people like Zachary Wong and so many other researchers and innovators, the awareness of the link between access to water and poverty is coming to light. Companies like WIN are devoting time and resources to help communities across the globe fight poverty through water projects. Rainwater harvesting is an excellent way to do just that. 

 – Hannah Kaufman

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in JamaicaBeing “the third-largest island in the Caribbean,” Jamaica boasts in both natural beauty and vibrant culture. Although many recognize the country for its white-sand beaches and crystal clear water, the native population still struggles for proper sanitation in some areas. While some regions of the country, like Montego Bay, are undoubtedly luxurious, the more rural areas lack sufficient sewage systems and drinking water. Below is a list of 10 facts about sanitation in Jamaica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica has several rich, natural water sources; however, it also has irregular rainfall. The drier regions of Jamaica suffer from the uneven distribution of rain, which contributes to a lack of potable water. Being in the Caribbean, tropical islands such as Jamaica rely heavily on the rainy season for drinking water. With the recent droughts, Jamaica has experienced a consequential water shortage, a significant factor in the island’s sanitation conditions.
  2. One of the solutions to the uneven water distribution is rainwater harvesting. Jamaicans in especially dry areas of the country will collect rainwater through a cistern. A household’s cistern will typically be a large room under the house capable of storing several gallons of water. In an effort to conserve this water, the government recommends minimal water usage for daily routines such as showering, dishwashing and even flushing the toilet.
  3. The Water Resources Act of 1996 requires the government to provide adequate water access to its citizens through proper management and allocation. Following the establishment of this law, the Jamaican government promised to have a sufficient sewage system accessible to all citizens by 2020. However, with the recent events following the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts have been delayed. It is unclear whether this goal will still be reached this year or when the government plans to achieve the objective.
  4. At least 98% of urban areas of Jamaica have access to drinking water. That number falls to 88% in rural areas. These numbers have remained relatively steady for the past 10 years.
  5. While the numbers for potable water availability are relatively high, the numbers for piped water access are much lower. Only 45% of Jamaicans in rural areas have piped water access. The number for piped water access in rural areas is nearly half of that for potable water access. In urban areas, however, 70% of its population has piped water.
  6. Excessive trash is a common trait among Jamaican cities. With a lack of public sanitation facilities and curbside garbage collection in several areas, Jamaicans are faced with an ongoing sediment problem. Without effective waste removal procedures, a number of contaminants seep into the water.
  7. Vision Jamaica 2030 is a long term national development plan that aims to make Jamaica a fully developed country by the year 2030. Despite its size, Jamaica is still considered an underdeveloped nation. The main factors contributing to this status are its sanitation standards, political structure and the overall economy.
  8. Jamaica’s wastewater sector’s insufficient operations are primarily due to outdated technology faulty plant structures. These as well as a lack of proper maintenance and staff training have a substantial effect on the country’s sanitation conditions. A number of households and even the coasts suffer from the contaminated water culminated from these conditions.
  9. The National Water Commission (NWC) produces potable water to a majority of Jamaican citizens. During recent events of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has waived all late fees for its customers for the next three months and established an assistance program that provides a “30% write off on outstanding bills.” They are continuing to evaluate the situation and make decisions that financially benefit the people of Jamaica.
  10. There are recommendations for people traveling to Jamaica. Taking steps can ensure that their available water is safe to drink. Waterborne diseases are especially common in Jamaica due to a lack of potable water maintenance. In order to combat this, Jamaicans make a habit of always boiling their water or treating it before consuming it. It is also a common practice to purchase bottled water for drinking to conserve cistern water for cleaning purposes.

Despite the country’s natural beauty, Jamaica’s natives still face daily obstacles that prevent them from living a healthy life. Sanitation issues in the country are a result of insufficient waste removal procedures, inadequate plant management and an uneven distribution of rainfall. The good news is that the country is a constant work in progress with the goal of dissolving its sanitation problem. Recent and unprecedented events have certainly interrupted the country’s advancement. However, Jamaicans are still determined to escape their title as an underdeveloped country. These 10 facts about sanitation in Jamaica reflect the country’s adversity and ability to improve its current conditions.

Brittany Carter
Photo: Flickr

Water for Developing Countries
What’s the problem with water? It’s scarce, and is deficient for more than 844 million around the world. One in nine people on the globe lack access to water, but the problem isn’t just supply and demand — it’s miseducation and mismanagement.

The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” In economically and socially challenged countries, governments and people lack the knowledge and skill to properly tap into and manage resources like water supply. and the United Nations are great allies for suffering nations, but education is key. Here are a few ways to help developing nations solve their water problem.

7 Ways to Provide Water for Developing Countries

  1. Rainwater Harvesting: By the year 2020, UNESCO predicts a worldwide water shortage; but for developing countries, this shortage is now. A unique way to teach these nations water salvage and management is through rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting means capturing, diverting and storing non-potable water for later use.In Cameroon, harvesting rainwater saves dozens of lives daily, suppressing cases of cholera caused by unsafe flood waters. Gathering rainwater works in a four-part process — either active or passive. Active harvesting addresses the needs of human life, wildlife and irrigation. Passive is more for green life — landscape and gardening.

    The passive process follows the same process with the exception of treatment and usage, and addresses the survival of plant and soil life. The Active Process, on the other hand, involves the following steps:

    • Collection – Catch rainwater on a surface like a roof and then directing it into a storage container.
    • Storage – Depending on the size of the populace (city/town), this step involves clean barrels, tanks and/or reservoirs to catch as many gallons of water as possible.
    • Treatment – The screening of water for debris and bugs via the use of fine mesh or cloth to help sift waste and rubbish from the water. Boiling the water for a few minutes prior to use kills disease and parasites in the water.
    • Usage – Uses smaller cisterns for distribution, and it’s imperative to use only what one needs.
  2. Recycle Grey Water: Safe drinking water isn’t the only concern. There is a scarcity of water for bathing and sanitation. Recycling is one of more ways to provide water for developing countries. Recycling water helps with water conservation and management. Grey water is leftover gently used water from baths, laundry and cooking, and if kept free from feces, filtered grey water is safe for reuse.
  3. The SODIS Method: Discovered in the 1980s by Lebanese scientists, the SODIS method is an inexpensive way to bring clean water to poor countries. SODIS, also called Solar Water Disinfection, works by sitting a PET bottle filled with clear water in the sunlight for hours. The process reduces viruses, bacteria and diarrheal diseases in the water.
  4. Dew and Fog Harvesting: Dew and fog are alternative sources of freshwater, and harvesting both requires little to no expense. The process is simple: hang harvesting nets vertically to catch fog droplets and make them flow down into a reservoir. The mesh catches debris, keeping the water clean for multiple uses.
  5. Draw Water from the Air: Developing governments can supply water to their nations by harvesting water from humid air.  Atmospheric Water Generators, created by Watergen, generate water from thin air. This method involves dehumidifying clean air through a heat exchange system. The heat cools the air and concentrates water vapor, which then gets stored in an internal tank until it’s ready for use. Atmospheric Water Generators (AWGs) are energy efficient and low-cost.
  6. Desalination: Salt makes up 95.6 percent of the Earth’s water; unfortunately, someone from a developing nation can’t walk down to the seashore and quench their thirst. Desalination offers hope by turning salt water into fresh water. This technology doesn’t shy away from cost, but with help from organizations like Ride4Water, poor countries can produce more fresh water for consumption and sanitation from its saltwater counterpart.
  7. Lifestraw: Lifestraw helps make contaminated water safe to drink and is a method of bringing potable water to undeveloped nations. Introduced in 1994, this unique technology uses a cloth filter to block contaminating diseases, making water secure to drink.

There are numerable ways to provide water for developing countries. These options speak directly to governments seeking solutions to providing water to their nations while enlisting the help of other organizations.

– Naomi C. Kellogg
Photo: Flickr