Photograph — mediawire

According to The New Humanitarian, over forty-five million people in Africa risk going hungry in 2019 across 14 countries, due to the aggregated effects of droughts. What would people in these countries give to have a technology that makes water out of air? There’s no quantifying it. But more than 3,000 households in Eastern Cape, where dam levels dropped to one percent this year, are about to find out, as immediate beneficiaries of a Ford partnership with WaterGen, the Israeli technology company that is behind the innovation.

GEN-350, the technology, is being deployed by World Vision South Africa, a subset of the global charity, to provide about 3,400 provincial households, four health clinics, 50 early childhood development centres, and 79 schools with fresh and safe drinking water. The technology is WaterGen’s medium-level mobile unit, useful both outdoors and indoors, and can produce up to 900 liters of water daily from the air.

The 1,763-pound GEN-350 works by cleansing atmospheric moisture through an internal purification system, comprising sediment filtration, mineralization, activated carbon and microbiological treatment to guarantee clean and safe water. It requires no other facility for operation except power, usually supplied from a generator and charging stations on the emergency response vehicle (ERV) that carries it.

World Vision had won the 2018 Bill Ford Better World Challenge, earning $200,000 in prize money, one of two winners in a global competition for nonprofits seeking to address their communities’ most pressing concerns. Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering then added $130,000 in awards to the organization. Ford Motor Company South Africa MD Neale Hill said his company was committed to supporting local communities and praised World Vision for the “fantastic concept.” Hill said he was looking forward to seeing the positive impact of the initiative on the communities that need the technology most.

Thanking the donors and outlining the action plan, Chikondi Phiri, Officer in Charge, World Vision SA said, “The Eastern Cape has been severely impacted by drought in recent years, and the poorest communities are the hardest hit. Accordingly, the project will primarily focus on assisting schools, clinics and Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDs), as well as households where the need is greatest.” World Vision South Africa will install and transport the GEN-350 on a custom-built heavy-duty double-axle trailer to affected communities across the Eastern Cape over the next two years.

Droughts continue to plague Africa. As 5.4 million become vulnerable in Somalia, 2.3 million in Angola, 8.3 million in Ethiopia, 2.5 million in Kenya, 3.3 million in Malawi, 7.1 million in South Sudan, 5.3 million and 5.6 million in Zimbabwe and Sudan respectively, there’s a great need to immediately rethink the continent’s approach to water production. The seasons have a mind of their own, and to depend solely on rainwater is to repeatedly court disaster.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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