Have you ever heard of shrimp shell filters to remove textile dyes?

Or silica gel that turns thin air into drinking water? These are some of the innovations being developed by the 13 young water entrepreneurs who came from Asia, Africa and Latin America to participate in this year’s cewas start-up programme. Learn more about Isabel, Beth and their fellow participants here.

Last month 13 young entrepreneurs from Africa, Asia and Latin America pitched their water and sanitation business ideas to the Vice-Prime Minister of Belgium and Ambassadors from Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia and Ghana, amongst others. The pitching event In Brussels marked the final milestone on their 5-weeks journey to completing the cewas Start-up Programme.

The entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 30 were selected from over 400 applications as Young Water Fellows and Junior ReSource Fellows to attend this year’s programme. The cewas Start-up Programme supports them during a 5-weeks training and 9-months coaching phase to start their social businesses in water, sanitation and resources management. The trainers and coaches support them in assessing their business environment, developing their social business models, planning finances and operations as well as pitching to potential investors and partners.


Curious to know more about their business ideas? Here they are:

CrustaTec: Isabel from Guatemala has developed a low-cost filter made of shrimp shell waste to remove textile dyes from wastewater. The filter uses the biopolymer chitosan contained in the shell which can be easily obtained from the waste discarded by the Guatemalan shrimp industry. The filter is low-cost and also allows to reuse the recovered dyes.

Majik Water: Beth is locally-adapted technology to turn air into clean drinking water and to deliver it to people in the driest places of Kenya. Beth has created a prototype that uses solar thermal energy and sponge-like desiccant materials making it possible to get water in a low cost, energy efficient way.

AiKite: Nuha created a sea and sand filter that absorbs more than 90% of heavy metal ions. With her invention, Nuha wants to reduce heavy metal pollution in the water of her home city Bangka, Indonesia where tin is being produced for worldwide export.

Maji Mamas: Eliza is enabling Maasai women to build rainwater-harvesting tanks and pit latrines without high masonry expertise using a compressed earth technique. Her community is currently experiencing an increase in water-borne diseases due to the shift from a nomadic to a more sedentary lifestyle.

CPlantae: César has designed a wastewater treatment process using earthworms and black soldier flies that are capable of composting wastewater. The Atoyac river near César’s home city in Mexico has been declared an environmental and social disaster, as only 20% of the industries treat the effluents they release. César’s solution gives small businesses access to a cost-effective wastewater treatment system.

Blue Springs: Sonita’s goal is to construct water kiosks in rural communities in Cameroon and foster watershed protection and afforestation. Her region Bafut suffers from epidemic outbreaks of cholera and typhoid because of poor access to water and sanitation.

Safe Drinking Water For All – SDW: Anna Luísa from Brazil is currently developing Aqualuz, a solar water disinfection equipment that purifies cistern rainwater using exclusively solar radiation and a low-cost eco-filter for solid particles. The system lasts more than 15 years and costs less than 70 euros.

iWASH Africa: Amengor is building community micro-flush toilets in Ghana that include a rainwater-harvesting system for hand washing and flushing, as well as water kiosks powered by solar energy. 

Sani-Loan Initiative: Jonathan from Tanzania has created Sani-Loan, an initiative that allows families to construct toilets, which are paid back with low interest rates in two years term so as to finance further construction in other rural communities. Sani-Loan also trains young people in latrine building to build capacity and increase job opportunities.

AbwasserX: Hiral from India developed a domestic wastewater treatment technology, called a Sequential Batch Biofilm Reactor (SBBR), capable of removing 95% of contaminants present in sewage. The fully-automated system is easy to install at the household level and the treated water and retrieved nutrients can be used both in farming and gardening.

Viridi Aquaponics Farm: Sarah is developing an aquaponics system to increase food security in rural Lesotho. The system uses 50% less water than traditional farming practices and the waste generated by the fishes serves as nutrient for the growing plants. The closed system thus recycles both nutrients and water.

Neera: Poorva from India designs environmentally-sustainable biochar drinking water filters that are produced from agro- and bio-waste. Poorvas’s social business also installs water kiosks in villages and trains women from the community to dispense water at nominal prices, thus empowering them financially and placing them at the heart of water governance in their communities.

WaterFarm: Samuel’s business provides rainwater harvesting systems for poor households in Uganda. WaterFarm uses innovative financial mechanisms where households agree on a financing package that allows them to own the whole irrigation system. The financing package provides poor households with access to loans that are usually unavailable to them.