“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”
– Napoleon Hill
Water is a necessity of life but not everyone is blessed with clean water, available with a twist of a faucet. In developing countries women carry five-gallon (20 litre), 42-pound buckets of water on their heads and 1 in every 6 people has to work hard for access to water. We are very well aware of the traditional method of carrying water in rural India. Women and girls wake up early morning, walk for hours to the well and then return back with Matkas filled with water on their heads. Their agony doesn’t end there as they have to take multiple rounds for sufficient water. Going alone also increases the likelihood of getting raped on the journey.
This activity takes a lot of time, preventing women from working on other domestic chores and income generating work. Women walk about 8km or more every day to fetch water from wells. Things turn worse during the dry season, as that is the time when they have to walk thrice this distance. Carrying such heavy weights leads to physical injuries causing a detrimental effect on their spine, severe body pain and complications during childbirth.
With an aim to provide a solution to the water crisis, Wello has come up with rollable water drums called WaterWheel which gives rural women easier access to water. The WaterWheel’s design allows water to be placed inside a wheel and allows 175 pounds of water to be moved smoothly without much physical effort. A person can also collect 20 gallons(75 litres) of water with these rollable water drums which is almost five times the amount possible using Matkas or buckets. This helps in cutting down on multiple trips that women and girls make to the water source to fill and refill water and enables them to focus on other activities.
Cynthia Koenig, a student of Michigan University and Founder of Wello has lived in Latin American countries like Mexico and Guatemala. There she noticed that women have to take a perilous journey to fetch water. Education of female children was also suffering as they spent most of their time in collecting water. “I saw women and girls who took on the water collection. The kids were kept out of schools. Water wheel can make a huge difference,” says Cynthia. She was inspired by the Hippo Water Roller, a device invented two decades ago by two South Africans — Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker. This device helps to roll 24 gallons of water and has made life easier for 2, 50,000 people in 17 countries. Although it is very effective, the majority cannot afford it due to its high price- over $100. In order to offer WaterWheel at an affordable price, Cynthia decided to manufacture the products locally with human-safe plastics and price it around $20 to $30.
The Wello team arrived in India in the year 2011 and spent hours interviewing practitioners and experts, designed and prototyped in the field and carried hundred litres of water. They found out that women spend 25% of their time each day collecting water and with the help of WaterWheel one could get 5 times more water at once. Wello manufactured their first production run of WaterWheels in Ahmedabad, Gujurat. Their pilot was launched in Rajasthan with Jal Bhagirathi Foundation and it has received a favourable response from the WaterWheel users.
Despite such a low price point, Cynthia isn’t oblivious to the fact that many people still won’t be able to afford the device and so she plans to train local water delivery people who can make enough money from wheeling water back to their villages to pay for the device. Wello is looking forward to partnerships with the Indian Postal System, Local Governments and various Non-profit organizations. The United Nations have approached Wello to provide their WaterWheels in Sudan’s drought stricken Darfur region.
A simple idea does make a huge difference!