A model that has brought safe, filtered drinking water to over 70,000 people in Nepal, is expanding to India. Village Forward, a social enterprise, that helps establish and develop micro-franchises which distribute water filters, plans to help provide approximately 350,000 people with safe quality drinking water by 2014.

Over 70,000 people in Nepal have safe, filtered drinking water due to the unique social enterprise Village Forward.  Hari Govinda Prajapati, Nepal Country Manager, trains potters to make and run franchises selling the filters that yield safe water.  Village Forward, with a successful model in Nepal, plans to expand the initiative to India, and provide safe water to 350,000 people by 2014.

“It’s phenomenal how the power of silver deactivates the microorganisms in such a simple and inexpensive way, enabling people to make a living and, more importantly, to get rid of some of these huge medical problems in children.  As you may know, some 4.5 million children die annually of diarrheal disease,” said David Elliott, founder and chairman of the board of Village Forward.

The initiative takes the centuries oldNepalese pottery tradition and adds a new business model twist to result in safe drinking water for more people.  Village Forward, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, offers a package of services to the microfranchisees worth about $10,000.  It includes equipment, materials, technical/business training, and local connections for Aquasif water filter distribution and training.

For these services, the microfranchisees need to take out microloans for their kilns, meet production and quality standard, purchase the required filter disks from Village Forward, and provide necessary monthly production/distribution reports.  The loans result in financial management skills, a stake in the franchise , and access to credit.  There are currently 10 microfranchisees in Nepal and India.

Village Forward contrasts making a traditional charitable donation with an investment in the microfranchise model.  A donation helps x number of lives, and continues to help the same number of lives.  With the microfranchise model, as the business grows, an investment positively impacts more and more lives.  So, the impact of the  investment grows over time.

Village Forward began with David Elliott’s vision of bringing positive social change through providing the right tools to help people help themselves.  David and his team from semiconductor cleaning system business, UV Tech Systems, spent several years perfecting a clay water filter to make water safe in developing countries.  By 2005, the technology was ready to be tested in Nepal, where the chief scientist for the project was born and raised.  Hari was introduced to the team and, with his business acumen and technical understanding, soon became Country Director.  He worked with the team to develop a cheaper, $5 filter.

TD Bank makes annual contributions to Village Forward, based on the size of their customers’ accounts who support Village Forward.  TD pays 1/2% on checking balances and 1/4% on savings, CDs, money markets and IRA balances.

Photo Credit: Village Forward