The Mukondeni Filter Factory is located in Ha-Mashamba, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Like much of rural South Africa, Limpopo Province faces “quadruple” health challenges related to the crippling burden of HIV/AIDS; other infectious and nutritional diseases; non-communicable diseases; and injury-related conditions. It is a predominantly agricultural province, which suffers from the highest rates of poverty (34%) in the Republic of South Africa and reports the lowest rates of accessible drinking water (44%).
This confluence contributes to unacceptably high rates of diarrheal disease and associated mortality. The age-standardized death rates from diarrhea are 1.5 times higher than the national average and 3 times higher than the neighboring Gauteng Province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located. Diarrheal disease is second only to HIV disease in terms of life years lost. While the death rates from diarrheal disease are appalling, they fail to measure another important effect of diarrheal disease: the tragic loss of human potential due to the negative impacts of repeated bouts of diarrhea on children’s physical and cognitive development.
In order to help tackle such waterborne diseases, the Mukondeni Filter Factory has been developed by PureMadi in partnership with the University of Virginia, the University of Venda, Rotary International, and the 45 women potters of the Mukondeni Pottery Cooperative. The Mukondeni Potters have made great progress over the past years.
We have helped the women potters to finalize and understand all the technical steps required to create a functioning ceramic water filter. This includes grinding clay, sieving sawdust, using the electric mixer, pressing filters, firing to 900 degrees Celsius, quality assurance testing, and applying silver nanoparticles. The potters are now fully capable of making high quality ceramic water filters without our help.
International partners have reached out to help the factory succeed. A European company (Howells Railway Products Ltd.) has fabricated and shipped us a new filter press. Rotary has provided a significant grant to support continued factory development.
In addition to helping the women create ceramic water filters, the University collaboration has assisted in marketing and sales efforts for the factory. To start with, the filters are currently being evaluated by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to confirm that the filter technology is effective and appropriate for the country. Additionally, the factory now has uniforms and informational pamphlets, and a large sign and website are in the making. These resources were developed by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), a local stakeholder committed to helping the Pottery. Ceramic water filter sales have been initiated in Ha-Mashamba through local schools and health clinics. The goal is to continue sales by providing water filters to local general stores and hardware stores to sell as household water filtration devices. Finally, the Mukondeni potters each have a filter in their homes to use and share the knowledge with family and friends.
Meet Boas and Vho Certinah!
Boas has been the Mukondeni Factory Liaison since 2014 and PureMadi couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated, hardworking, good spirited man for the job. Boas grew up in the Mashamba village, obtained a college degree and is now back in his community improving the lives of those around him. He is PureMadi’s key contact at the factory and is able to keep us up-to-date on all things that we need to trouble shoot as well as on our successes.
Vho Certinah is the manager of the Mukondeni Pottery Cooperative and helps run the filter factory operations. She, along with 10 other women, make the PureMadi filters and have taught countless students who travel to South Africa for research about the filter making process.