WaterHealth International (WHI), based in India, offers customers safe, affordable drinking water by developing and marketing community-owned, decentralized water purification and disinfection systems and services to underserved villages. It has helped reduce the spread of waterborne diseases and has sparked a new sector for delivering clean water in India.
WHI’s technology for purifying bacterial contamination in collected surface water was developed after a waterborne cholera epidemic in 1993 killed 10,000 people—in just one month. Each WHI system has the capacity to serve 2,500 to 5,000 people a day. Water is sold for less than $.01 per liter.
An initial investment from the Acumen Fund in 2004 helped the company launch its first community water system in India. Because of WHI’s significant impact on rural health, IFC has made three separate investments in WHI since 2009, totaling over $20 million. Now, WHI has more than 300 water systems. About 250,000 people purchase safe water regularly.
Ever visit a farm without access to irrigation? When a New York Times reporter recently traveled to a rural region in western India, he saw what happens to land lacking this basic technology: its families live from crop cycle to crop cycle. There is no way to depend on a steady livelihood—or the next meal. This is how the vast majority of India’s farmers live.
Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., a pioneer in the field of micro-irrigation systems, is changing that. Jain’s drip irrigation technology uses a series of perforated tubes that deliver water directly to crops, reducing losses to evaporation and weeds. According to Anil Jain, managing director of Jain Irrigation, the company recognized that when working with small farmers it would need to do more than just sell technology. “They’ve been used to thinking: ‘more fertilizer, more output’ or ‘more water, more output,’” Jain said of the farmers. Pitching the drip irrigation over the traditional flood irrigation required convincing farmers of the value of the up-front investment.
Their hard work paid off. Jain’s drip irrigation has allowed 25,000 small farmers in India to increase annual individual farm income by up to $1,000 per year, and has led to savings in water usage equal to the annual water consumption of more than 10 million households. As the New York Times commented, “It almost sounds too good to be true: a technology that cheaply improves crop yields, reduces water use and allows the monsoon to replenish groundwater aquifers. Let’s hope it isn’t.”
Jain Irrigation was the recipient of the 2010 IFC Client Leadership Award for its inclusive approach to sustainable agriculture.