How do we get clean water to those in need in a sustainable way? Should we provide clean water to communities through the drilling of wells? But who will maintain those systems? How do we make water filters more accessible to those in need? These are the questions that Daniel and Ashley constantly ask themselves.
Daniel and Ashley founded Element Access International in 2017, however the ideas began to form back in 2010 when Daniel first started traveling to Africa. He always felt that he wanted to help make a difference in the lives of those in Africa. He got connected with a neighbor and left for his first trip of 6 months doing development work in Kenya. During some of his first trips, he did some microenterprise, community projects, as well as some small scale well drilling. He began to really see how big of a need there was for clean and safe water and the huge impact that could be made in communities.
He and his wife began traveling back and forth from the United States to Kenya to do additional projects. They wanted to figure out a way to impact even more communities, so they created Element Access International to scale their efforts and make their work more sustainable. They hired local Kenyan teams to do the well-drilling as well as the maintenance. They also sold water filters in the more urban areas in order to generate additional income.
A Growing Business
In 2019 the organization was well established and Daniel and Ashley finally moved to Kisumu, a lakeside city in western Kenya, so that they could develop the organization even more. They have initiated small business development projects, school and household water filtration systems, well drilling, and various other water development projects.
Element Access International is a Kenyan entity and works with both local and international organizations to do complete water development. A key value proposition that they focused on was their ability to provide quality services and reliable work. With their experienced team, they are able to offer continuing support to ensure the filters and wells are being used properly and that technical information is available. This extends the life of the products and leads to a greater impact along with increased sustainability. They have also taken on the role of bringing new technologies and development services to their community in water and solar. Their business has also grown as they diversified their product offerings to sell Business Connect products, including the VF100, Kohler Clarity, MadiDrop+ and more.
Daniel remarked that “the donor world is really changing, so the best solution to keep up with the large demand for clean water is using a business model.” Their partner non-profit organization, Earth and Water, is also exploring ways to do microfinance. The water filters are great products, but sometimes they are not affordable to someone making less than $5 a day. Microfinance allows people to take out a small loan to purchase the filter. In turn, the filter will provide clean water that will keep the family healthy and allow them to go to work. In health, they will be able to pay off the loan much faster.
Transformation Not Transaction
The goal of Element Access International is transformation not transaction. They want to have a business impact and provide a sustainable solution for the need of clean water, instead of just looking for sales. It is a part of everything they do. In addition, they incorporate WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) training for their partners, working to help them succeed.
There was one WASH training after which a lady came up to the team literally in tears. She shared that if she had only known the importance of sanitation and clean water, she wouldn’t have lost one of her children.
This knowledge has power. When there are moments like this, it is a reminder that a little bit of knowledge and a small filter is the difference between life and death.