Monday, August 1, 2011

Field Trip to Ecofiltro ( - the solution to world wide water problem?

What a wonderful visit to Ecofilter a ‘for profit’ business that is with a social conscious. These clay filter inventions were founded by Dr. Fernando Mazariegos who was a Guatemalan scientist who was given a grant from the Interamerican Development Bank to find a way to purify water in an effective, ecological and affordable way. In his childhood he had already been exposed to a large traditional clay pot filtration method. The pots were manufactured in a house-like open factory environment and they are made of local clay, sawdust and colloidal silver (a natural anti-bacterial). IT is scientifically proven to capture the bacteria and parasites that lead to gastrointestinal disease. A very important part of the filtration process is that it must drip at a certain rate per hour (1-2 L per hour). The success rate of ending up with the correct texture for drip rate was just more than half which he was transparently concerned about. The business will soon move to a brand new bigger factory in a nearby area. He discussed other ‘inefficiencies’ such as the numbers of steps people took to do their jobs, and the use of the beautiful historic French kilns (to be replaced by gas), and I wonder how with the new factory this increase in ‘efficiency’ would alter the experience of the occupation in the factory. Because efficiency = good business and good for people? What would the new environment be like? Also I was pleased when I saw a soccer field was written into the plans of the new factory with the rationale ‘we want our people to be healthy and happy’. However it is not clear about how long the technology lasts – whether it is 2 or 3 years and how the community would manage this turnover. John (previous CEO from Private Sector seeking meaningful life/work change and experience in business and sales) was an inspiring speaker. I really resonated with this organisation, especially in relation to intestinal problems – and where best to start than with good water and fresh food. IT was interesting the ‘occupation’ aspect of it which of course all the OT’s pricked their ears up at. HE talked about the older man in the village from where the ‘pine sawdust’ (non-native trees), he must have been a potter all his life, and his love to work with his hands. While Mr CEO is expecting and demanding more efficiency by offering to send machinery, the potter just replies that he has no need for machinery, because what is the point when you can no longer use your hands (The OT’s were in heaven!!!). Using the hands as part of the craft is part of the joy and love for the occupation. The CEO is surprised at why a potter would not want to ‘make his job easier’ especially when he comments he would like to clone this particular potter because of the amazing quality work that he does. No one else is quite like him. Imagine how he must be viewed in his community. I wonder who he mentors and if the younger generation of his community are inspired by his work and other lives that he has touched. Would be a very interesting man to meet and explore this life of ‘meaningful occupation’ and ‘success and talent’ in the eyes of a foreign investor. The other area this man could boast was the ability to source only local materials for the pots.

A research project had been completed by his sister in 1991 which compared the health outcomes of communities that did not have the ecofiltro and those that did and those that had it and also an education program. The education program of course includes how to use and look after the filter and I imagine the importance of fresh water. This is delivered by a local women from the community (language abilities?). The filter is able to ward off E.colli. They are also aiming to market the product to the people who use bottled water so they can offer the product to the poor at a lower price. This can be a great addition to other programs that dig wells etc.

This got me thinking about looking towards the future the potential for interdisciplinary work with Anth, OT, Community Development and environmental scientists – be a great combination for creating ‘transdisciplinary dialogue’.

In order to set up these factories in other parts of the world he said that what they would do is first find the potting community! Very interesting… Imagine travelling the world and searching for potting communities to introduce an idea that can bring more money into their lives and potential save the health of children in their community.

How interesting that these reflections about ‘inefficiency’ reflects the Brown Rockerfellar article and seems to reflect the imperialist history of a dependent economy.

‘Health is defined as the capacity to work’ Brown. How are we defining health? Why do we have a ‘health’ system anyway and why is it siloed and separate from ‘social’ systems and religion – because everything is linked anyway. Why did we have to intellectually separate everything?

“If public health is to be an advocate of the interests of the majorities of all peoples, it must not be used to dominate and oppress them.” Brown

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