MOROCCO: Start-up Aawis revives an old water filtration technique

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Traditional Moroccan ceramics © Shutterstock

The Moroccan start-up Awis has revived the famous ceramic water filter used for several centuries in the Cherifian kingdom. This filter has been much modernised to meet the needs of people in rural areas.

Access to drinking water remains a problem in some villages in Morocco. This is also the case in several other African countries where the traditional filter has existed since time immemorial, such as Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. The Cherifian start-up Africa Water Innovative Solutions (Awis) has modernized this water filtering solution after several years of research. According to its founder, Kaoutar Abbahaddou, this is the culmination of an ambition she has had since her years of study at the Mohammadia engineering school in Rabat: to improve access to drinking water in Moroccan villages.

A water filter made from local materials

With her team, she gave a new breath to the famous ceramic water filters. She keeps the process secret, but the filter that her start-up makes available to the population is made from clay that is mixed with sawdust; the latter can be replaced by rice bran. Debris and pathogens in oasis water are stopped during filtration by micro porosities from burning wood debris or rice bran.

This technique allowed the commissioning of two filters. One with a capacity of 750 ml for personal use and the other of 5 litres for a small family. For the moment, these filters are manufactured by three women in the regions of Ait Hbibi and Ouled Jerrar, in the center of the kingdom.

An international focus

The AWIS project was launched in 2016. From the outset, it received the support of several partners, including the sanitation institute of Morocco Colab, a start-up incubator in Côte d’Ivoire and the French company Soscience, which works notably for responsible innovation. With teams established in Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, AWIS produces 5,000 filters per month according to Kaoutar Abbahaddou. In these countries, 1300 women have been trained in the manufacture of these traditional and modernised water filters.

An international ambition that does not date from today. The name of the start-up: Africa Water Innovative Solutions (in English, Editor’s Note) says a lot about its objective which today is to conquer English-speaking Africa. Despite the lack of funding, the young shoot managed to take the lead at several competitions. This is the case of the national selection Enactus (an NGO working for societal progress through entrepreneurial action, E’sN) in Morocco. She also won the international trophy of the same competition that took place in China in 2014.

AWIS aims to train more than 5000 African women in the manufacture of its filter over the next 3 years, which should improve access to drinking water for 0.5% of Africans. Another ambition of the start-up: the creation of a filtering system powered by solar energy. A project that should ultimately benefit people in rural areas in Africa, who often do not have access to electricity and drinking water.

Jean Marie Takouleu


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