Beth Koigi: The Social Entrepreneur Using 'Majik' to Create Water Out of Thin Air

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Article by: bird story agency

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Beth Koigi was determined to create a sustainable solution to water access. So, she made "Majik".

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Beth Koigi posing for a picture. Photo Courtesy: Beth Koigi

by Bonface Orucho, bird story agency

Kenyan innovator, Beth Koigi, is on a mission to increase access to clean water in communities in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. Through Majik Water, she has installed 20 high-volume and 10 small-scale devices that produce 200,000 litres of water daily for thousands of people.

Though appearing to be almost magical, the Majik technique is not a smoke and mirrors illusion. Instead, the technology uses atmospheric water generators to transform air-borne moisture into clean drinking water. Air-to-water technology is not new. But by scaling, Majik Water is making the water it generates more affordable and by using renewable energy, the project is also "green".

“The generators are powered by solar thermal energy making it an energy-efficient solution to water deficits,” the 30-year-old explained.

This technology has attracted global attention. She and her team have won a number of awards, including the Tech Entrepreneur Award from The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, the Young Water Fellowship, and the EDF Pulse awards. She has also received recognition from Oxford Innovation Fair, MIT Water Innovation, and Forbes Magazine.

“The latest international recognition we had was being featured by Matt Damon in a Netflix documentary called Brave Blue World. We know we can do more to boost climate change resilience from a water perspective,” she says.

But Koigi’s passion for increasing water accessibility in Kenya goes back a long way. Having grown up in Limuru, Kenya, her family did not have challenges accessing water as that part of Kenya known for its emerald, tea plantation-lined hills is blessed with regular rains.

“All this time, it did not hit me that there are regions in the country where access to clean drinking water was a big challenge,” she said.

But her perspective changed when she went to college in eastern Kenya. Despite having good rivers and sufficient groundwater systems, this region experienced soil siltation which dirtied the water and left local communities struggling for clean drinking water.

“Here I was now, fetching water in our campus taps that were full of silt, yet nobody seemed to be concerned. I had to think of a way to clean my water,” she said.

She designed a filter using activated carbon to distil her water. Quickly, she turned it into a business, creating more filters that she sold to students and the community.

While visiting other parts of the country, Koigi saw that the problem went beyond clean water. Many communities, especially those in the arid and semi-arid regions, didn’t even have access to water in the first place. This realisation, further compounded by the 2016 - 2017 drought in Kenya, motivated Koigi to look for a way to create decentralised and renewable water sources.

She immersed herself in months of research, collaborating with Canadian environmental scientist Anastasia Kaschenko and Oxford economist Clare Sewell, and in 2017, Majik Water was born.

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Beth Koigi working on the Majik Water pump. Photo Courtesy: Beth Koigi

“Whenever I visit beneficiaries, it warms my heart to see them happy and content with our services. But I will be more satisfied if we reach more,” she explained.

Koigi also believes her technology and other tech-based water solutions, especially in Kenya, can only attain a high impact if there is more funding for the sector. She’s also against the overreliance on groundwater solutions, terming that option “not a solution to the water problem,” due to its unsustainable nature (too many boreholes can quickly suck groundwater dry).

Instead, she wants Africa to turn to technology.

“While there is no single solution that will solve the water challenge, boreholes and dams are unsustainable and expensive compared to tech-based solutions,” she said.

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