TKS x Kidogo: Supporting Mamapreneurs with Clean Water

Apurva Joshi
7 min readMay 29, 2020

You wake up at 6am, work in a bustling market place trying to make a living under the hot sun, and come home at 7pm. By the end of the day, you’re exhuasted, but you pick up your young son or daughter from the neighbor’s house and walk back home to make dinner.

Day in and day out, this is the reality for many Kenyan parents. Due to the economic situation of the country, many parents who raise kids in third-world countries like Kenya have to leave their young children with many other small children in a stranger’s home from dawn until dusk. These strangers simply can’t provide the education or support that a growing child needs, which puts the child at a developmental disadvantage.

Currently based in Nairobi, Kidogo is an early development education and childcare company that’s looking to change this crisis.

They set up centers where their employees, female entrepreneurs known as ‘Mamapreneurs (MPs)’ are trained to give kids high quality childcare and education.

Unfortunately, these Mamapreneurs make under minimum wage. MPs at home-based centers’ monthly wage: $72 USD, MPs at Kidogo centres make $96 USD a month. Both of these figures are less than Kenyan monthly minimum wage: $150 USD

As a country, Kenya also suffers a nation-wide lack of access to clean water due to:

  • Lack of awareness of the problem (There is a lack of public awareness regarding the pollution problems and the consequences arising thereof in the rivers and basins investigated.)
  • Cultural customs which (indirectly) justify poor sanitation (Multiple rural customs that actively promote open defecation due to lack of sufficient infrastructure. This means that feces contaminate water at a higher rate, and the risk of cholera increases.)
  • Water scarcity (Women and children in Kibera have to wait just under an hour in line at one of 650 water kiosks in Kibera to get 4 gallons of clean water and carry it back to their homes.)
  • Poor infrastructure (esp with govt management) (Poor management of clean water allocation and distribution on the parts of both the government and local private investors has prohibited access to clean water)

Saad Mufti and I came up with a solution that tackled the water crisis in Kenya while trying to find a way that supported a Mamapreneur’s income while maintaining or improving the quality of their center.

Our Solution

We proposed that mamapreneurs can make money by filtering dirty water and selling it to their local community, using a simple water purification solute.

Why Sell Rainwater?

Mamapreneurs become a sustainable and dependable source of water for community. Selling rainwater is a passive source of income for mamapreneurs, meaning they won’t need to take extra time out of their already busy schedules to purify and sell the rainwater.

We mitigate the risk included in selling powder packets to locals. This risk would either be:

  1. They put too much powder relative to water being purified. (hypochlorite in high concentrations is toxic)
  2. They put too little powder relative to volume of water being purified. (powder won’t be effective)

After evaluating different water purification techniques, we came to the conclusion that P&G powder provides the most effective solution for our recommendation.

Developed with the help of the CDC, P&G powder is designed to purify contaminated water effectively with ease. P&G powder contain calcium hypochlorite (a disinfectant) and ferric sulfate (a coagulant that removes suspended matter, bacteria and viruses). P&G consistently removes harmful metals such as arsenic, ensuring safe drinking water.

An overview of the P&G purification process

Compared to other low cost purification methods, P&G packets provide a low cost of 3.71 Ksh per 10 L of water, and isn’t harmful given it’s applied in the right amounts.

The CDC ran a series of clinical trials for the powder. They found that in water containing Vibrio cholerae, contamination went from 1.2 x 10⁸ to none detected. In these trials, P&G powder was shown to reduce diarrheal water-borne disease incidence by up to 95%, with an average of about 50%.

Collecting Rainwater

With substantial rain throughout the year, collecting rainwater is an untapped source that can be harvested passively to generate revenue. We concluded that 925 mm of rainwater could be collected annually, taking into account weather patterns in Nairobi.

We expect home-based centers to be able to collect 2003 gallons of rainwater and Kidogo centers to be able to collect 3605 gallons of rainwater.

In terms of meeting hydration needs, a 5 year old needs 1 L of water daily. A caretaker needs 2.7 L daily. 1 mamapreneur and 15 kids can be supported with 123 GAL (CM) and 106 GAL (HM).

With the surplus water, mamapreneurs are able to sell enough water at comparable prices to support 8 women annually!

Cost Analysis

Overall, we expect 2.4k Ksh (CM) and 4.7k Ksh (HM) of monthly revenue.

Although mamapreneurs cannot meet the hydration needs of herself and the 15 kids every month due to some months giving less rain, mamapreneurs can save excess water in the rainier months so their needs are met from previous months.

We calculated the lowest possible price for rainwater possible to still meet our goal. Costs for packets of P&G have been accounted for and Kidogo is reimbursed.

Our calculated price per gallon of purified rainwater is 14Ksh at a Kidogo center and 26 Ksh at a home-based center. These figures were calculated to ensure customers could afford to pay for purifying dirty water and mamapreneurs could meet the minimum wage benchmark.


3 x 10L buckets would be set up outside of each kidogo center, which would utilize scrap metal or PVC pipes collected from the landfills of Kibera, to collect runoff on rainy days.

The PVC pipe and metal system would funnel runoff from the room into the 10L buckets provided by P&G, and would be set up in a similar manner as the diagram below.

Purification As A Service

We expect that about 8 customers can be served on a given day on average.

Mamapreneurs take time before the kids come to filter the 10L of rainwater. → They can use 30 minutes out of the naptime breaks to sell water to seven customers. → After hearing about the service through communal sessions on the dangers of contaminated water a customer brings their own vessel. The Mamapreneur would then store the rest of the water in free space inside the center.

Risks / Assumptions We Made

  • We assumed center and home roofs are a basic rectangular shape and will give a 100% yield for rainwater to purify and sell.
  • We can’t pinpoint exactly how many people a caretaker could serve, so figures for purification as a service aren’t 100% accurate. .
  • Our recommendation accounts for kids’ daily clean water needs, assuming they don’t always drink clean water at home. MPs and kids get the purified water for free.
  • Although our revenue goal was met, we could not determine how much was saved from water bills or revenue gained, so selling prices of water could be lower in reality.

What I Learned From the Challenge

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

I learned a lot about the importance of perspective — both when understanding the problem you’re trying to solve as well as when it comes to figuring out the most feasible yet effective solution.

Here’s the situation:

  • Apurva: 16 years old, lives a privileged life in a middle class, suburban home in Boston trying to solve a the problem of a…
  • Mamapreneur: young-to-middle-aged women, living in a third world country and working in 10 sq ft of space — you read that right: 10 sq ft of space. To put that into perspective: that’s less room than my home office!

Our lives are almost completely different — but that’s no excuse for any laziness on my part.

Our initial solution involved having mamapreneurs grow sack gardens a) to feed the kids and b) sell it to surrounding communities to raise overall revenue. Once we showed this solution to other people we realized something super important — MPs didn’t yet have the space to grow this food in their centers!

If we’d been conscious of that from the get-go, we’d have eliminated any bias we had while creating solutions before our final one and then created one that worked from the get-go.

Ultimately, the solution I talked about in this article wasn’t selected for implementation, but I’m really grateful for the experience!

Overall, this was a great exercise in understanding the complexities of hard problems and the importance of perspective when trying to solve them!

Thank you for reading this article about my consulation for Kidogo as part of TKS’ global challenge! If you have any questions, I’d love to get in touch! You can connect with me over Linkedin or via email: Until next time!



Apurva Joshi

Currently conducting independent research in iPSC derivation. Outside of that: 2nd-yr bchm & neuro @ brandeis, alum @ TKS, writer of medium articles