Nonprofit WHOlives Empowers African Entrepreneurs to Start Drilling Businesses
What WHOlives Does
WHOlives provides grants and loans and trains entrepreneurs in the developing world to drill water wells using its innovative human-powered Village Drill. With help from the nonprofit, people in Africa and other places have created their own businesses, offering low-cost wells to villages. The entrepreneurs work hard and earn money for themselves and their families.
The Current Landscape
Existing drilling technology is too expensive and cannot reach 75% of the areas where water is badly needed. The Village Drill is simple and easily transported in a pickup truck, unlike a large drilling rig.
Rural villages do not have access to clean water or the capital needed to hire a drill crew. Drill crews require 100% of the cost upfront. There is little financing available. Without clean water and the proper training on hygiene, these communities have very little chance to ever lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
WHOlives solves those problems by providing entrepreneurs with financing and training. The organization also extends microloans to communities that want a well so that they can affordably pay for a lifetime of clean water, which costs about $4 per person. These loans are repaid over 10 to 12 months.
Company Birth Story
The company started shortly after John Renouard, the founder, took his family on a humanitarian vacation to Africa. After seeing the devastating poverty, his reaction was not one of pity, but rather disbelief and a little anger, that in 2010, so many people were still living in those conditions. Nearly everybody is still drinking horribly contaminated water that often leads to sickness and death. Renouard got home, founded the nonprofit WHOlives.org and came up with the idea for the drill that can access free, clean water up to 250 feet deep.
The developing world is littered with derelict water wells donated by well-meaning individuals and charities focused on clean water. When the local community is not asked to participate in the cost of the project, they often feel no ownership, and these donated wells eventually fall into disrepair. Once this happens, the communities do not feel empowered to fix the well, which they perceive is owned by the donating party. They can feel their only solution is reaching out to another entity to provide another well, or they return to fetching water from the previous contaminated source.
The community-funded loan program offered by WHOlives is changing this cycle of dependency and hopelessness. By offering small grants and interest-free loans that allow communities to purchase their own water wells, WHOlives helps to instill a pride of ownership and a sense of empowerment.
A Success Story
One drill team in Uganda was utilizing very ineffective hand-digging methods to drill wells, with 30% of their boreholes failing. The group raised the down payment for a Village Drill, and WHOlives extended an interest-free loan on the balance to allow them to pay for the equipment over three years.
The drill team contacted villages to offer them interest-free loans to pay for a well over time, and WHOlives financed those loans. Between November 2021 and December 2022, the group in Uganda successfully completed 36 boreholes using the Village Drill technology.
A Founder Quote
“Many people have no idea that women and kids will walk more than 3 miles per day to fetch disgusting water,” said John Renouard, founder and executive director of WHOlives. “Our invention is part of the solution, providing jobs, a lifetime of clean water and economic opportunities that lift people out of poverty. We’re so grateful to our donors, and we do our best to maximize their impact so that we’re doing the most good.”
Check it out: https://wholives.org/
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