The Vernet Access Water Project aims for social, economic, environmental, and sustainable development by focusing on the issue of access to drinking water in villages and designing a low-cost water filter. The project provides training to women in Moroccan villages so they can manufacture and sell in nearby souks and markets.
Al Akhawayn University
Mary Grace Neville
By combining research and development with micro-entrepreneurship, the Vernet project, conceived in the laboratories of the Mohammadia School of Engineers by a team of nine students from the Enactus Morocco community, is a great example of what a social enterprise might be. By reflecting on the different social problems faced by people in difficulty in Morocco and elsewhere, these student entrepreneurs decided to focus on the issue of access to drinking water.
Usable for 2 years and very easy to maintain, this product, whose price is set at 100 DH, is based on clay and wood in particular, raw materials adapted to the specific regions in which the product is used (Tamatirt, Moulay Brahim, Ghriss, Ait Hbibi, Wlad Jerar). Access Water's objective was to develop a system of water treatment using clay molded, dried, and baked by local potters. The technique has been implemented in several regions in Morocco where women have been trained in the manufacture of filters. Moreover, the system is easily adaptable. The team works to optimize the balance between simplicity and efficiency.
"My idea for a better world is a world not based on capitalism, where people want to get richer, because that's what brings us wars and social injustice. My better world is a place where people think more positively, have faith that we can do greater things, and bring a lot of changes to the world without losing hope."
"When we talk about water issues, we see in the market a lot of solutions, mainly water filters and water facilities. But when we are talking about statistics, children lose lives because of water issue. The main population that suffers from this is the bottom of the pyramid," said Kaoutar Abbahaddou, the founder of the Vernet Access Water Project.
From an early age, Kaoutar spent time in rural areas with her family and realized that people have a hard time getting water and children get sick because of polluted water. She decided to do something about it. The founder has been inspired by three main influencing people. Her first inspiration was Aicha Chenaa, a Moroccan women who dedicated herself to children and women in need. She has established herself as the ambassador for the feminist cause in Morocco.
Kaoutar was also inspired by Martin Luther King, who was a big fighter against discrimination, and Mohamed Yunes, a Bangladeshi economist and entrepreneur who brought value to society and gave opportunity to start businesses through micro-credit institutions, since he perceived that people needed only money to do great things. Being inspired by such leaders, Khaoula decided to establish a social enterprise that not only has an economic goal but also to fix a social and environmental issue and to leave something behind really valuable to the community by launching the Vernet Access Water Project. "I want see a peaceful world where people fight for achieving greater things rather than fighting for fulfilling basic needs. It's unbelievable; we are in 2019 and people are still suffering from not having basic needs, fighting for water on a daily basis. It’s incoherent," said the founder of the project.
One billion people in the world do not have access to drinking water, of which two million are in Morocco. Every 19 seconds, a child under five dies from waterborne diseases. The mission of the business includes a general scope, not only water. Its goal is to shape valuable impact and solve real problems that people suffer from. "Water is a basic need and prevents children from going to school because of illness, prevents mothers from spending time with their families because they need to go and bring water to their family, and spend a lot of time walking to get water...on the rural side, they don’t have water at hand. We gave opportunity to women to have income in rural areas not only in Morocco but also some African countries such as Algeria and Burkina Faso."
The business enables women in villages to have professional training to become qualified to manufacture and sell the product. Furthermore, they will be able to have an income. The business started to design a product that can go to big cities, that people can bring with them to work. A business model of "buy one, give one" in rural areas exists, but it is facing the problem of competition from filters made in China at a lower price. The project is facing a few other difficulties too. The founder has a hard time searching for investments to build a decent factory that can produce water filters following the hygiene and quality standards needed. "Some investors don’t trust innovation, and that can bring hard time finding money.... Some sponsors don’t get the definition of a social enterprise, they think that it’s social and they forget the entrepreneurship part. Furthermore, legal status in Morocco are not adaptable to social enterprise; [they face the] same taxes as another enterprise that is 100% capitalistic, so it becomes hard follow economic goals and environmental or social at the same time."
Life is all about water, as it can affect everything: education, health, and living standards. If the water that people in villages have collected is not clean, it causes diarrhea, dehydration, and even death. "The time they [people in Africa] spend in gathering water is a time they can spend to read, write, and earn income, or just take care of their children," said one of the founders.
The project built great values on the society and environment, creating employment for the deprived residents of the villages through manufacturing and marketing water purification products, and improving the quality of water for the benefit of the African community. This project will not merely reach people who do not have access to drinking water, but also will empower women “microentrepreneurs” in the underdeveloped regions of Morocco especially, a country that is mainly dominated by men and that really needs to shed light on women who are oppressed in these villages. "Women are already powerful in cities and rural areas. They take a lot of responsibilities, work in office or agriculture, take care of their family, have a lot of children to feed and to educate.... I don’t see what can be more powerful than that, so they are already empowered; they just need some equal opportunities," said Kaoutar Abbahaddou.
Kaoutar Abbahaddou, Founder
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Business Website: N/A
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
The Vernet Access Water is a project that aims for social, economic, environmental, and sustainable development by focusing on the issue of access to drinking water in villages and designing a low-cost water filter.