Re-evaluation of filter pots

Hi there, Raphael speaking.
I'm back in Ifakara & plan to stay here till the end of february.
Nice to see all the changes and the work that has been done since I left, last summer!

In the last weeks, I've primarily been focussing on the filter pot project and after visiting 2 production facilities in Arusha (Northern Tanzania) and Nairobi (Kenya) early january, I made a general evaluation of the project to help us redefine our objectives. We have been discussing this a lot within our team, and we have now agreed on the following:

1) About 90-95% of the pots we produce still crack or melt before/during firing. The remaining 5-10% still have insufficient bacterial removal and flow-rate. This can be due to different factors, including the quality of our clay, the local weather conditions, the firing curve, the way we process materials or our manufacturing technique.

2) Considering the present results, the 2 visited factories and the advice that we have been getting from PFP (Potters for Peace) and PWB (Potters without Borders) in the last weeks, we have realized that our initial idea of a 100% handmade production will not be able to reach the desired standard. If we want to achieve this, we see the need to shift towards a mechanised production, involving the use of a press, hammermill and mixer, more storage capacity, sufficient working space, a good yet simple kiln and the employment of a skilled + educated manager who could later run it as a business.

3) We still believe that developping the filterpot can make a difference in Kilombero and know that there's a very strong demand for an affordable, efficient filtering device in the local communities. We therefore intend to continue this project and ultimately to relocate to a fully equiped facility, provided we can come up with a "proof of principle" (i.e. a first prototype, locally manufactured, which works).

4) In the upcoming 6 months, we will now focus on starting this shift towards mechanised production by using a hydraulic press and aluminium molds (have just ordered them from Nicaragua), sourcing and testing different types of clay and bringing modifications to our kiln to improve the firing. Our aim is now to get one good quality pot by the 1st of july 2011.

5) We are aware that this is going to take time until we will potentially be able to distribute a safe product (probably 1-2 years). So in parallel to this development we will start supplying another type of filter, called tulip filter which is now becoming a good alternative to filterpots (though its cost remains slightly more expensive)

Below are 2 pictures taken during my visits of Ngulelo (Arusha) and Limuru (Nairobi) facilities.