A bucket full of water

Carleton Water Project Wins Prestigious International Award

By Joseph Mathieu

A collaboration between Carleton University’s Business, Engineering and Industrial Design programs has won a prestigious international award for an access to clean water project in eastern Africa.

For the last three years, professors Troy Anderson, Bjarki Hallgrimmson, and Onita Basu have spearheaded From Buckets to Rain Barrels in Longido, Tanzania. Their efforts were recognized by the Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) with the David Gillingham Award.

Anderson, assistant professor of management and strategy at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business, launched the project in 2014. He learned about the Longido-based Tanzanian Education and Micro-Business Organization (TEMBO) from Virginia Taylor, who teaches cross-cultural communication at Sprott and serves as the NGO’s treasurer. A lack of water in the drought-prone district affected TEMBO’s mandate to nurture education for adolescent girls and micro-financing loans for women.

“Water is an issue even in young girls’ education,” said Anderson. “They’re supposed to be in school, but when (water is) short they have to help their mothers hunt for (it). It affects every aspect of life.”

Anderson recruited Hallgrimmson at the School of Industrial Design, who was already working in Uganda on altering wheelchairs to better perform in rural areas and Basu at the Faculty of Engineering and Design. Between them, they developed a cohort of students from their three programs. Since its inception, the project has sent about 45 students to the Longido District to help develop water access and improve water treatment education. Next year, a fourth cohort will continue the initiative.

“A fundamentally important aspect to our project is that we are not giving things to people,” said Basu. “We are looking at promoting and educating, we are teaching skillsets so they can help themselves.”

Anderson’s students complete a course that examines the area’s socio-economic and cultural issues that could either be opportunities or hindrances for innovation. The Engineering and Design students complete their fourth-year projects, which range from a solar-powered greywater recycling system to a low-cost ceramic filter, by developing products and user interfaces.

“Sometimes they will test a prototype here and it works, and we go to Longido and it doesn’t,” said Anderson. “It’s one of the great learning aspects of this kind of work.”

Besides testing prototypes, they are also developing a lay-away plan for households to purchase more water containers, and working with community members of the Tanzanian district to build a large-scale community garden.

The project is the first Canadian initiative to win the David Gillingham award, which was established in 2013 in recognition of the NIBS’ founder and former president. Marketing Prof. Robin Ritchie delivered one of seven presentations at the NIBS Annual Conference at Leeds Beckett University in mid-May and the audience voted to give the prize to Carleton’s interdisciplinary project.

NIBS shares best business practices among its 70 member schools, and its award honours projects that have a significant impact and engage students and faculty members around international business and education projects.