(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A Grandville company is on a mission to help solve one of the world’s most pressing concerns: access to clean water.
Founded in 2010 by Lou Haveman — who, with his wife, Jan Haveman, was a missionary to South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria for 22 years and now lives in Grandville — Business Connect is a social enterprise that provides inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere with affordable and easy access to clean and safe water in order to strengthen education, health and economic growth opportunities in the developing world.
According to the World Health Organization, 800 million people globally do not have basic water services, and 2 billion people drink water contaminated with feces. UNICEF reports 6,000 children die every day due to water-related diseases.
Business Connect so far has forged partnerships and made sales of water treatment products in 67 countries across Africa, Asia, and Central and South America — areas of the developing world that are currently working on their water, sanitation and hygiene strategies.
The company works with about six or seven manufacturers in the U.S. and the U.K. that make water filters, then Business Connect ships the filters to on-the-ground partners in the global south, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and social entrepreneurs, according to Darin Fey, global director at Business Connect. He said Business Connect is set up as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C) so it can redirect as much of its profit as possible to its in-country partners, who create jobs and support their local economies.
Fey, who is based in South Africa, recently spoke to the Business Journal about the company’s growth and its latest milestone — receiving global certification from the World Health Organization for the VF100 Home Filter.
Business Connect is partnering with the Bujumbura, Burundi-based NGO Amazi Water to work with the government of Burundi on its clean water goals. As a small country in eastern Africa at the northern tip of the Nile River, Burundi is working to develop a national water strategy with the goal of providing sustainable access to clean water for every Burundian community by the end of 2028.
The VF100 Home Filter is part of that strategy, Fey said. Representatives from Amazi connected with Fey at a water conference in Kenya about two years ago, and after Amazi purchased about 3,000 to 4,000 of the home filters for Burundi, the government there said it would like to see more proof the product works as indicated before implementing additional rollouts.
“The VF100 is not a new filter, but in order to accomplish Burundi’s goal and to ensure we were providing a high-quality filter on such a large scale, we wanted to do additional testing through WHO,” Fey said. “We are committed to creating hope through business and are proud to be part of the solution for Burundi.”
The VF100 Home Filter is a hollow-fiber membrane filter and the first of its kind to be certified by WHO, according to Business Connection. The filter had already helped bring clean water to over 3 million people globally prior to receiving the WHO qualification. WHO testing confirmed the filter exceeds standards for targeted protection to provide clean and safe water. Through further testing from WHO, the filter was given an additional certification that it is effective with turbid (dirty and cloudy) water.
“You can take the dirtiest river or open well water, put it through the filter, and not only will it remove all that dirt, it will also then remove all those bacteria, protozoa, etc.,” Fey said.
The VF100 has many applications, including use on buckets, bags, refrigerators, faucets and water bottles. The filter removes contaminants from water and can last for many years for an entire family, Business Connect said.
“This solution has the power to dramatically impact the lives of our citizens,” said Armel Cimanishatse, a Burundian citizen and strategic consultant for Amazi Water. “We believe our mission to provide safe access to water will do wonderful things for our country. We are grateful for partnerships like Business Connect and Amazi Water that will help us achieve this vision.”
In addition to home filtration, Business Connect offers a range of products, including 10-cent water treatment tablets that can treat a 5-gallon bucket of water; larger systems that can treat more than 10,000 gallons a day — without using electricity or chemicals — for offices, rural schools and clinics; and even has been known to link banks of filters together across rivers to clean the water source for entire cities.
A YouTube video created by a missionary family to thank Business Connect partner Water for Life, at bit.ly/WaterforLifeYouTube, shows how the VF100 Home Filters work and the impact of clean water for village families in rural India.
Fey said Business Connect recently began providing water treatment products after hurricanes polluted drinking water in Honduras, and the organization hopes to continue more of that natural disaster-related work, as well as to further expand rural development activities in Asia and South America during the next couple of years.
More information on Business Connect and its filters is available at businessconnectworld.com.
Fey said the company welcomes volunteers from West Michigan to help with packaging orders for shipping all over the world. Those interested in helping can fill out the contact form at businessconnectworld.com/contact-us.