How This Kenyan Woman Developed A Technology That Harvests Water From The Air To Solve Water Scarcity In Kenya – The Inspiring Story of Beth Koigi

When Beth Koigi moved into her university hostel in Eastern Kenya, she was terribly puzzled that the water coming out of the tap was filthy, smelly, and infested with bacteria. Within her immediate stay, she built her first filter and was selling some to others. The drought-hit in 2016 and water restrictions saw Koigi’s access to water completely turned off. She began carving a nexus between water scarcity and its relation to climate change.

Going for months without any tap water became a very bad situation,” she says. “Where I used to live, we didn’t get any tap water at all, so even doing simple things like going to the toilet – I would go to the mall instead. Having no water at all is worse than just having unpurified water, so I started thinking about a way to not have to rely on the council.”

Beth Koigi is a native of Kimende, a settlement in Kenya’s Central Province, Kiambu County.

Koigi merited a Bachelor of Science in Community Development, Project Planning and Management from Chuka University, Kenya (Class of 2013), and a Masters in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi (Class of 2017).She became the founder of Aqua Clean Initiative in 2013. Beth Koigi was awarded the Young Water Fellowship in September 2018 and has been a current associate fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Nordic-Baltic Hub since April 2015. Furthermore, Koigi is a Grant Advisor for The Pollination Project since December 2015.MAJIK WATERWhile on a four-month programme at the Silicon Valley-based think tank Singularity University, Koigi partnered with two other women – American environmental scientist Anastasia Kaschenko and British economist Clare Sewell – to create Majik Water. The device captures water from the air and converts it into drinking water using solar technology.The brilliant piece of device won first prize in 2019 at the EDF Africa awards. Kaschenko believes that Majik Water could provide a solution for the 1.8 billion people predicted to have a shortage of water by 2025.

“There’s an interesting relationship between climate change and the water in the atmosphere,” she says.

“There’s six times more water in the air than in all the rivers in the world. With every 1 Fahrenheit increase in temperature, water begins to evaporate on the ground but increases by about 4% in the atmosphere, and that’s water that’s not being tapped.”

Majik Water is coined from the Swahili maji for water and “k” for kuna (harvest) – uses desiccants (a hygroscopic substance used as a drying agent) such as silica gels to draw water from the air. The gels are then heated up with solar power to release the water. The system can generate up to 10 litres of filtered water per day, with the team hoping to match up to 100-litre systems at a cost of only £0.08 per 10 litres.

The solar panels used for the prototype are the most expensive input on the device, says Koigi, who is looking for ways to drive those costs down.

Photo of the Majik Water System

Majik Water is now a 6-figure revenue business and has expanded its portfolio to include technologies with bigger capacity.

Koigi was a shortlisted contender for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa prize 2019. She appeared at TEDxFasoKanu in 2019.