Simple, but brilliant: plaudits for innovators

It is quicker and simpler than testing PH levels in a swimming pool

Dr Bonga Zuma was part of the research team that developed the Aqua Test
Dr Bonga Zuma was part of the research team that developed the Aqua Test
Image: Supplied

It is quicker and simpler than testing PH levels in a swimming pool, yet the Aqua Test has the potential to save thousands from contracting water-borne diseases while creating jobs and conserving water resources.

East London-based Aqua Test is one of two innovative Eastern Cape ventures reaping the rewards of success in last year’s edition of the SAB Foundation’s Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards.

The awards programme can earn successful participants between R150 000 and R1.3-million in prize money, along with a year’s support – which includes mentorships.

To date, the programme has invested in 114 social entrepreneurs and their innovations, with a total investment of more than R44-million.

These 114 beneficiaries have seen a collective turnover increase of 245% and job growth of 167%.

Describing the Aqua Test kit as a faecal-contamination screening technique for drinking water, Dr Bonga Zuma, of Lugaju Innovations, said the test was developed due to the necessity for clean drinking water, particularly in rural areas.

“It is a simple, rapid and inexpensive screening test for rural water supplies, rivers and streams without a need for a laboratory,” he said.

“It is a low-cost method with a colour change which is easy to read and can be used by minimally trained people.
“Besides the actual test, we train community members to conduct the testing, which gives us data on the state of water bodies, and these community members in turn then educate their communities about water.

“There is a huge market for this, ranging from farmers who would like to test their boreholes to schools and clinics in rural areas.

“Naturally this helps to prevent people from drinking contaminated water and getting sick.”

Zuma said the foundation prize money was playing a valuable role in developing the concept further and making it commercially viable.

Ivili Loboya, a cashmere production initiative based in the Butterworth area, is the second 2017 award winner in the Eastern Cape.

The company, which is at the forefront of South Africa’s fledgling cashmere production industry, is building on the discovery by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of a second strain of fibre produced by an indigenous goat, the Mbuzi, in winter, and which is equivalent to Chinese cashmere.

With assistance from the CSIR, it is developing and processing the fibre at its cashmere and wool manufacturing hub. The fibres are sourced from Eastern Cape farmers.

The company also trains and works with rural enterprises to weave, knit and sew cashmere yarns into textiles and finished products for sale in both local and international markets.

Entries for the 8th SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards are open until April 23.