Eau et Vie / Water and Life

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Eau et Vie / Water and Life: Connecting slum dwellings with water networks to improve lives

Nantes, FrancePhilippines
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP as a long term solution for clean water at home, sanitation, hygiene and fire-fighting in the urban depressed areas. 

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the poorest families in the slum areas could have an affordable access to potable water at home, rather than contaminated containers with very expensive water purchased to illegal vendors?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In slums, families are not connected to the water distributors. They are spending up to 25% of their incomes for bad quality water, stored in containers. The main water operators cannot adjust their standards to this population. They face huge water losses and illegal tapping. Authorities do not know how to include these areas in their urban plans. That is why sanitation, hygiene and fire-fighting issues are not monitored.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Eau et Vie creates social business which builds a water network, equipped each household with an individual tap (connected to an individual meter) and collects the payments at home based on micro-credit systems. Eau et Vie installs fire-hydrants, sets up brigades composed of volunteers from the community and trained by professionals. Hygiene awareness raising sessions are also provided . In partnership with local municipalities, Eau et Vie works on the waste management services: environment and waste management awareness campaigns (Neighbourhood Clean-Up Day). Communities are actively involved in the definition and setting up of the activities. Eau et Vie projects constitute a global and innovative to improve living conditions in slums.


Ashoka Fellowship, 2015
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In the urban slums, the water is most of the time sold through containers by illegal vendors. It costs 3 to 10 times more / cum than in the residential areas. Moreover, the connection fees of around 200$ payable at once, is a hindrance for the poor. So the most widespread solution is a Community Based Organisation (CBO) which will operate a public faucet. But this does not solve the issue of stored water, the waste of time, especially for women, and the conflicts of interest within the CBO in charge of the maintenance and paying the bill to the main operator. Our solution makes a big difference in the daily life since a small operator will invest in a network, with a special design, allowing each family to have a water connection at home.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Today, in 3 countries, 18,000 people have potable water in their houses. 400 families are clients of our new waste collection service in Dhaka. 260 volunteers from our areas are serving in our fire-brigades. Out of 50 staffs, 17 come directly from the slums. Our plan is to serve 80,000 people by 2017. We are starting our impact studies about health issues but most of our clients are already telling that the diarrheas have decreased a lot. Children miss less school. Some of the community leaders are also sharing that the areas are more peaceful, that they do not hear anymore the women arguing early morning around the public faucets. Women from the slum relayed that they are saving 3 hours per day, time that they can spend in an income generating- activities.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are ready with most of our manuals (operation, software, plumbing) and willing to scale up. In the Philippines, we are currently planning to expand in Manila and Cebu, starting new projects in Tacloban and Iloilo. In Bangladesh, the plan is to finalize our network in our first area in Dhaka (3,000 families). We are already targeting new areas with potential in Chittagong. The municipality and the water operator are welcoming us. We have also started in Ivory Coast and are finalizing our talks with the local authorities and the water operator.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We plan to increase our volumes per family, and the number of clients so as to reach our breakeven by 2017. After 5 years, we plan that the social business could partly subsidize the services delivered by the NGO. We also plan to scale up with new partners such as World Bank, UNDP, the French or Dutch Cooperation.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

As described above, the CBO (community faucets) are addressing the problem. But this is most of the time inefficient in the long term, as confirmed by Hydroconseil, a consulting firm specialized in water and sanitation in the developing countries, which has audited the sustainability of our projects in 2014. The UNDP in Dhaka wanted to work with us. SO far, we are the only one to work in urban areas, which such an adapted and global approach which has a great impact on the beneficiaries, the local authorities and the water operators.

Founding Story

Our innovation is a fruit of our previous experiences in micro-lending (3 years in the Philippines managing an MFI), community organizing and plumbing (10 years in France to run an integration business in plumbing). During my first experience in the Philippines, I also had the opportunity to spend time with the families in the slums and live with them. There I have realized that water was so expensive. In 2008, when I was trekking with my wife along the coast in Brittany, the puzzle of experiences became suddenly clear: we could dream of a sustainable solution for a cheaper water at home for the poorest families in the urban areas of developing countries.


We are 5 persons in France (management, fund raising, finance, communication, operation follow-up, softwares), and 50 in our 3 areas (expat program managers in team with local managers and local staff: branch managers, finance, HR, encoders, collectors, plumbers, social workers). Out of the local team, 17 come directly from the slums.
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

Almost 90% of the families in each area are willing to sign a contract with Eau et Vie. Our outreach and daily relationships with the families through water issues enable us to know their needs, to spread messages and to mobilize the communities for other projects, adapted to their needs. We also develop partnerships with the local health centers. Besides, we organize regular hygiene trainings, especially for children and women (handwashing day, focus groups). It could be interesting for BI to benefit from a deep knowledge of the medical need of urban poor communities and adapt their products and services so as to define a sustainable solution for this increasing population in the cities.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Distribution Channels, Research and Development, Specific Disease Expertise, Relationships/New Contacts, Marketing/Communications Support, Human Resources, Technology Expertise, Public Policy Knowledge, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

Running potable water directly at home improves the living conditions of the people living in slum areas. The impact regarding health is complete with a complementary and appropriate hygiene and health care. Therefore, the partnerships with BI thanks to its medical knowledge and products can double the impacts.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Deep understanding of an unmet need in a specific market/context, Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into pricing and financing of health products/services, Insights into marketing, Insights into distribution, Insights into behavior change.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Improving the affordability of healthcare (e.g., microinsurance, reducing the economic cost of care), Holistic solutions that work across the entire care continuum (including education, prevention, detection, treatment, management, follow-up), Remote care solutions for health management, treatment, and diagnosis.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together

In the slums, there is a high incidence of diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure, within the communities Eau et Vie works in. Also, many individuals suffer from respiratory illnesses do to conditions created from cooking indoors with coal-burning stoves. These respiratory illnesses are intensified by a high instance of smoking. In response to these issues, Eau et Vie will benefit from BI’s experiences, competencies in pharmaceutical sector to improve the health conditions of dwellers. BI will provide to the communities adapted services and products. This partnership between social and business sector will permit to identify healthcare adaptations in urban areas.

Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

a new service, a new distribution channel, a new market/customer group.

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea

While serving quality water to people directly at home, Eau et Vie is already a major actor in health. BI and Eau et Vie are combining their deep knowledge of the pharmaceutical sector and medical need of urban poor communities to find a sustainable solution to health problems in poor urban areas. BI and Eau et Vie designed a co-creation idea whose purpose is to facilitate the access to pharmaceutical products and services to the slum communities.

How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?

Eau et Vie projects constitute a global approach to improve living conditions in slums, from water access to waste management, including hygiene and environment awareness raising actions. Eau et Vie works hand in hand with communities, in partnership with local authorities and local and international development stakeholders. Eau et Vie remains in a partner community for at least 10 -15 years.
These relationships are long standing and sustainable which is very much aligned with the core values of BI as a family owned business, which prioritizes legacy and sustainable growth for the future.

Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?

This project links to BI’s core business in areas of overlap for pharmaceutical services including:
○ Diabetes, Hypertension and High blood pressure
○ COPD and Respiratory Illness
BI is also developing toilet complex in the slums, where beneficiaries can buy basic toiletries.
Eau et Vie could benefit from BI's knowledge in the pharmaceutical sector and health.

What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?

Eau et Vie Eau et vie uses a micro-credit methodology to provide customers with:
○ Financial discipline – enabling customer groups to obtain water services through a market structure rather than just purely charitable
○ Education – In order to improve sanitation and health practices
○ Reduced physical burden – By training teams of firefighters to address basic security needs, allowing communities to focus secondary needs
○ Inclusion - Communities are not just customers they are involved in the entire design and implementation of projects as active contributors.
Bi will adapt Eau et Vie’s microcredit solutions to identify healthcare adaptation and provide healthcare and pharmaceutical services to communities.
Eau et Vie will also contribute to create public-private partnerships between social and business sector. Eau et Vie has established experience in this area and could be a good partner to work within designing how this works.

BI has partner NGO’s and networks in the Philippines that work primarily in health and sanitation.
Boehringer Ingelheim will contribute to introduce Eau et Vie to these partner NGO’s to explore collaborative opportunities from a CSR standpoint. BI will also introduce Eau et Vie to potential investors.

Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.

In slums, population is increasing quite quieckly. It's a growing market for BI. People in poor urban areas are solvent because they already buy medecine at a very exensive price. BI could propose some products adapted to their living standards or payment facilities.
Eau et Vie will be using impact studies with a large data base to find out the best point of sales for BI products. The impact studies already showed that the toilett complex is a strategic place to spread health messages and where BI could be visible. It also helps ta create a climate of closeness and proximity.

What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?

The project has to be adapted to the needs and the way of life of the community. Inhabitants have to be involved in the project for its success. Some regular community buildings and activities will be organized. Some political obstacles can exist, that is why Eau et Vie makes partnership with the authorities. They are also involved in implementing the program. Projects are implemented in slums, areas exposed to risks of natural desasters and fires. Eau et Vie has installed fire-hydrants and frequent fire trainings and prevention are organied. Also, natural disaster are taken into account in the setting-up of the constructions.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?

BI employees and executives will be part of the project from the beginning. A field mission will be planned in April in the Philippines to visit Eau et Vie’s project and meet the team. The local teams of BI could be also involved in the different trainings or activities such as global handwashing days, clean-up days

How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

I’d like to implement together, I mostly need strategic advice.

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?

To provide full health services, it could be a great opportunity to be partners with companies in the insurance sector and NGO specialised in micro-insurance activities. To prevent risks of diabetes or other diseases due to a poor diet, we could also build partnership with the nutritional sector.