"When Gayatri Datar and some of her classmates from Stanford University
traveled to Rwanda for a course on entrepreneurial design for extreme
affordability, they encountered a country where around 75% of the population
lived on dirt floors. Coughing was common from dust clouds formed during
sweeping. Rain filled houses with mud and insects. And fecal matter, from
humans and animals, was often on the ground.
“It was not only a challenge for health, but also for comfort and dignity,”
said Datar, who used that 2013 class as a springboard to start a business that
builds floors for rural Rwandans and Ugandans.
The organization, EarthEnable, added almost 3,600 new floors in the 12 months
through July, bringing its total number of floors built to just shy of 11,000.
It plans to expand the number of districts where it operates in the two
countries in 2022, as well as add to the 181 people it employs in its hybrid
structure of being nonprofit in the U.S. and running the local businesses with
a for-profit model.
For Datar and other activists focused on extreme poverty, floor replacement is
a fast and cost-effective way of improving living conditions and public health,
especially for children. Nevertheless, there are still only a handful of these
efforts throughout the globe. That’s despite there being more than a billion
people living in “informal settlements” with dirt floors, according to a 2015
analysis from Oxford University’s Poverty & Human Development Initiative.
While earlier public health programs focused on replacing dirt floors with
concrete, EarthEnable sought out an alternative that wouldn’t create as many
greenhouse gas emissions as producing concrete. Datar teamed up with her former
classmate, Rick Zuzow, who studied biochemistry and was her co-founder in
starting the organization. Zuzow created a flaxseed oil that, when poured over
an earthen floor, dries to form a plastic-like, waterproof and sustainable
resin that glues the surface together. The flaxseed is currently imported from
India, but EarthEnable is planning to harvest it in Kenya to keep the entire
project more local."
Via Reasons to be Cheerful:
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics