This profile was prepared when Ako Amadi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Ako's idea begins with the conviction, borne of extensive experience and education, that an adequate water supply is fundamental to any country's development. Without water there can be no successful and sustainable social, economic, or environmental initiatives. Available water, then, should be the greatest priority of all development efforts. Ako is convinced that the acute water shortages which plague poor communities during Nigeria's dry season are unnecessary. Through an organization he founded, Ako is revolutionizing the rural water supply system by harvesting water during the wet season for use during the dry season. His water collection and storage tank system, which includes the use of water hyacinths and lilies for microfiltration, ensures water supplies adequate for both domestic use and economic development. The idea behind the system is simple and requires only basic technology. Most of the required labor is provided directly by the community, thereby making Ako's program an inexpensive yet highly effective community water supply system. This idea is new because it is the first time rainwater has been harvested on a large scale anywhere in Nigeria. In typical rainwater harvesting, families use buckets and pans to collect water, and the supply is exhausted even before the rains are over. There is no adequate system by which local people can collectively store rainwater over a long period of time. Most significantly, in the process of helping communities secure water, Ako is addressing an array of critical social, economic, and environmental issues. With minor alterations, Ako's water-harvesting system can also benefit the more arid northern regions of Nigeria, as well as other places where lack of adequate water causes severe obstacles to the health and well-being of local people.