A filtering system to purify water exclusively with solar energy has earned social entrepreneur Anna Luisa Beserra, 21, from Bahia, the Champions of the Earth Award, of the United Nations (UN) Environment. It is the first time a Brazilian national wins the accolade.
The idea behind the project, dubbed Aqualuz, came about when Anna Luisa was still a high school student and saw the poster for the Young Scientist Award, of the National Scientific and Technological Development Council, which has a category devoted to school students. The subject that year was Water: Challenges facing Society. “I wanted to think of a project that could solve of the biggest problems assailing the semi-arid region,” Beserra pointed out.
At the time, the student joined the competition, but failed to win. Later on, when she was admitted to study biotechnology at the Federal University of Bahia, she decided find ways to bring it to fruition. “I started to consider entrepreneurship and the potential behind the idea.”
The Aqualuz initiative
Here is how Aqualuz operates: A filtering system purifies rainwater collected in cisterns in rural areas by means of sunlight and a gauge that changes its color to indicate consumption is safe. The water is disinfected without the use of chemical substances, like chlorine.
The apparatus is a low-cost invention, easy to use, and may last up to 20 years. Even though it has only been tested in Brazil, the system may be used in several countries. Aqualuz has brought drinking water to 265 people and is set to reach another 700 this year, according to UN News.
A spur to entrepreneurship
The UN Young Champions of the Earth Award will be handed to Beserra and six other winners in New York on Tuesday (Sep 24), during the UN General Assembly.
Created in 2017, the accolade is aimed at young people aged 18 through 30. This year, each recipient will receive $15 thousand as funding to invest in their project and $9 thousand to go into communication and marketing, in addition to tutorship and invitations to global events.
This is the first time Brazil stands out in the competition. In 2019, of nearly a thousand applications submitted from all over the world, 158 were in Brazil. In addition to Beserra, three Brazilian girls are among the 35 to make it to the final.
Denise Hamú, representative for UN Environment in Brazil, said the goal is to encourage young people to devise innovative environmental projects. “Young people can often see problems that are invisible to everybody else. These changes don’t have to be complicated. A simple idea may be the path to impressive solutions,” she argued.