In the wake of the January 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, most water-related infrastructure was destroyed. Additionally, a devastating cholera outbreak started in October 2010, making most of the available water unsafe to drink. By April 2013, cholera had killed about 7,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands more.
In response to these tragedies, DLO Haiti, Inc. (DLO), an innovative water purification and distribution business, was founded in 2013 with the goal of developing a sustainable and scalable model to access clean water in Haiti.
DLO’s distribution hubs consist of “off-grid” water treatment centers that produce clean water sold directly to walk-in customers from the surrounding communities or delivered to local small resellers. Because demand for clean water is ubiquitous, the distribution of this highly valued commodity is an effective entry point. Small vendors are eager to sell clean water and the logistics for the distribution of water also provides consumer goods to the same small vendors. By integrating decentralized water infrastructure with last-mile logistics supported by lean and easy to use mobile technology, DLO aims to increase cost-efficiency and profitability for both.
DLO builds and operates local, community-scale water treatment centers (i.e. water kiosks) in rural and peri-urban areas throughout Haiti. These kiosks provide safe purified drinking water (DLO’s brand, “Ovive”) to low-income Haitians at a price below the lowest priced alternative for treated water. DLO’s kiosks also act as distribution points for a variety of essential consumer goods, such as soap, toilet paper, and powdered milk, which are usually unavailable to these populations. This last-mile distribution network improves the value chain for micro-businesses and consumers in underserved areas, giving hard-to-serve communities access to basic needs consumer goods.
Today, DLO distributes more than 14,000 gallons of clean drinking water per day, serving more than 35,000 daily discrete beneficiaries across eight different areas throughout Haiti. The company serves a distribution network of about 800 resellers, who in combination with DLO conduct about 80,000 transactions with consumers on a monthly basis. The vast majority of DLO’s consumers and beneficiaries earn less than $2 per day. The company has already created more than 100 stable jobs in Haiti, most of them in isolated communities where kiosks are operated. DLO also runs an additional philanthropic program — “DLO Lekol Pam” — which provides free clean water to about 150 schools serving more than 15,000 students.
MCE Social Capital’s loan of $300,000 to DLO will allow the company to increase its water purification and distribution capabilities, as well as support the expansion of its consumer goods operations. With this loan, DLO will be able to invest in more water purification equipment and eliminate certain production bottlenecks, potentially allowing DLO to double its current production capacity and reach an additional 30,000 discrete beneficiaries.