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Pure Living - saving lives with clean water


Photo: Agnes Nygren

Pure Living mitigates the effects of droughts by introducing affordable and long lasting water purifiers.

Yahye Yousef was at home in Sweden when the headlines of the cholera outbreak reached the news. Two weeks later he had started planting the seed to his company Pure Living. His business deals with water purifier of different sizes; working completely without chemicals and only requires a change of filter every four year.

"My family thought I was mad going to Somaliland. They wondered what I was to do there and scared that I too would die of cholera, Yahye laughs."

Being unemployed in Sweden, Somalia struck by a cholera outbreak and a business idea which could save lives were factors that brought him to the Forum Syd programme Sweden Somali Business Programme (SSBP).

SSBP works to support Somali diaspora in their entrepreneurship which can contribute to job creation and a private sector guided by ethical concerns for human rights, climate and environment. From the onset, SSBP saw great potential in Yahye’s idea. But it is one thing to have a business idea and it is yet another to implement it.

I knew very little of Somaliland and how to deal with government departments, how the clan system worked in the market and so on.

"It certainly hasn’t been easy. I started with nothing. My car functioned as my sales and admin office as well as equipment storage. I knew very little of Somaliland and how to deal with government departments, how the clan system worked in the market and so on. SSBP has helped me navigate through some of the legal frameworks, but culture and social frameworks I’ve had to figure out largely by myself."

Yahye echoes what many SSBP participants seem to experience. It isn’t the grant that is the programme’s biggest advantage. It is the business mentorship and local support they receive when trying to maneuver in a country where much legislation and regulation is still being drafted.   

"Without contacts you will get nowhere here. Society here is governed by trust. No one will trust your product, but will trust the person who introduces it. For example, it took me nine days to register my company. Had I done it today with everything that I’ve learned the past 9 months of living here it would take me two hours."

It is an impressive journey. The business has grown from one man with a car to an office in central Hargeisa with 11 employees and expansion plans scheduled for Mogadishu. Pure Living’s main customers are international NGO’s operating to mitigate effects of drought, water scarcity and internally displaced people. So far they have sold 7,400 water purifiers.

"There is no one else on the market that provides something that purifies water without the use of chemicals. When there is an outbreak, people would buy or be handed pills or chlorine by NGOs. When they leave the pills will run out. Our filters allow communities to purify water for four years to a fraction of the price the other means costs. After four years only the filter needs replacement, the rest of the tool will keep functioning."

The cholera outbreak is now under control but threats of new outbreaks is however a constant. Cholera is caused by bacteria in water that causes diarrhea followed by severe and sometimes deadly dehydration.

Leila Mohamed is Pure Living’s admin and finance officer:

"Using pills or chlorine to kill the bacteria in water are the most common methods. Apart from the inconsistent supply of chemicals that clean water, there can also be severe side effects to, for example, chlorine. Use too much and it can cause all sorts of lung and throat illness, such as bronchitis or even pneumonia, Leila narrates."

As Leila speaks, Yahye smiles and then states the obvious, not without pride in his voice:   

"Everyone in my team has a specific title but I try to involve everyone in the whole chain of the business. Before Leila joined the team she was a public health lecturer. Everyone does a whole lot more than their titles define."

The atmosphere in the office of Pure Living is indeed characterized by the Swedish saying the ceiling is high, meaning people are free to speak their minds and add their experiences which builds togetherness, trust and creativity.

It is more than a business being built here. It is a project that aims to save lives, to improve public health and to provide local solutions to local problems. Sales, Marketing and HR officer Mustafa Abdullahi present his personal experience thus far:

"I used to be a social activist, volunteering to uplift my society. Today I do the same, I work for social and health development but with the difference that I now get paid! Our manager is active, social and flexible and that is what the diaspora brings –new approaches to work and development."

As the company is managing to increase its market share, Yahye has also made sure to incorporate the societal commitment from the onset.

We have decided that five per cent of the profit will go to donations.

We have decided that five per cent of the profit will go to donations. We have already delivered the biggest sized purifier to several disadvantaged communities.

Facts in short

  • 11 employments created and counting
  • Water purified for 60 US dollars per 4 years versus 40 dollar per 4 months using pills or chlorine
  • 5% profit goes to donating water purifiers to disadvantaged communities
  • Mentor students for work experience and possible employment at Pure Living

We create opportunities for
sustainable livelihoods and
inclusive development in Somalia