St. Olaf College | News

Student’s entrepreneurial project brings water to Nigerian village

St. Olaf student Joseph Adedigba ’14 (center) used an entrepreneurial grant from the Piper Center for Vocation and Career to build a well in his hometown of Saki, Nigeria. Next to him are the community’s leader and one of the women employed as a water attendant.

The summer after his sophomore year at St. Olaf College, Joseph Adedigba ’14 landed a position researching polymer chemistry at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

It was interesting work, but he became impatient.

“I didn’t want to wait until I had finished school in order to help people,” says Adedigba, a chemistry major who plans to attend medical school. “So I started to look at my options.”

Working with St. Olaf Professor of Biology Anne Walter, Adedigba developed a plan to build a water well in his hometown of Saki, Nigeria — a seemingly simple resource that he knew would have a significant impact on local residents.

The business proposal won a Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, which Adedigba used to set his plan into motion.

Today the well, which is fed by a self-sustaining natural water source, serves more than 2,500 residents in the Ajegunl neighborhood in Saki. Having a reliable well means locals no longer need to make long treks to find clean water.

Residents pay a nominal fee for each gallon of water they draw, and the small profit generated supports well maintenance. The business also employs local women as water attendants.

“The first time we tried the pump and water appeared, that was the happiest moment of all,” Adedigba says. “I knew then that I was going to be able to pull this off and really help my community.”

He hopes that over time, the project will generate enough profit to construct a second well in a neighboring community.

‘Business with a mission’
The Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant program awards funding to St. Olaf students who develop a sustainable business plan for a for-profit venture. Students work with coaches in the Piper Center for Vocation and Career to develop a business plan and then pitch their project to a committee of faculty, staff, and area business owners for consideration. Grantees can be awarded up to $3,000.

“We first and foremost look to plans that are sustainable and for-profit,” says Piper Center Associate Director for Entrepreneurship Roberto Zayas. “After that, we fully support business with a mission. Social entrepreneurship, like Joe’s project, is especially appealing in its ability to garner profit in a way that directly impacts the community.”

Past grantees have utilized the funding to create a student thrift shop, develop a popular line of natural frozen gourmet treats, educate Nepalese students about the Holocaust, and even bring wireless internet to rural homes in Minnesota.