Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Building Resilience in East Africa

In June we visited the Mwingi district of Eastern Kenya, piloting the first Midomo water purifiers. Mwingi is a few hours drive East of Nairobi on the dusty road to Garissa. It’s a small town of 10,000 people that serves as a service stop for the Somali truckers who race khat harvests from farms in western Kenya over the border to sell fresh in Somalia.

Typical of much of Eastern Kenya, the Mwingi district is a semi-arid rural area with a high level of poverty. Many people rely on agriculture for both sustenance and a daily wage, which leaves families vulnerable to a climate that grows increasingly unpredictable. A recent study of communities in the district found that 80% of people do not use an improved source of potable water and the same proportion do not have adequate sanitation facilities.

Farmers in Mwingi are used to dry conditions, however in recent years rainfall has become even more scarce. Looking out over a depleted watering hole made by damming a small stream with earth, a local farmer told me that the April rains – which usually bring a month of daily downpours – this year lasted just two days. But in Mwingi, despite the ongoing drought crops are still grown with surprising success. Farmers have moved from growing maize (made popular by Western diets) to drought-resistant crops such as green grams, cow peas, sorghum and millet. 6,000 farmers in Mwingi are part of an agricultural resilience programme being run by FARM Africa, which teaches techniques for increasing water efficiency and growing a range of drought-resistant crops. The scheme additionally supports pastoralists by supplying seeds and equipment.

FARM-Africa is a British NGO founded in 1985 and now working across eastern Africa. It promises to be an extremely good partner for RBD in terms of their approach to the development of rural independence. They recognize that while 80% of Africans survive on the produce of their own smallholdings, it is here – in small, often isolated rural communities – that agricultural development is best directed. Working with smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and forest communities, FARM-Africa aims to develop skills and resources. In so doing, they enable locals to grow more food, keep their livestock healthy, and manage their natural resources in a sustainable way. The dryland farming projects that FARM-Africa are facilitating in Mwingi – including the introduction of drip-irrigation systems and water-saving techniques such as the zai pit – are increasingly important as the climate in eastern Africa becomes ever more unreliable.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

SIX Magazine- ‘Change a life with the Midomo Bracelet’

“The Midomo Bracelet was born out of Red Button Design’s collaboration with jewellery designer Alex Monroe and is a unique piece of jewellery which has been thoughtfully designed to help change lives”

So runs the opening paragraph of an online article of one of RBD’s favourite magazines: SIX. SIX was founded with the mission to celebrate the designers, individuals, independent brands and companies who are creating a more ethical and sustainable future for the fashion industry. The people at SIX believe that all fashion should have style and value, so the Midomo Bracelet, each of which sponsors a Midomo unit, was a natural fit.
At Red Button we hope that the popularity of magazines like SIX is a sign that consumers are becoming increasingly conscientious and demanding ‘value’ for money in every sense. We also think that £275 for a beautiful, hand-crafted, sterling silver bracelet, which also provides an African family with safe water is a pretty amazing deal.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

RBD returns to BBC 2’s “The Dragons’ Den”!

Red Button Design will be returning to ‘The Den’ and your TV screens on Wed 28th Sept!

The new series “How To Win In The Den” will bring viewers up to date with RBD’s progress and showcase the Midomo water-purifiers at their most advanced stage of development. The units will at last be shown out in a community in Eastern Kenya doing what they were designed to do; providing locally managed, environmentally neutral, safe drinking water.

Directors Amanda Jones and James Brown will also be interviewed on the triumphs and tribulations they have experienced along their 4 year journey.

The episode will air in a fortnight: Wednesday 28th September, BBC2 8pm Scotland /9pm England

EDIT: check for regional variations / repeats via the listing

In the mean time, you can catch up with us on
and, for real-time communication, on twitter:
@RedButtonDesign and @MidomoBracelet

Monday, 12 September 2011

Midomo Bracelet on Boticca's Style Hunters' Diary

In our last blog we mentioned how we were receiving quite a run of media attention lately, and this is looking to be more a marathon than a sprint!
Our latest piece of press, however, comes with the added bonus of a discount code..

Boticca is an online boutique for unique jewellery and fashion accessories by the most exciting emerging designers from around the world. Their blog, 'Style Hunters’ Diary' showcases their global inspirations. As their website has a dedicated section for ethical designers, the people at Bottica were particularly taken with the Midomo Bracelet, which donates a Midomo water purifier to Africa with every sale.

To say thank you for telling their huge, devoted following about us, we gave them the discount code, ‘BOTICCA’ for 10% off at

There are some beautiful accessories on Boticca, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. In fact, some of those bangles would complement a Midomo Bracelet perfectly…

Monday, 5 September 2011

Kind words..

The Midomo Bracelet featuring in the ‘Stuff we Love’ section of School for Startups is just the latest in a recent run of media attention for Red Button Design. Here’s our five favourite pieces of current press, for your browsing pleasure.

1. Doug Richard’s School for Startups: The Midomo Bracelet initiative is described as ‘intuitive, ambitious and visionary’ and ‘the perfect gift for an enterprising woman.’

2. BSSEC blog: The Birmingham and Solihull Social Economy Consortium wrote an article on the successful implementation of the first Midomos in Mwingi, which were funded by the Midomo Bracelet Initiative.

3. Director magazine: Red Button’s CEO, Amanda, was interviewed on the topic of frugal innovation. She said of Midomo, ‘everything about it came down to needs, not wants’

4. Trendhunter: ‘The successful Midomo launch in Mwingi, Kenya goes to show that humanitarian product design coupled with grassroots initiatives can have buoyant results without disrupting a community’s livelihood and way of life.’

5. Elevator: Red Button Design in a double page spread that describes Midomo as ‘an extraordinarily effective solution ..that could very quickly change the lives of millions of people,’