Skip to content

Prof. Askwar Hilonga, Tanzania

Professor Askwar Hilonga invented Nanofilter®, a low-cost and sustainable water purification system particularly suited to the needs of local people in Tanzania.

Growing up in rural Tanzania, Professor Hilonga suffered from waterborne diseases throughout his childhood. He used his scientific expertise in nanotechnology and his local knowledge to develop a filter based on nanomaterials. Professor Hilonga worked with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Science and Technology to roll out his innovative water purification system to help those for whom safe drinking water was still a luxury, like it was for his family during his childhood.

Professor Hilonga says the real challenge for any water-purification system is acceptance and regular use by the community. Women have been instrumental to introducing water filtration as part of daily life in rural Tanzania. Most of the water stations where the new system is being tested are managed by women. The long term goal is to encourage water purification good practices across Tanzania and other African countries where rural populations suffer from waterborne diseases.


What does winning the Commonwealth Innovation Award mean to you/your organisation?

“Winning the Commonwealth Innovation Award will increase my innovation visibility, reputation, network, and potential to attract more customers, mentors, and sponsors for scale-up to many countries around the world. I am so grateful!”

How would you use being the recipient of this award to influence others and how would it impact your career?

“I will inspire many young innovators around the world, particularly those who are coming from underserved communities like me. I will include the award in my CV and I am confident that it will attract more awards and grants to support scale-up to other places within Tanzania and beyond.”

Kua Beng Chu and Nur Ashikin Arbi have been actively involved in aquatic animal health research focusing on parasites. Using information of marine leech parasite life cycle, they have developed Break & Protect 2 (BP2) which is able to reduce losses of marine leech infestation in farmed fish.

BP2 is currently the only physical anti-leech device, which does not involve any usage of chemicals thus reducing pollution in the environment. Placing and removing the device in and out of the cages continually over a certain fixed period helps to lower the population of marine leeches from infesting the farmed fish significantly. BP2 provides a long-term solution towards sustainability and cost savings.

The research scientists led the BP2 project at the Parasitology Laboratory of National Fish Health Research Division at Fisheries Research Institute, Department of Fisheries Malaysia.


What are your plans or what do you hope to achieve with your innovation in the next few years?

“We hope this innovation can make significant impacts in the effort to reduce the usage of chemicals and provides a long-term solution towards chemical pollution before it enters into our food chain or accumulates in the environment over the years.”

What kind of support would you like to grow your innovation from other stakeholders such government, international organisations and the business community?

“Support from government and business communities through recognition of BP2 as a fish health management tool/system could increase production yield and create a sustainable aquaculture environment. Support from international organisations and global connections will further promote BP2 as a user friendly product for producing healthy fishes and boost the aquaculture economy.”

Sustainable Development Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Jubilanté Cutting is the founder of the ‘Guyana Animation Network’, a non-profit organisation which raises awareness and advocates for youth opportunities and skills training in digital media, animation and the STEM subjects. The programme includes Digital Summer Camps, a ‘Girls in ICT’ initiative and mentorship support. The programme has trained over 300 young people in ICT and entrepreneurship, and supported critical online training in business marketing and digital skills.

Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

‘Ilaisaane Lolohea Manu is a national youth advocate and Programme Administrator and Community Liaison Officer for GO GREEN!; a youth-led community initiative creating employment opportunities through entrepreneurship and mentorship support in Tonga. The programme also provides affordable, sustainable fashion as well as encouraging fashion and design talent and ethical recycling. The programme has engaged over 1000 people through community-led outreach initiatives, provided basic work skills to hundreds of volunteers and repurposed over 1000 pieces of clothing.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education

Barbadian Taahir Bulbulia is the founder of the ‘Sports Science Society’; a student-based organisation that promotes the holistic benefits of sport and provides mentorship to at-risk youth on mental health, sports law and drug prevention. The programme has trained 30 volunteers across 10 organisations and reached 500 young people in the region, particularly helping to tackle bullying and mental health issues.

Every day, in all parts of the Commonwealth, young people are delivering a vast range of impressive innovations. Much of what they do may go unnoticed or be taken for granted. Yet, often it is what young people do which makes all the difference, especially now at a time of unimaginable human suffering inflicted by the pandemic and economic crisis.


Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being

Maselina Iuta is the Project Assistant and Founding Member of the Deaf Association of Samoa; an organisation which advocates for the development of inclusive opportunities, policies and legislation for deaf and hearing-impaired persons in Samoa. The Association’s work has assisted the inclusion of sign language and deaf interpretation in national health programming. Maselina provided sign language interpretation for the Samoan Prime Minister’s broadcast during International Week of the Deaf 2020.

Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities.

Tim Lo Surdo is the founder and national director of ‘Democracy in Colour’; a racial and economic justice organisation created to tackle structural racism and address critical civic issues facing people of colour in Australia. The programme has grown a membership of over 57,000 people and engaged over 85,000 people in advocacy and capacity-building leadership training including young people, women, and persons with disabilities.


Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger.

Bevon Chadel Charles is the founder of ‘Akata Farms’; an organisation that aims to create sustainable farms and livelihoods across the Caribbean through climate-smart agriculture. The farms operate across 100 acres providing fresh, quality goods in-person and online, and the organisation provides peer-to-peer mentorship to young people, particularly women, looking to start businesses in agriculture. 

Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

Nawa Joe Silishebo is a co-founder of ‘The Young Emerging Farmers Initiative’; which promotes and empowers young people in agribusiness and climate change action through skills training, fundraising and outreach programmes. The initiative has reached over 500,000 young people across 10 Zambian provinces in rural and urban areas and helped train 5000 youths in agribusiness, including connecting over 100 ‘agri-preneurs’ to financial support and markets.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education

Siena Castellon is the founder of ‘Neurodiversity Celebration Week’; an initiative designed to encourage schools and colleges to change the way they perceive autistic students and students with learning differences. In addition to providing practical advice on overcoming challenges at school, the programme provides free resources to help teachers better support neurodiverse students. The 2020 programme reached over 850 schools and more than 500,000 students across the world, and the online mentoring programme currently has over 1,000 global subscribers.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy

Jeremiah Thoronka is the founder of ‘Optim Energy’; a company that harnesses solar energy through innovative technology to create affordable, accessible and clear power for communities in Sierra Leone. The project has helped power over 150 households and fifteen schools in Sierra Leone at minimal cost, which has benefitted over 10,000 people, and provides best practice training on energy efficiency and conservation to the younger generation

Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation.

Ellenor McIntosh is the Bristish co-founder and inventor of ‘Twipes’; a flushable, biodegradable wet wipe made of wood pulp. Through the production and sales of Twipes, the company aims to reduce the environmental damage caused by traditional wet wipes. The product has been sold to restaurants, gyms and hotel chains across the UK and a percentage of the business profits are donated to creating clean water systems in Uganda.