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These basket-like, towering design marvels are showing up in the deserts of Northern Ethiopia, where village women and children walk for hours every day just to obtain water for their homes. Architecture and Vision, an international design collaboration firm, has made a habit of developing gorgeous answers to difficult life questions. The WarkaWater towers, named for a revered and endangered African tree species, are a viable answer to water scarcity in a harsh region.

The towers are super high tech in design, but, wonderfully, can be built by local communities with materials sourced from the region, requiring no special tools or power. A team of five or six workers, without machinery, can assemble the airy but durable bamboo structure. Within the vase-like tower is a special nylon-like mesh lining that is able to harvest potable water from the atmosphere via condensation—up to 30 or 40 liters per night (in the range of 8-10 gallons). Easy to place around areas without needing any supplemental structure or services, this invention can radically alter the health and well-being of entire villages, making life in the arid desert less punishing.

The creators, Architecture and Vision, have also developed and planned prototypes for projects as diverse as a solar race car, jewelry, air purifiers, furniture, and "MoonVille," a lunar village. It is truly inspiring when you don't have to choose between form and incredible, innovative function.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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