Category Archives: Africa

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda. CitiScope, Oct 20 2016.

Good urban planning can’t happen without a better understanding of informal settlements, advocates say.

Earlier this year, when the Liberian government wanted to demolish informal housing in the West Point section of Monrovia, local community members had a strong argument to dissuade them.


West Point, Monrovia. (Nick Fraser/flickr/cc)

Thanks to a slum profiling initiative done the previous year through Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the community knew that many of West Point’s rudimentary, wooden toilets — so-called “hanging toilets” because of how they are built over the water — were located where the demolitions would take place. The toilets likely would get destroyed too.

Destroying the toilets, they argued, would pose a public health threat.

“That was where we came with our data and said ‘no’,” recalls Bill Jlateh Harris, of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, who lives in West Point. “If you take away [toilets] you expose us to open defecation and disease outbreaks. We appealed to them, using our documents, to stop the demolition exercise. It worked. Those structures are still there, in fact. They were not touched.”

The data community members collected in West Point includes information about the number of taps and toilets in the area, as well as population figures. It is available online through the “Know Your City” campaign, a data initiative from Shack/Slum Dwellers international that provides community-generated data from more than 7,700 communities in 224 cities.

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Dying for a pee – Cape Town’s slum residents battle for sanitation

Dying for a pee – Cape Town’s slum residents battle for sanitation | Source: Reuters, Oct 12 2016 |

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen in this picture taken October 4, 2016. Picture taken October 4, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Johnny Miller

CAPE TOWN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Siphesihle Mbango was just six years old when her friend, Asenathi, begged her to go with her to the toilet then ran outside alone – and was never seen again.

Now 12, Mbango tells the story with an intense, unflinching gaze but her hands, fidgeting nervously as she speaks, show the trauma is still raw.

“We were at the crèche and she wanted me to go with her,” but I told her I was busy, I was playing, I didn’t want to go and she went out by herself,” she said, at her home in a Cape Town slum.

“It was a long time she was away and when the teachers asked me, I told them she went to the toilet. They looked and looked for her for a long, long time. But then we lost hope. We never saw her again.”

Mbango shares a one-room shack with her grandmother and two younger siblings in Endlovisi, a vast sprawl of more than 6,600 corrugated iron shacks perched precariously over the sand dunes on the southeastern edge of the South African city.

Part of Khayelitsha, one of the world’s five biggest slums, Endlovini is home to an estimated 20,000 people who share just 380 or so communal toilets.

However, the family live in an area where there are no easily accessible toilets at all – and according to the community, residents have literally been dying for a pee.

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Don’t think of treatment plants: building factories to meet the sanitation SDGs

Rwanda  - Pivot fecal sludge treatment 1

Pivot Works factory in Kigali, Rwanda. From left to right: Fecal sludge receiving tank, flocculation tanks, mechanical dewatering machine. Photo: Ashley Muspratt

4,900 days from now, in 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals will expire.  If that feels like a long time, consider the work ahead.  And by work, I dare not attempt to wrap my head around all 17 goals; I refer specifically to the WASH goal – SDG #6 – and even more specifically to the sanitation targets.

From my admittedly invested perch – I run a sanitation company – the most exciting thing about transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs is the belated inclusion of treatment.  There’s finally recognition that “improved sanitation” without treatment is not improved sanitation.  The WASH community’s new mandate: “halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally” (SDG 6.3).  But consider that the urban population still requiring “safely managed sanitation” today stands at 3.214 billion [1]. Serving them entails expanding safe management, i.e., some form of treatment, to 625,000 people each day for the next 4,900 days.  That’s basically a city a day.

How can we achieve such a massive expansion of safe fecal sludge and wastewater management?  For starters, let’s stop building treatment plants. Heresy? There’s a better way.

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Poor sanitation cost global economy US$ 223 billion in 2015

True cost poor sanitation cover

Lack of access to sanitation cost the global economy US$222.9 billion in 2015, up from US$182.5 billion in 2010, a rise of 22% in just five years, according to a new report released on 25 August 2016 by LIXIL Group Corporation (“LIXIL Group”), a global leader in housing and building materials, products and services.

The true cost of poor sanitation, published in collaboration with WaterAid and Oxford Economics, which conducted economic modeling to develop up-to-date estimations of the global cost of poor sanitation, brings to light the high economic burden in low-income and lower-middle income countries.

More than half (55%) of all costs of poor sanitation are a consequence of premature deaths, rising to 75% in Africa. A further quarter are due to treating related diseases, and other costs are related to lower productivity as a result of illnesses and time lost due to lack of access to a private toilet.

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USAID – Eco-fuel Africa: charcoal from agricultural waste

Published on Apr 13, 2016

Eco-fuel Africa is a social enterprise determined to eradicate over dependence on wood-fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa by making organic charcoal from agricultural waste. Eco-fuel Africa invented a simple, manual machine that converts agricultural waste into fuel briquettes that burn longer, cleaner and are 20 percent cheaper than wood fuel.

Adopt or Adapt: Sanitation Technology Choices in Urbanizing Malawi

Adopt or Adapt: Sanitation Technology Choices in Urbanizing Malawi | PloS One, Aug 2016.

Authors: Richard M. Chunga , Jeroen H. J. Ensink, Marion W. Jenkins, Joe Brown

This paper presents the results of a mixed-methods study examining adaptation strategies that property owners in low-income, rapidly urbanizing areas in Malawi adopt to address the limitations of pit latrines, the most common method of disposing human excreta.

A particular challenge is lack of space for constructing new latrines as population density increases: traditional practice has been to cap full pits and simply move to a new site, but increasing demands on space require new approaches to extend the service life of latrines.

In this context, we collected data on sanitation technology choices from January to September 2013 through 48 in-depth interviews and a stated preference survey targeting 1,300 property owners from 27 low-income urban areas.

Results showed that property owners with concern about space for replacing pit latrines were 1.8 times more likely to select pit emptying service over the construction of new pit latrines with a slab floor (p = 0.02) but there was no significant association between concern about space for replacing pit latrines and intention to adopt locally promoted, novel sanitation technology known as ecological sanitation (ecosan).

Property owners preferred to adapt existing, known technology by constructing replacement pit latrines on old pit latrine locations, reducing the frequency of replacing pit latrines, or via emptying pit latrines when full.

This study highlights potential challenges to adoption of wholly new sanitation technologies, even when they present clear advantages to end users.

To scale, alternative sanitation technologies for rapidly urbanising cities should offer clear advantages, be affordable, be easy to use when shared among multiple households, and their design should be informed by existing adaptation strategies and local knowledge.

The ‘perennial hope’: private sector investment in WASH in Nigeria

The ‘perennial hope’: private sector investment in WASH in Nigeria | Source: WaterAid Blog, Aug 11 2016 |

With WASH in Nigeria suffering low levels of investment, and current investments performing poorly, Michael Ojo, Country Director for WaterAid Nigeria, asks why the Nigerian water sector remains such an unattractive proposition for investors.

As things stand, the true extent of national funding for WASH in Nigeria is difficult to ascertain.


Community members collecting water from one of the two functioning boreholes in Etenyi village, Ado Local government area, Benue state, Nigeria. Adequate funds in the WASH sector and proper targeting of those funds will help ensure we reach everyone with these life-saving services.

Although the country’s water utilities receive subventions from the Government, funding allocations are inadequate, resulting not only in these utilities producing below capacity but also in a widening of the financing gap for infrastructure investments and maintenance over the years. Investment in strengthening the utilities’ structure and systems has also been insufficient.

Urban utilities have not only not extended their coverage in terms of connections, these have actually declined significantly – from 32% in 1990 to 3% in 2015, according to the 2015 Update Report of the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of WHO and UNICEF.

From whichever angle you look at it, this level of service can only be described as paltry – but it also underlines the opportunity presented. Revenue streams from taxes have not grown, customers are not metered, and the collection efficiency of tariffs and charges remains one of the lowest in the world.

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