Category Archives: Africa

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.

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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.

Read the complete article.

 

Sanitation investments in Ghana: An ethnographic investigation of the role of tenure security, land ownership and livelihoods

Sanitation investments in Ghana: An ethnographic investigation of the role of tenure security, land ownership and livelihoods. BMC Public Health, July 2016.  Authors: Y. Awunyo-Akaba, J. Awunyo-Akaba, et. al.

Background – Ghana’s low investment in household sanitation is evident from the low rates of improved sanitation. This study analysed how land ownership, tenancy security and livelihood patterns are related to sanitation investments in three adjacent rural and peri-urban communities in a district close to Accra, Ghana’s capital.

Methods – Qualitative data was gathered for this comparative ethnographic study over seven months, (June, 2011-January, 2012) using an average of 43 (bi-weekly) participant observation per community and 56 in-depth interviews. Detailed observational data from study communities were triangulated with multiple interview material and contextual knowledge on social structures, history of settlement, land use, livelihoods, and access to and perceptions about sanitation.

Results – This study shows that the history of settlement and land ownership issues are highly correlated with people’s willingness and ability to invest in household sanitation across all communities. The status of being a stranger i.e. migrant in the area left some populations without rights over the land they occupied and with low incentives to invest in sanitation, while indigenous communities were challenged by the increasing appropriation of their land for commercial enterprises and for governmental development projects.

Interview responses suggest that increasing migrant population and the high demand for housing in the face of limited available space has resulted in general unwillingness and inability to establish private sanitation facilities in the communities. The increasing population has also created high demand for cheap accommodation, pushing tenants to accept informal tenancy agreements that provided for poor sanitation facilities.

In addition, poor knowledge of tenancy rights leaves tenants in no position to demand sanitation improvements and therefore landlords feel no obligation or motivation to provide and maintain domestic sanitation facilities.

Conclusions – The study states that poor land rights, the history of settlements, in-migration and insecure tenancy are key components that are associated with local livelihoods and investments in private sanitation in rapidly changing rural and peri-urban communities of Ghana. Sanitation policy makers and programme managers must acknowledge that these profound local, ethnic and economic forces are shaping people’s abilities and motivations for sanitation investments.

Monitoring Africa’s sanitation commitments

IRC helps AMCOW develop a new process to monitor the N’gor declaration

At the 2016 Africa Water Week, civil society called on the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) to honour the region’s commitments on water, sanitation and hygiene, including those agreed in the 2015 N’gor declaration. The four partner organisations in Watershed – empowering citizens, Akvo, IRC, Simavi and Wetlands International, were among those that endorsed the collective statement submitted to AMCOW by the African Network for Water (ANEW).

Progress especially on sanitation has so far been poor; only 4% between from 2000 to 2015, according to Al-hassan Adam from End Water Poverty. A recent IRC/WSUP finance brief stated that only eight African countries provide data on sanitation expenditure. All of them are falling behind on their N’gor declaration commitment to spend 0.5% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on sanitation. Exerting pressure to speed up progress on sanitation is an obvious task for those civil society organisations (CSOs) that Watershed aims to support.

Next to lobbying AMCOW to honour its sanitation commitments, IRC is also advising the ministerial council on the development of a new process to monitor the N’gor declaration. The aim of the new monitoring process is to create reflective dialogue processes at country and subregional levels and strengthen mechanisms for accountability to citizens and political leaders informed by evidence.

So far a Regional Action Plan has been developed, and indicators and scoring criteria have been reviewed through a series of sub-regional consultations led by AMCOW in Nairobi, Dakar and Johannesburg in May and June 2016. See below an example of an indicator with scoring criteria.

For more information, read the background paper prepared by Alana Potter.

Ngor indicator typology

This news item was originally published on the IRC website.