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.

Transforming Haiti With An Endless Local Resource

Transforming Haiti With An Endless Local Resource | National Geographic, Aug 18 2016 |

Everyone poops. But not many people really think about what happens to it. We flush the toilet and it is out of sight and out of mind. Sasha Kramer, on the other hand, has poop on her mind all the time.

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Sasha Kramer visits the community of Shada, where SOIL has provided ecological sanitation for ten years. Photograph by James M. Felter

She is a sanitation revolutionary helping to transform human waste into fertile organic compost for agriculture and reforestation in Haiti. “Arguably,” Kramer says, “the most important thing in nature is soil, that’s where all life comes from.”

Kramer is an ecologist, human rights advocate, National Geographic emerging explorer, and the executive director of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL). SOIL primarily focuses on promoting the use of ecological sanitation, a process that uses naturally occurring microbes and heat to convert human waste to rich compost.

Ecological sanitation at SOIL means dry composting toilets, which can be simple and low cost so that it works even in crowded, informal settlement communities where there is little infrastructure.

Read the complete article.

U.N. Admits Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Has Killed Thousands

U.N. Admits Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Has Killed Thousands | Source: NPR, Aug 18 2016 |

In the fall of 2010, months after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, a new disaster began: a cholera outbreak that killed thousands of people and continues to sicken people across the country.

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Cholera patients are treated at the Cholera Treatment Center in the Carrefour area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in December 2014. The Caribbean country’s cholera outbreak started in 2010. Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Experts determined that the source of the disease was a U.N. peacekeeping camp. And now, nearly six years later, the United Nations has admitted it played some role in the deadly outbreak.

At a briefing Thursday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said that over the course of the past year, “the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.”

He said the U.N. would announce new actions to address the issue within the next two months.

“Our legal position on this issue has not changed,” Haq said, adding that the U.N. was not describing any of its actions as “reparations.”

Read the complete article.

 

 

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer | Source: Phys.org, Aug 15 2016 |

Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.

Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without , there can be no food production.

As the source of phosphorus is non-renewable phosphate rocks, there is a strong need for increased recycling to ensure phosphorus security. Efficient use and reduced environmental dissemination of phosphorus throughout the food system is needed to secure the ability to feed a growing global population.

As technological improvements increased the of , it now is a readily available alternative to commercial fertilizers in agriculture. To assess its effectiveness, Andry Andriamananjara from the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) and his colleagues used a phosphorus radiotracer technique to measure the availability of phosphorus for plants in thermally conditioned sewage sludge.

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I get height with a little help from my friends: herd protection from sanitation on child growth in rural Ecuador

I get height with a little help from my friends: herd protection from sanitation on child growth in rural EcuadorInt. J. Epidemiol. (2016), doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv368, First published online: March 2, 2016.

Background: Infectious disease interventions, such as vaccines and bed nets, have the potential to provide herd protection to non-recipients. Similarly, improved sanitation in one household may provide community-wide benefits if it reduces contamination in the shared environment. Sanitation at the household level is an important predictor of child growth, but less is known about the effect of sanitation coverage in the community.

Methods: From 2008 to 2013, we took repeated anthropometric measurements on 1314 children under 5 years of age in 24 rural Ecuadorian villages. Using mixed effects regression, we estimated the association between sanitation coverage in surrounding households and child growth.

Results: Sanitation coverage in the surrounding households was strongly associated with child height, as those with 100% coverage in their surroundings had a 67% lower prevalence of stunting [prevalence ratio (PR) 0.32, 95% CI 0.15-0.69] compared with those with 0% coverage. Children from households with improved sanitation had a lower prevalence of stunting (PR 0.86, 95% CI 0.64-1.15). When analysing height as a continuous outcome, the protective effect of sanitation coverage is manifested primarily among girls during the second year of life, the time at which growth faltering is most likely to occur.

Conclusions: Our study highlights that a household’s sanitation practices can provide herd protection to the overall community. Studies which fail to account for the positive externalities that sanitation provides will underestimate the overall protective effect. Future studies could seek to identify a threshold of sanitation coverage, similar to a herd immunity threshold, to provide coverage and compliance targets.

 

Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people | Source: World Bank Blog, Aug 16 2016 |

Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds. thaler

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad.  He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers.

The goal is not to change people but to make life easier, but that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

  • Waterborne diseases such as cholera cause widespread illness, especially among children, in developing countries without nation-wide water and sanitation networks. In Kenya, chlorine tablets are distributed by NGOs and other organizations, and people generally understand that the tablets disinfect their water, protecting them from disease. Nevertheless, usage rates are often low. Cost is not the barrier here, convenience is because routinely purifying water requires energy and attention. Michael Kremer of Harvard University and his colleagues found, through a series of randomized controlled trials conducted in Kenya, that providing chlorine as a concentrated liquid at prominently displayed dispensers at local water sources dramatically increase the rate of disinfection. The dispensers provided a visual reminder when and water was collected and made it easy to add the right does. Along with promotion by community members, this approach increased chlorine use by 53%. Thus, making it easier to disinfect water increased the rates at which tablets are used.

Read the complete article.

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.