Tag Archives: Reinventing the Toilet

India: minister invites Gates Foundation to help find solutions to sanitation problems

The Ministry of Rural Development has invited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to partner with it in finding solutions to the sanitation problems in India, where 50 per cent of the country’s 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation.

Jairam Ramesh and Bill Gates, 30 May 2012. Photo: PTI

On the 2nd day of his visit to India, Bill Gates spoke with Rural Development Minister and the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh. The Minister called for the launch of a global joint initiative to develop low-cost, clean toilets for railways. In India, 11 million passengers commute daily without proper hygienic facilities. Mr. Ramesh also sought help from Gates to pilot sanitation promotion campaigns along the lines of India’s successful Pulse Polio campaign [1].

Continue reading

A Challenge Paper on Water and Sanitation

A Challenge Paper on Water and Sanitation – 2012

by Frank Rijsberman and Alix Zwane and released by the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

The world has met the Millennium Development Goal on the provision of clean drinking water five years early, but is set to miss its goal on basic sanitation by almost 1 billion people. An astonishing one-third of the world population, 2.5 billion people, lack access to basic sanitation and over one billion people defecate out in the open. 

Inadequate sanitation caused a cholera outbreak in Haiti in late 2010 that has now made half a million people sick and cost some 7000 lives; smaller cholera outbreaks are still commonplace during the rainy season in Bangladesh or the low-lying parts of many Africa cities. Diarrheal diseases are still a leading cause of death for children under five, second only to respiratory infections. The World Bank concludes that the economic impact of poor sanitation can be as high as 7% of GDP for some Asian countries and on the order of 1-2% of GDP for African countries.

Copenhagen Consensus 2012 asked Frank Rijsberman and Alix Peterson Zwane from the Gates Foundation to establish the best ways to reduce the size of this challenge.

Continue reading

“Toilet Team” director leaves Gates Foundation to lead CGIAR Consortium

Photo: CGIAR

Less than two years after joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “Toilet Team” director Frank Rijsberman is taking on a new position as CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. The Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) coordinates the work of 15 international centres, including the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), where Dr. Rijsberman served as Director General from 2000 to 2007.

Frank Rijsberman joined the Gates Foundation as director of its Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene initiative on 11 October 2010. In July 2011, the Foundation launched its “Reinvent the Toilet” strategy, which turned the usual distribution of funding and advocacy for WASH programmes on its head by committing 90% of its WASH funding to sanitation.

Dr Rijsberman will start his new assignment at the CGIAR Consortium Office in Montpellier, France, on 28 May 2012.

Source: CGIAR, 19 March 2012

Time to Get Our Sh*t Together

South Africa toilet. Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“It’s time to get our sh*t together and focus on sanitation”, is the message that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is bringing to the World Water Forum  Marseilles.

The lack of progress on sanitation, which was reconfirmed by the 2012 JMP Update, is what originally fueled the foundation’s call to action to “reinvent the toilet.” To us, reinventing the toilet is not just about science and technology, it’s about a whole new approach to working with poor communities in urban and rural areas of the developing world to create affordable, sustainable, and aspirational sanitation solutions.

The Gates Foundation has turned the usual distribution of funding and advocacy for WASH programmes on its head by committing 90% of its WASH funding to sanitation, write staff members Frank Rijsberman and Sara Rogge.

The Foundation is focussing on the following components to achieve its long term vision of providing sustainable sanitation services for all:

  • Explore and Implement Sanitation without Sewers
  • End Open Defecation
  • Provide Sustainable Services at Scale
  • Promote Sanitation as a Business
  • Cooperate and Partner

In 2011, the Gates Foundation committed US$ 120 million in new commitments, grants and contracts, 90% of which was focused on sanitation, including:

  • US$ 79 million for Sanitation Science and Technology, including grants to 8 universities to develop prototypes of affordable toilets that don’t need to be connected to sewers
  • US$ 47 million for Delivery Models at Scale by implementing demand-led sanitation programmes, which aim to end open defecation for 30 million people by 2015
  • US$ 18 million for Policy & Advocacy grants that support sanitation policy development and advocacy campaigns

Read the full details of Gates Foundation message for the World Water Forum here

Use the following links to read more about the Gates Foundations’s WASH  strategy and awarded grants

Source: Frank Rijsberman and Sara Rogge, Impatient Optimists, 12 Mar 2012

Scientific American – Wasting Away: Can a Gates Foundation-Funded Toilet-Design Initiative End a Foul Practice?

Wasting Away: Can a Gates Foundation-Funded Toilet-Design Initiative End a Foul Practice in the Developing World?

A low-tech plumbing challenge searches for the “iPad of commodes”

By Jim Nash | Scientific American, Feb 21, 2012

ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE: According to UNICEF, 2.6 billion people, almost entirely in the developing world, use bucket, public or open (uncovered) latrines, if they use latrines at all. Image: Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Chances are that if you are reading this, you have a private flush toilet a few steps from your bed. Your commode is more reliable than your mobile connection, and likely will outlast all of your home appliances. Yet huge tracts of the developing world have yet to see so much as a latrine, a situation that facilitates the spread of debilitating or even deadly diarrheal diseases.

Advocates for universal access to and use of basic personal sanitation hope their efforts will get a big boost in August, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation present several hygienic innovations developed through its Reinventing the Toilet Challenge. Technology alone might help with failing sewers in industrialized countries, but for poor nations, where changing social norms is more important, the Gates Foundation is a powerful ally. The foundation’s involvement could do for sanitation what it has accomplished in the battle to eradicate malaria—raise the visibility of a fundamental health care crisis and encourage new efforts to end it.

Continue reading

NPR – Building a Better Toilet

Nov. 18, 2011 – Building a Better Toilet

Toilets, as most of us know them, haven’t changed much since the 1800s—they use a lot of water, and require an infrastructure that many communities can’t afford. Ira Flatow and guests look at the problem of access to sanitation, and how engineers are making toilets better.


This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I’m Ira Flatow. Tomorrow is World Toilet Day, and if you have a toilet, that’s a cause for celebration, because more than a third of the world’s population does not. For 2.6 billion people, going to the bathroom is, well, there is no bathroom to go to. People don’t have access to the sanitation and sewer systems that we take for granted here. Without a place to go, people defecate into ditches, waste gets dumped into waterways and diseases spread.

The sponsors of World Toilet Day are trying to change that by bringing attention to the problem. And one sponsor, the Gates Foundation, is challenging engineers to build a better toilet, giving them money to do it. It’s called the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Frank Rijsberman is director of water sanitation and hygiene at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. Dr. Rijsberman is here with us. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

FRANK RIJSBERMAN: Thank you. Good morning, Ira.

FLATOW: Good afternoon to you. Rose George is author of “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World Of Human Waste And Why It Matters.” She joins us from the BBC in Leeds. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

ROSE GEORGE: Thank you.

FLATOW: Dr. Jim McHale is vice president of engineering at American Standard Brands in Piscataway, New Jersey. You know they make all those bathroom fixtures, including that famous toilet that seems to swallow everything up on YouTube. Thank you for being with us today, Jim.

Continue reading

Why We Need to Reinvent the Toilet

Oct. 6, 2011 – Frank Rijsberman, Gates Foundation: Why We Need to Reinvent the Toilet

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I thank the organizers for giving me this opportunity to talk to you about our still newish water, sanitation and hygiene strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You are probably aware that the foundation’s leadership approved a sanitation-focused approach to our grant making in 2009. In July, we formally launched this strategy at AfricaSan3 in Kigali, Rwanda, under a call to action to “Reinvent the Toilet.”

Our announcement was primarily focused on general audiences, and it worked out well. Our YouTube video generated more than 160,000 views. I know that’s small compared to something that really goes viral. Susan Boyle’s performance on “Britain’s Got Talent,” for example, generated 76 million views, probably including a good number of you here in the audience. But 160,000 set a new record for foundation videos, and it was picked up by dozens of influential social media outlets, including Mashable.

We were also very pleased by media pick-up from CNN, The New York Times, The Economist, and a raft of social media bloggers. According to our communications team, the launch announcement generated the most media coverage of any single announcement made by our Global Development program in recent years. It also prompted hundreds of emails from people around the world wanting to know more, and asking how they could help.

The popular interest and excitement produced by our July launch shows that we can get general audiences interested in toilets. But we also know that our messages and materials – and if you missed them, you can still find them on our website – probably didn’t satisfy hardcore water and sanitation enthusiasts like you. So today I would like to share more details on what we are aiming to achieve and planning to support. I’ll also try to answer some of the key questions that we have heard since our launch.

For this expert audience, I will skip the discussion of the sanitation crisis that has led us to adopt a sanitation-focused strategy. But one question that we have been asked whether we are still interested in water. And we have been asked whether the new sanitation focus really has changed what we fund. We have estimated that, through 2009, 54% of our funding went to water and the remaining 46% to sanitation and hygiene. Over the past two years, 90% of our funding has been invested in sanitation and the remaining 10% in water and hygiene.

Continue reading