Editor's Note: Reaching the new Global Goals for safe water and sanitation will take an enormous investment. Learn how Kenyan banks and utilities — with some international support — are making water access a commercially viable business, while serving the needs of the poor. This post originally appeared on Medium and was published by the USAID Water Team. To view the original post click here.
Peaceful, jacaranda-shaded Embu, Kenya resembles many small cities in East Africa: bustling on market days, dusty and a little sleepy the rest of the week. But, water is always a major concern of its residents.
Though Embu is situated near several rivers in the shadow of Mount Kenya, the county government struggles to bring water to the town and neighboring villages through an aging network of leaky pipes dating to the 1970s. Currently, more than half of people in Embu do not have access to improved water service.
“People used to spend half a day collecting water — and water quality was very poor,” said H.M. Kerungendo, the managing director of the Embu Water and Sanitation Company (EWASCO).
Globally, satisfying water and sanitation needs will take enormous investments that are beyond the ability of Official Development Assistance (ODA) or public financing alone. In Kenya, water utilities face an estimated $2.6 billion financing gap — or more than 10 times the Kenyan government’s budget for water supply and sanitation for 2015–16.
Closing these gaps will require new solutions and new funding sources, including mobilizing domestic capital and capacity.
Bringing Water Utilities out of the ‘Shadows’
In Embu, expanding access to water services came in the form of a unique partnership among a bank, a utility company, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP).
In 2011, WSP released a shadow credit rating report that helped attract commercial bank interest in the water sector. Establishing credit ratings helps financial institutions to understand how the water service providers will be able to service loans, and makes the lending to the water sector more attractive and transparent.
In 2012, as part of a strategy to connect local utilities to local financial markets and reduce their reliance on central government transfers and donor support, USAID provided a loan guarantee through its Development Credit Authority to Kenya Housing Finance (KHF), a local financial institution. Under the terms of the agreement, USAID agreed to take 50 percent of the repayment risk on each loan KHF made to water companies.
The credit guarantee was complemented by capacity building efforts provided through USAID and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). USAID’s advisors helped Mr. Kerungendo and his EWASCO colleagues develop a proposal for a loan from KHF and a business plan to support loan repayment. The IFC also worked with EWASCO to undertake an audit that led to improvements in their business processes, financial management and planning.
This support helped make the Embu water utility more attractive as a potential borrower to Kenyan lenders.
From Loan to Pipeline
In May 2014, KHF approved a nearly $1 million loan to EWASCO — the largest commercial loan ever made to a Kenyan water utility.
“The guarantee allowed my bank to make a loan to EWASCO, our first loan in the water sector”, says Anne Murugu, a KHF Loan Officer. Kenyan banks have historically shied away from the water sector, due to borrowers’ lack of collateral and borrowing experience.
Over the following year, the utility used the loan proceeds to install 18 miles of new pipe in peri-urban areas of Embu county, significantly improving the water supply for 100 schools, 15 clinics and 50,000 community members.
“We had lots of problems regarding water. Before the pipeline, we would wake up very early and walk up to 9 kilometers to fetch water. We spent hours searching for water because it was rationed”, recalls Jemimah Wagathare, a resident of Embu’s suburbs.
By bringing these pieces together — the needs of people with financing and technical solutions, Kenya and its global partners are creating the foundation for a sustainable, inclusive and commercially viable water sector.
A special thanks to Glenn Pearce-Oroz, Heather Skilling, and Brook Adam for their contributions to this article. To subscribe to Global Waters magazine, click here. For more information about the Sustainable Urban Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA) program, see “Changing the Landscape for Africa’s Urban Water Services.” For additional information:
Editor's Note: In this post, Dylan Lunney, Director of Communications for OHorizons, discusses the Low Tech, High Thinking approach to creating affordable, simple solutions that can have a meaningful impact on WASH issues.
Low-tech, scalable, local solutions present an exciting opportunity to address the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) objectives laid out in goal number six of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling WASH issues, but in order for development projects to be successful and sustainable, communities should not be bystanders in projects that are designed to help them. This belief is underscored within SDG 6 section 6.6b
In addition, solutions addressing the challenges of people living in poverty should be designed by carefully examining and accounting for the needs, practices, and available resources of the end-user. This seems like a basic, self-evident concept, however the history of water development projects demonstrates otherwise.
Take for instance that the cumulative cost of failed water systems in sub-Saharan Africa alone was estimated to be $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion from 1987-2007. The poster child of this development design failure is the PlayPump, an initially highly-touted safe drinking water ‘solution’ that quickly failed when it turned out that kids would have to ‘play’ for 27 hours a day to filter the intended amount of water. Development projects that fail to incorporate the needs, skills, habits, and resources of the end-user don’t produce their intended result—in this instance providing safe drinking water—and they are an enormous waste of money, time, and resources. Instead, beneficiaries should be involved in identifying the technology and approach that will benefit them most and the community should be directly involved in the building and maintaining of their local infrastructure.
OHorizons, where I work, is part of this appropriate design movement in WASH global development. We call our design process Low-Tech, High-Thinking.
A lot of attention is given to the newest app or high-tech gadget. You’ve probably heard of Bill Gate’s highly celebrated machine that turns human waste into water. It’s impressive. It’s also impractical for most poor, rural communities, where the water and sanitation crisis is particularly dire, who likely don’t have the infrastructure or funds to build or maintain this $1.5 million dollar facility that is roughly the size of two school buses.
The core belief behind the Low-Tech, High-Thinking movement is that it takes just as much creativity and ingenuity to create affordable, simple solutions that can have a meaningful impact on a global scale. Understanding the systemic underlying causes along with listening to and learning from the end- user, is a vital part of this design process. Adhering to the following principles can also help guide this process and ensure a solution is truly centered around the beneficiaries and the environment in which they live:
Simple: Anyone, regardless of education level or expertise, should be able to develop and implement a solution with minimal instruction.
Low-cost: The solution should be affordable to the end-user.
Locally-sourced: 100% of the materials, tools, and labor should be available locally.
Flexible: Every community is different and has different resources available to them; solutions should be flexible enough to adapt to varying local conditions.
Open-source: Solutions should be freely available to anyone who would like to utilize them.
OHorizons has used this approach to engineer a Wood Mold for the production of concrete BioSand Filters (BSFs). BioSand Filters (BSFs) are a low-tech, household appliance that use sand, gravel, and natural biological processes to filter pathogens out of water, making it safe for drinking. We’ve made our step-by-step construction manual open-source so that local organizations can manufacture BSFs for a fraction of the upfront costs of the traditional steel mold. Our Molds make more than 50 concrete filters without an issue due to the use of our patented collapsible inner core and 2” x 2” supports that hold the outer walls of the Mold together with bolts rather than screws, which strip the wood. This innovation allows more people to get safe drinking water at an exponentially faster rate.
There exist many other fantastic household level solutions that follow similar design parameters. Two of my favorites are the Tippy Tap for hand-washing and the C.R.A.P.P.E.R. for toilets.
The Tippy Tap is a hands free way to wash your hands and is especially appropriate for rural areas where there is no running water. It is operated by a foot lever and thus reduces the chance for bacteria transmission as the user touches only the soap. They’re also very easy to build and can be made with basic, low-cost materials.
The organization Toilets for People (TFP) has designed a high-quality composting toilet that they’ve appropriately named the C.R.A.P.P.E.R. (compact, rotating, aerobic, pollution-prevention, excreta reducer). It’s user-friendly and easy to maintain, can be made from locally available materials for about $100, and is being built around the world by NGOs serving their communities.
Here’s a video of TFP in Peru with their NGO partner Amazon Promise, building 17 CRAPPERS:
Toilets for People’s founder Jason Kass, is a passionate ambassador for bridging the gap between the appropriate technologies already out there and creative implementation on the ground.
As we continue to develop solutions for water, sanitation, and hygiene, one area to think seriously about investing in is low-tech, human-centered design projects that transform beneficiaries into local change makers. Harnessing the power of people through Low-Tech, High-Thinking Design can and should play an important role in helping ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030!
Editor's Note: In this post, Rob Goodier, Engineering for Change News Editor, discusses the new Solutions Library and how it can be used to increase effectiveness in the WASH sector.
Reinvention of the wheel is a common mistake in global development, and the water, sanitation and hygiene sector is not immune. There must be hundreds of prototypes languishing on closet floors and hard drives after failing to reach the market while proven, off-the-shelf filters, chlorinators and so on may be acceptable for the job.
The same goes for choosing the right product for each context. We have to start with what’s meeting (and not meeting) the users’ needs in order to avoid wasted investment. And we have to do it throughout the value chain.
That’s why Engineering for Change has built a new Solutions Library of hundreds of products that meet basic needs. The products cover nearly every aspect of global development, including dozens in the water and sanitation sector.
The Solutions Library is a due diligence resource, a living database of neutral, performance-based information. The entries help answer three important questions for global development technology:
- Which solution is appropriate for the context and constraints?
- What has scaled and what has stalled?
- Does the solution perform as expected?
We have heard from engineers and others in global development that answering those three questions has been difficult. Practitioners are starved for high-quality information. Another thing we’ve heard often from global development professionals is that new, unproven gadgets get as much, if not more, attention as proven products.
Repeated mistakes can slow global development efforts. It has been hard to find information about so-called “prior art,” the wheels that have already been invented. That leads to undeveloped prototypes or, worse, the rusted-out bones of dead projects that were delivered and then failed.
The reasons for failure can be technical, cultural, financial or a combination thereof, but the end result is the same: wasted investment. Our answer is normalized, objective data that is rigorously harvested and reviewed by experts. Practitioners can reduce the risk of failure and spend their money wisely with our side-by-side comparisons of the products that can meet their goals.
That’s why we did this. We believe the Solutions Library is the first stop in the decision for which technology will be the best fit in any given context. It is a work in a constant state of flux, with periodic updates that incorporate suggestions from our network of development engineers and other professionals. As you explore the resource, please share your ideas and tips based on your experience. We hope to include the advice of the WASH community in our improvements.
Please visit the Solutions Library, share it with colleagues and collaborators and contribute. Real working solutions start here: solutions.engineeringforchange.org.
Editor's Note: In this post, author Indrias G. Kassaye discusses how a UNICEF-supported rehabilitation project is bringing clean water back to schoolchildren and villagers in Masorie, Sierra Leone. This post originally appeared on UNICEF's website and has been reposted with permission. To view the original post, please click here.
As Rosemarie Yema Blake pushed down on the water pump, a government technician held a plastic bottle under the spout to collect a sample from the gushing stream. Ms. Blake is an engineer from UNICEF’s NGO partner Living Water, and her most recent project brought her to an abandoned well at the Harry C Primary school in Sierra Leone’s Western Rural district. Students waited in anticipation to learn if, for the first time in more than a decade, the well would produce clean water.
“The water was not good to drink before – it was corrosive and had metallic content,” said Earnest Joko Henry, head teacher at the school. “The well had lots of debris in it. And the people here said that rebels had been killed and thrown in the water during the war, so they refused to drink it.”
The well had remained unused by the school and the villagers since Sierra Leone’s Civil War, which lasted from 1991-2002. Instead, students ventured to another well outside the school compound – a journey that cut into their class time.
“When the children came to school, they had to go and fetch water to fill all the buckets for hand washing, which meant they only started their school day at about ten,” said Mr. Henry.
Clean water returns
With support from UNICEF, the well and pump at the school were recently rehabilitated. The final step in the rehabilitation process is testing the water, and the technicians confirmed that it was safe for the community to use, including for drinking. With one final chlorination, the well got the all-clear.
“This is the only deep well in the community that doesn’t dry up during the dry season,” said Mr. Henry. “There are about 450 people living in this and the surrounding two villages and they all depend on this well. We are therefore very happy that it has been rehabilitated.”
And from now on, students at the school no longer have to leave the school compound to get water.
“Every morning we clean the pump and area around the well,” said 12-year-old Ali Kabia, the president of the school’s Child Health Club. The club works together with the School Management Committee to manage water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at the school. “The water from the well is good now, so we are not afraid to use it and we are happy for that.”
Since the rehabilitation, it has also become much easier for students to do the routine hand-washing that is part of the infection prevention and control procedures set up during the recent Ebola outbreak.
“We wash the buckets and get water to wash the class and for hand-washing,” said 12-year-old Zeyneb Koromah, Ali’s deputy in the club. “We fill the handwashing buckets and make sure all children wash their hands with soap. And then we check their temperature before they can enter the class. We have good toilets for boys and girls, and separate ones for the teachers. We take turns scrubbing the toilets and making sure they stay clean.”
In Sierra Leone, only 63 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water. Improved sanitation facility coverage is even lower at 13 per cent. Having adequate water and sanitation facilities in schools is critical for ensuring a conducive learning environment for students, but only 23 per cent of schools have a functioning water supply.
UNICEF is supporting the rehabilitation of water supply systems in 170 schools and 84 health facilities in eight districts in Sierra Leone as part of its support to the Government’s post-Ebola recovery programme.
Editor's Note: In this post, Caitlin Gruer, Program Associate for WASH & Health at PLAN International USA, discusses the issues surrounding menstruation around the world and how we might address those issues. This post originally appeared on Huffington Post, to view the original post please click here.
Even in the best circumstances having your period can be an unpleasant experience, but for many women and girls around the world, it presents a serious problem.
In low income countries, many women and girls don’t have access to affordable and hygienic feminine products; instead they are forced to use improvised materials like rags or leaves, which are not only uncomfortable but can also lead to infection or embarrassing leaks.
This isn’t just a “third world problem.” Many women and girls in the USA also struggle to access the hygiene products that they need. Homeless women in particular struggle to obtain these products, which despite high demand, are frequently unavailable at shelters and food banks.
And, it’s not just homeless women and girls who face these problems. Feminine hygiene products are expensive—the estimated cost of a year’s supply is $70—and they are not covered by food stamps. Periods are a significant expense, made even more expensive by the fact that in 40 states nationwide, tampons are considered a “luxury” and so are taxed.
Women and girls also need access to safe, private, clean bathrooms or latrines with a place for washing up so that they can manage their periods and keep themselves clean. However, for homeless women in the US, and women and girls in low income countries, this is often difficult to find, if not impossible. One in three people worldwide don’t have access to a toilet—that’s a lot of women left searching for a private place to go.
Compounding these issues, is the fact that menstruation is an incredibly stigmatized topic worldwide. In most cultures, including our own, menstruation is not openly discussed. If girls are lucky, they may learn about the menstrual cycle as part of their school curriculum, but in many places worldwide not even that happens.
Harsh social taboos also limit the roles and actions of women and girls while they are menstruating. For example, in some parts of India, women and girls may be excluded from eating with their families or bathing when they have their periods.
It’s difficult to imagine that in 2016, a simple biological process experienced by 800 million women and girls every single day can be such a problem, but it is.
It’s an education problem: When girls don’t have access to the supplies and facilities they need, they may miss school during their periods. Even if they do attend school, they may be distracted, anxious and uncomfortable. This can have a serious impact because educated girls are more likely to earn a good income, are less likely to be married as a child, and are more likely to raise healthy babies.
It’s an economic problem: When women have to miss work because they are unable to manage their periods in the work environment, they lose out on potential income. When feminine hygiene products are expensive (due to taxes, limited supply, etc.), many women and girls have to make critical choices between buying these products and other necessities.
It’s a dignity problem: Women and girls shouldn’t have to suffer from anxiety, embarrassment and discomfort because of a natural process, but in almost every country they still do.
There is hope though. Recently, the issue of menstruation has been gaining attention, and an increasing number of organizations are working to combat this issue. To address all aspects of this problem, approaches must be comprehensive:
Improve access to supplies: Women and girls need access to affordable, safe feminine hygiene products. That’s why child rights organization Plan International has partnered with social enterprise BeGirl in Ethiopia to provide girls with access to their reusable panty-pads. And why, Camions of Care—founded by Nadya Okamoto, a member of Plan’s Youth Advisory Board—works to collect and distribute hygiene care packages to nonprofit partners across 10 states in the US.
Improve access to facilities: Women and girls also need proper sanitation facilities, which is why Plan engages in a human centered design process to create girl-friendly facilities in schools, health clinics and communities.
Improve knowledge and reduce stigma: But providing facilities and supplies isn’t sufficient—the stigma of menstruation must also be addressed through large-scale behavior change. Internationally, Plan is working to break the silence surrounding this topic by providing women and girls with education and information on menstruation and options for managing their periods. In addition, Plan engages men and boys in discussions about menstruation because they have a critical role to play in changing societal attitudes and creating a positive environment. On the domestic front, Camions of Care is also working to raise awareness about menstruation, and to reduce the stigma.
Through the work of these organizations and others like them, a lot of progress has been made, and we’re just get started. Menstruation is still an uncomfortable topic for most people to talk about, and it remains underfunded, under researched, and underrepresented in global policy. However, by breaking the silence that surrounds this issue, raising awareness and combatting taboos, and ensuring access to supplies and facilities, we are changing the way this issue is addressed.
So this Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), I challenge you to join the conversation, because #MenstruationMatters, period.
Editor's Note: In this post Susan Davis, Founder and Executive Director of Improve International, discusses all of the possible definitions of sanitation success. This post originally appeared on Improve International's website, to view the original post click here.
During a recent desk review, we found there is no one widely accepted definition of sanitation success, even for broadly used approaches like community-led total sanitation.
Some consider long-term success to be the movement of households up the “sanitation ladder,” the idea of incremental progression between service levels of different quality. Success for sanitation marketing efforts can include an increase in local businesses who are investing in sanitation to expand their business, sales to target households, and number of households who are investing their own money into a toilet sold by these partner businesses. We realize we haven’t captured all possible definitions of sanitation success, but wanted to share what we found.
3iE: Sustained use is defined as the continued practice of a WASH behavior and/or continued use of a WASH technology at least six months after the period during which there was external support to community groups, leaders and volunteers in the form of training, supervision and feedback, distribution of technology, or provision of communication materials.
Global Sanitation Fund (GSF): The GSF works towards attainment of universal access to improved sanitation, which they measure using these indicators: number of people with access to improved sanitation, number of people living in open-defecation free environments, and the existence, and evidence of use, of a dedicated place for handwashing and availability of soap or ash (as a proxy for people washing their hands at critical times). The GSF includes in its description access to improved sanitation by all members of a community and proper handling, storage and treatment of human waste, but these are not included in their results.
Government of India: ODF is the termination of fecal-oral transmission, defined by a) no visible faces found in the environment/village; and b) every household as well as public/community institutions using a safe technology option for disposal of faces. A safe technology option means no contamination of surface soil, ground water or surface water; excreta inaccessible to flies or animals; no handling of fresh excreta; and freedom from odor and unsightly condition.
IRC Water and Sanitation Centre: The sanitation service level framework evaluates the services provided by the delivery of safe latrines using four indicators:type and accessibility of latrines to households (in line with national norms); use of sanitation facilities by members of the household;cleanliness, maintenance and pit emptying of the facilities; and environmental safety of fecal waste.
Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP): A sanitation facility is considered improved if it hygienically separates human excreta from human contact, but this indicator does not address the subsequent management of fecal waste. Safe management comprises several stages along the “fecal waste management chain,” from containment through emptying, transport, treatment, and reuse or disposal.
Netherlands Water Partnership: Sanitation facilities are only sustainable when people make their own choices and own contribution towards obtaining and maintaining them. People have to experience the toilet as an improvement in their daily life. Sanitation systems have to be embedded in the local institutional, financial-economic, social-cultural, legal-political, and environmental context.
Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA): The main objective of a sanitation system is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease. In order to be sustainable a sanitation system has to (1) promote health and hygiene effectively, (2) be financially and economically viable, (3) socially acceptable and institutionally appropriate, (4) technically appropriate including operation and maintenance (O&M), and (5) protect the environment and natural resources.
UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Targets include:
6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
6.3 By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
6.4 By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
6.5 By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
6.6 By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
6.a By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
6.b Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
WaterAid: Sustainability is about whether or not WASH services and good hygiene practices continue to work and deliver benefits over time. No time limit is set on those continued services, behavior changes and outcomes. In other words, sustainability is about lasting benefits achieved through the continued enjoyment of water supply and sanitation services and hygiene practices.
Water For People: Water For People envisions sanitation success in steps, summarized as follows:
- Family forever. “a loved latrine is a used latrine and household defecation behavior will be changed Forever.”
- Sanitation Business Forever. This moves the focus to sustainable service delivery.
- Forever sanitation services at scale. Any person with a pit latrine in any part of a city or district should be able to easily access the sanitation service they require, not just the ones in the relatively limited geographical area covered by the entrepreneurs supported as part of step 2. (Sugden, 2013).
WSP: The World Bank Water and Sanitation Program used the following performance indicators to rate relative success of sanitation case studies:
- Prevalence of open defecation
- Hygiene behavior
- Access to sanitation by the poor
- Environmental sanitation improvements
- Extent of self-financing
- Program cost per household
- Range of toilet components and designs utilized
- Local availability of sanitation wares and services
- Regular support and monitoring
- Implementation at scale
What’s your organization’s definition of sanitation success? Let us know in the comments section below or contact us.
Editor's Note: In this post, Millie Adam of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) discusses the benefits of providing capacity building support when investing in WASH initiatives. This post originally appeared on CAWST's website, to view the original post please click here.
A growing list of reports argue for increased emphasis and investment in capacity building for international development. That’s a good thing. Why then has that increased attention largely failed to catalyze funders and implementers to make greater investments in capacity building?
Capacity building is too often treated like a minor add-on to an infrastructure project, thought of as an added cost, or not budgeted or planned for until partway through a project when the gap in capacity becomes glaringly apparent.
Changing this mindset requires a paradigm-shift. Capacity building is a fundamental part of development that doesn’t simply take funds away from “real”/tangible results, but rather helps achieve targets and maintain outcomes.
To deliver sustained water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to all by 2030, significant and meaningful investments in capacity building are needed from funders and implementers, in parallel with hardware investments.
The need for capacity building is clear and well-documented. Less so a clear case that lays out the benefits of investing in capacity building. There are five key benefits to investing in capacity building that should motivate donors and investors to ensure capacity building is a significant part of any initiative they are supporting.
1. Universal WASH coverage by 2030 is not achievable with current human resources.
The scale of the need alone makes the case for capacity building. As outlined by the IWA’s report An Avoidable Crisis: WASH Human Resource Capacity Gaps in 15 Developing Economies, “There are not enough appropriately skilled water professionals to support the attainment of universal access to safe water and sanitation”. Furthermore, the current formal systems for training will not produce enough people by 2030, so the human capacity gap threatens the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As the UN-Water Means of Implementation states, “Investment in capacity-building has been a major challenge facing many countries and has to be addressed if the Goals are to be met.”
The UN-Water GLAAS 2012 report (chapter four) reported that less than 20 per cent of respondent countries consider the supply of skilled labour and technicians adequately developed to meet the needs in rural sanitation.
2. Capacity building increases the quality of implementation.
WASH practitioners often run into problems they are unable to solve on their own, thus hindering or halting a program; or they unknowingly implement incorrectly. Building the capacity of field workers increases their ability to:
- Evaluate options and select appropriate technologies
- Properly construct and install technologies
- Work with the community to create demand and change behaviour
- Be active, informed participants in the WASH sector who strengthen and scale-up programs or approaches.
If field workers are doing the above things well, then people will have access to high quality, locally appropriate WASH technologies that they want and use. Further, decision-making around WASH becomes a discussion with local stakeholders as opposed to a decision handed down from above, ensuring that WASH programs continue to serve the needs of end users.
A 2010 Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) technical paper, “Case Study on Sustainability of Rural Sanitation Marketing in Vietnam”, points to the importance of capacity building of practitioners. The case study looked at rural sanitation marketing in Vietnam and found that initial success of trained promoters and providers led others to build toilets for sale; the quality of construction and user satisfaction both declined.
3. Capacity building makes interventions more sustainable.
Programs need to be driven at the outset by local organizations on the ground: those who have the mandate to provide WASH services to their communities, who understand the local context and challenges, who take ownership of the services and who will still be there long after the rest of us have moved on. In many cases, those with the mandate don’t have the skills and knowledge they need to do the best job that they can and want to do. Building the capacity of those organizations translates to:
- Better decisions
- Higher adoption and sustained use
- Ability to overcome challenges and adapt to changing circumstances
- Ongoing delivery and maintenance of services for the long term
- Disaster resilience
- A slow but pragmatic exit strategy for those of us who aren’t local organizations.
The WSP technical paper on rural sanitation marketing referred to above concluded that the approach may not be sustained and expanded in the long term without institutionalized capacity building for promoters and providers (among other things).
Similarly, building capacity at the community level increases correct, consistent and continued use of WASH technologies. A key conclusion from the recent Cochrane review on water quality interventions was that interventions that achieved a higher compliance led to greater health impacts. In contrast, some technologies that performed well in controlled test settings achieved lower health impacts. From this, we can infer the importance of not only choosing appropriate technologies, but also building the capacity of local actors to effectively operate and maintain these technologies over time.
4. Capacity building can reach the hardest to reach.
The SDGs compel us to reach the poorest and those in vulnerable situations, which the MDGs did not reach in equal numbers. There is growing evidence supporting a renewed focus on those who are hardest to reach, such as UN-Water arguing that targeting the poorest 40 per cent of the population yields the biggest gains.
The 2014 GLAAS report argued that current funding isn’t going to those most in need. “If plans exist for reducing inequalities in access by targeting disadvantaged groups, the outcomes are commonly left unmonitored,” the report says. “Less than half of countries track progress in extending sanitation and drinking-water services to the poor.” The report went on to add that “the vast majority of those without improved sanitation are poorer people living in rural areas. Progress on rural sanitation — where it has occurred — has primarily benefitted the non-poor, resulting in inequalities.”
In many cases, unserved people are dispersed, living in challenging conditions or have no legal tenure. In these situations, large scale infrastructure solutions either aren’t appropriate or aren’t affordable. To reach these people with WASH services, we need a variety of technologies and approaches and we need to work with different types of organizations; both require increased capacity across a range of players.
- Capacity building enables many small projects using a variety of technologies and approaches that can be adapted to those challenging situations
- Capacity building enables the organizations with the best likelihood of success to participate in WASH services (including small, local organizations, and those who might not focus on WASH, but who have strong relationships with vulnerable groups and who best understand their complex context)
- Capacity building enables the vulnerable or disadvantaged to actively participate in WASH programs and services
5. Capacity building addresses the gender gap.
One of the guiding principles of the Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development is that “Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water” and that to implement this principle, we must “equip and empower women to participate at all levels”. A reality check from the GLAAS 2012 report: “Half of the GLAAS respondent countries reported that women make up less than 10% of the professional/managerial staff”.
We all know the critical role of women in water. Building their capacity to fully participate not only works toward closing gender gaps, but also leads to better results for WASH programs.
According to an ADB gender equality results case study, significant participation of women (>40%) in preconstruction and postconstruction training on how “to plan, construct, manage, operate, and maintain water supply schemes and sanitation facilities […] equipped women with necessary skills and knowledge. This enabled them to engage more effectively in committees taking decisions related to the operation and management of water supply systems, undertaking maintenance with support from trained VMWs, and raising monthly tariffs.”
The 2012 GLAAS report profiles Ethiopia’s health extension programme. It was launched in 2003 in response to a lack of trained health workers; by 2009, there were 30 000 health workers. Women who have more than 10 years of formal education and who want to work in their communities are trained on family health, hygiene and environmental sanitation, and health education. “The success of this programme is a result of investment in training by donors, widespread acceptance within communities and investment in information systems on family health, demographic data and use of services.”
In short, capacity building is a good investment.
Failure is costly, and without capacity building projects are more likely to fail. The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) found in 2007 that an average of 36 per cent of hand-pumps across 21 countries in Africa were non-functioning. That represents a total investment of between $US1.2 and $US1.5 billion over 20 years. The topic is covered in this Triple-S Briefing.
Capacity building lays the groundwork for well-implemented WASH services which should increase adoption, extend the life of interventions and improve quality of implementation resulting in larger health impacts.
We all seem to recognize that capacity building needs to happen, and yet we consistently fail to put enough resources toward it. Our hope is that laying out the case for capacity building will help those who know it needs to happen argue for its inclusion and resourcing, but also that it will refine the way we do capacity building to ensure that we are in fact realizing the above benefits.
In CAWST’s experience of supporting 970 implementing organizations in 78 countries, the benefits don’t end there; we have seen how capacity building catalyzes action and then empowers people to take further actions, as well as how it provides opportunities for those with new skills, knowledge and confidence.
Editor's Note: In this post, Okey Umelo, Media and Communications Officer, and Patrick England, GSF Portfolio Support Analyst, at Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) discuss a new field guide for practitioners of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) – an empowering approach for improving sanitation and hygiene through collective behaviour change. This post originally appeared on the WSSCC site, to view the original post please click here.
This week, the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) and the GSF-funded ‘Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement’ (FAA) in Madagascar launched a new handbook on accelerating and sustaining the end of open defecation.
The handbook was launched during the GSF Learning Event in Antananarivo, Madagascar, inaugurated by Madagascar’s Minister of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Roland Ravatomanga.
The ‘Follow-up MANDONA’ (FUM) handbook is a field guide for practitioners of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) – an empowering approach for improving sanitation and hygiene through collective behaviour change, rather than external subsidies or prescription. FUM aims to systematically engage communities after they have been initially ‘triggered’ and committed to ending open defecation.
‘Mandona’ is a Malagasy word which means ‘to push’. FUM brings the entire community together for a self-analysis of their sanitation situation, which then helps them immediately create models that prevent the ingestion of faeces. The approach harnesses the power of Natural Leaders to replicate these models across the community, which includes helping those that are least able, in order to advance to ODF status. By focusing on sustainable behaviour change, FUM is also a useful tool for addressing issues surrounding ‘slippage’, which relates to returning to previous unhygienic behaviours.
FUM was developed and refined by MIARINTSOA NGO, a sub-grantee of the FAA programme. Given the success of FUM in Madagascar and elsewhere, the GSF and FAA created the FUM handbook to provide a practical guide for how CLTS practitioners can implement the approach in their own contexts.
The weeklong global event where the handbook was launched brings together implementing partners, WASH experts, and high-level government representatives from GSF-supported programmes. These actors are exchanging ideas and sharing best practices for achieving improved sanitation and hygiene behaviour at scale.
During the launch, WSSCC Executive Director Chris Williams highlighted how FUM is engraining the sustainability of sanitation and hygiene behaviour change in Madagascar and beyond. “Once a village, or an entire commune, has reached ODF status, the story isn’t over. In fact, the work continues. This important publication documents the innovations that Madagascar has put together to systematically follow-up with villages.
FUM has become one of FAA’s most important tools for empowering over 1.6 million people to live in open defecation free environments on their own terms. Due to its success in Madagascar, FUM has recently become a core strategy for national sanitation and hygiene programmes in Uganda, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.
Kamal Kar, the Chairman of the CLTS Foundation, which has extensively supported the FAA programme to develop their CLTS approach, emphasized the importance of the handbook in sharing proven approaches to practitioners around the world: “I am glad that the Malagasy NGO, MIARINTSOA, with the help of the FAA programme, WSSCC and the GSF, has systematically documented their experience of post-triggering follow-up from their implementation of CLTS over the last 4-5 years. Publication of this Follow-up MANDONA handbook is indeed a step forward towards country-wide scaling up of good practice of CLTS in Madagascar and beyond.”
“I must say that the emergence of thousands of ODF villages in Madagascar, starting with my multiple support visits to the country since 2010 to strengthen the approach, is a brilliant example of quality CLTS implementation with its central philosophy of local empowerment. I believe that this handbook will be useful in understanding and ensuring post-triggering follow-up in CLTS for sustained behaviour change.”
Editor's Note: In this post, Andy Narracott, Deputy Director for Global Water at Evidence Action discusses how we can scale up cost-effective water access, sanitation, and hygiene programs.
Recently Jan Willem Rosenboom, a WASH senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote a candid post on just how hard it is to reach scale for water and sanitation projects.
We agree. We are a long way off from “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all,” especially in rural areas. To meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs need to plan for scale from the start and have a clearer focus on "what works." Likewise, donors need to invest in scalable projects and let go of those that never will, as sexy as they might look.
We at Evidence Action have a unique mission to scale up cost effective global development interventions that have been proven to work through rigorous evaluation. I lead our Dispensers for Safe Water program that serves 4.5 million rural people with chlorine essential for safe drinking water. Dispensers for Safe Water was also a beneficiary of an early multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010.
We are now operating in three countries and are achieving sustained usage of ~60%. We are the largest safe water player in these three countries by a wide margin. We are also recovering 100% of our field costs from carbon credits rather than resorting to user fees that would screen out a huge cohort of people who are very rural and very poor.
We have learned a bit about how to successfully transition from a randomized controlled trial to operating at scale over the years, and I’d like to share some key lessons:
1. Standardizing operations is essential. We've standardized operations focused on expansion into a simple five-step process. These five steps describe the way we move into a new area, from a first engagement with government officials, right through to ongoing chlorine delivery. Over time, the five steps transformed our pilot into a replicable model ready to roll out in new geographic areas - and one that is highly scalable. We know what resources are required for each step - both human and financial resources. And we have introduced the kaizen of our work: to continually look back and see what we can do better next time.
2. Relentless focus on controlling costs. Think scrooge hunched over a table under candlelight counting coins. But joking aside, when it only costs $1.40 a person/year for a continuous supply of chlorine that kills 99.9% of harmful pathogens in water, we're talking reduction in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and diarrhea averted. Every operational improvement and every innovative idea is tested against the basic equation of whether we can increase our user adoption while staying extremely cost effective—providing value for every penny spent.
We have been able to reduce the cost per person of chlorine dispensers, which continually decreases as we scale and reach more people. For example, we will purchase 1.5 million liters of liquid chlorine this year from local suppliers in East Africa. This allows us to negotiate even harder for lower prices.
We have tested whether it’s more cost effective to deploy a larger number of motorbikes for the chlorine supply chain that reach remote areas easier but can carry less chlorine, or a fewer number of cars that can carry more chlorine but have a harder time reaching remote areas. We have calculated what the dispensers density point is by which motorbikes become more cost effective, and we can plan and manage our supply chain accordingly.
This focus on continuous measurement and improvement - the kaizen of our work - forces us to continually find more efficient ways to achieve each of the five steps at a lower cost.
3. Investment in scaling is essential. Obviously, this is not a golden nugget of wisdom but the simple truth. Just as it takes time to reach a breakeven point in a business, it takes time for a development intervention to be sustainable. We have made the hard decision to pause our rapid growth to explore new lines of revenue as one of our revenue areas, carbon credits, has declined as carbon markets have fallen. Proven development interventions need financial backing to get them through the valley of death, even more so than the tech startups of San Francisco. Concomitantly, if donors are serious about reaching scale they need to pull the plug on those projects that will never scale cost effectively, no matter how sexy some pilots seem.
With a clear mission focused explicitly on scale, with standardising operations, and a relentless focus on cost reductions and economies of scale, we think scale in WASH is not only possible, it is essential.
Editor's Note: In this post, Heloise Greeff, Doctoral Researcher, Water Programme, at the Computational Health Informatics Lab and Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, discusses how we can pro-actively monitor the condition of handpumps and ensure that millions of people can access a reliable water source. This post originally appeared on the REACH program's site, the orginal article can be accessed here.
Predictive health monitoring is widely used in engineering applications to detect damage to infrastructure as early as possible. Forecasting failure rather than merely detecting failure once it occurs helps to reduce the downtime of systems. Ideally, predictive maintenance can be used to avoid downtime completely. With this approach already widely used in many fields from commercial and military jet engines to patient monitoring in health systems, it is now being extended to monitoring the condition of handpumps in rural villages.
The handpump remains a reliable and low-cost method to access groundwater, making it a critical component of rural water supply for around 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Community handpump models, such as the Afridev and India MK II, are designed to lift water from deeper sources than traditional rope and bucket systems which can only be used in shallow wells. However, high water demands result in continuous usage and frequent breakdowns. Unfortunately, practical challenges in the supply of spare parts combined with a lack of local skills and resources result in an estimated 30% of handpumps in Africa not working at any given time.
The use of predictive maintenance in handpumps has the potential to limit interruptions of weeks or more which are common across rural Africa. A broken handpump in a remote village can force women or girls to walk up to 20 kilometres to find alternative sources which may be contaminated or expensive. Reliability and sustainability of water supplies are important to ensure healthy communities, societies, and economies in all regions of the world.
The Oxford University ‘Smart Handpump’ was successfully introduced in 2012. Proof-of-concept for the remote monitoring of handpumps used a simple microprocessor, accelerometer and global system for mobile communications (GSM) components. The Smart Handpumps provide hourly data on usage.
In 2014 a preliminary analysis used high frequency accelerometer data to show that these patterns contain useful information. High-rate waveforms from the accelerometry data can be processed using robust machine learning methods that are sensitive not only to the dynamics of the whole system but also the subtle interaction between the user and the pump. The small changes in pump dynamics and the subtle reactions of the user become a prominent signal in determining the deterioration of pump mechanics and imminent failure. This same signal can also be used for monitoring the level of the shallow aquifer at the pump location.
By retrofitting a simple and inexpensive device to a standard pump handle, the Smart Handpumps are able to pro-actively monitor the condition of handpumps and ensure that millions of people can access a reliable water source.
In February 2016 we visited 33 different handpumps across the Kwale County in southeast Kenya. We recorded 103 different users extracting approximately 5,059 litres of groundwater using the handpumps. These data will be used to produce a low-cost predictive maintenance system that is scalable across large rural regions. The development of a prototype hardware system is being supported by UNICEF, funded through a competitive tender process, as part of their Product Innovation portfolio. Field testing will be conducted in partnership with UNICEF country programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa.
By monitoring the heartbeat of thousands of handpumps across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it is possible to give millions of people access to a reliable and secure water network. The handpump network has existed for many years and despite being neglected remains the most reliable method to access groundwater in remote locations as the world advances to achieving universal drinking water security.
Take a look at the video to see our work in Kwale County in Kenya in action: