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Pit Emptying and Marketplace Development: A Mucky Business from Water For People on Vimeo.

Market development in sanitation is, both literally and figuratively, a mucky business. A recent video from Water For People thoughtfully illustrates the different approaches and limitations the organization has experienced in its attempts to establish a city-wide market for pit emptying services in Kampala, Uganda.

After identifying transportation costs as a main constraint to the scaling of the city’s pit emptying sector, Water For People helped to establish Sanitation Solutions Group with the aim of growing the market for this service. The Group leases vehicles and equipment to the best performing businesses already existing in the informal sector and supports pit emptiers in becoming franchisees, helping to professionalize an industry to which few aspire.

Watch the video and share your own insights and lessons learned for market-based solutions in the WASH sector in the comments!

Photo Credit: Evidence Action

USAID and the Skoll Foundation have announced a joint investment of $2 million in Evidence Action to scale the Dispensers for Safe Water program in rural Uganda.

The investment by the USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance will fund the installation of more than ten thousand low-cost chlorine dispensers, providing clean water to an additional 3.2 million people by the end of the year. Launched in 2012 and supported by the humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, the alliance has committed $44.5 million over five years to scale up ten proven, cost-effective, and sustainable social ventures working to effect systems-level change in Africa.

In Uganda, just 10 percent of the population has access to piped water, and approximately twenty-three thousand people die of diarrheal diseases annually. Such diseases are among the leading causes of childhood death on the continent.

Evidence Action's chlorine dispensers are placed at local water sources to enable users to easily add a precise dose of chlorine to their water, making it safe to drink. Dispensers cost approximately 50 cents per user per year at scale, and Evidence Action finances operations through carbon credits it receives because its chlorine dispensers make it unnecessary for people to boil water using fossil fuels.

"USAID and Skoll Foundation Announce Joint Investment in Evidence Action for Clean Water in Uganda." Skoll Foundation Press Release 02/04/2015. 

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Libby Plumb, Senior Communications Advisor for WaterAid America, who has recently returned from visiting WaterAid’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. 

Rehema and her daughter Mariam carrying water home from the spring in Rubaga, Kampala. Credit: WaterAid / Libby Plumb

Rehema and her daughter Mariam carrying water home from the spring in Rubaga, Kampala. Credit: WaterAid / Libby Plumb

Mariam is the only child of 22-year-old single mom Rehema. On the way to and from the local spring, near the Rubaga slum in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, she toddles behind her mother. It’s a journey they make four times a day to bring home enough water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Even little Mariam carries a jerry can of water: while Mom struggles under the weight of two 22 pound (10-liter) yellow jerry cans, Mariam follows behind carrying a bright red 11 pound (five-liter) jerry can – quite a feat for such a young child.

Rehema knows the quality of the spring water is questionable and could be risky for her daughter’s health. Kampala’s poorly constructed pit latrines and a high water table are a lethal combination as feces can easily contaminate the water supply. It’s not just water quality that is an issue. Accessibility is also a major challenge. With hundreds of people relying on the spring for water, crowds build up, with long waits common in the morning and evening when the heat of the sun is not so fierce. 

Rehema commented: “It’s very difficult to collect water from there. At 8 or 9 p.m. it is so crowded that it can take more than 30 minutes.”

Tensions often flare at the spring. Alongside women and children collecting water for their own domestic use are water vendors, usually men, who come to the spring to fill four or more jerry cans with water that they attach to bicycles and take to customers who pay for delivery service. Women and children are often pushed out of the way by vendors forcing their way to the front of the line. 

The need for safe, affordable, accessible water services in Rubaga is clear, but there are challenges inherent in extending piped water services into low-income neighborhoods. 

In other areas of the city where the National Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) has granted water connections, it is common for landlords to sell water to their tenants for four to eight times the official rate. Poor families who are unable to afford the inflated rate continue to use polluted springs, even where there’s a tap right next to their home. 

Farahilh Masane collecting water from a prepaid meter in Kawempe, Kampala. Credit: WaterAid / Libby Plumb

Farahilh Masane collecting water from a prepaid meter in Kawempe, Kampala. Credit: WaterAid / Libby Plumb

A pilot program of pre-paid water meters being rolled out by NWSC and donors aims to tackle this problem. The meters are operated by an electronic key, known as a token, that is pre-loaded with credit. Anyone, landlord or tenant, can buy a key and refill it with credit. As water is dispensed, the meter deducts credit from the token at the official rate.  In this way, consumers deal directly with NWSC and there is no scope for middlemen to inflate the price. Consumers benefit from safe, affordable water, while NWSC benefits from knowing that by paying upfront, consumers are unable to default on payment of water bills. 

The system is not perfect. Vandalism has been known to damage meters, causing them to malfunction. Another concern is whether all tenants, particularly newcomers to the area, are in the know about how to buy and use tokens. But it’s a system that shows promise and offers hope to areas like Rubaga that are still unserved with water. 

Farahilh Masane is a resident of the Kawempe Division, where prepaid meters have been installed by Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), with support and funding from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and WaterAid. She told us: “I walk across the road to the prepaid meter because it is cheaper there: 100 Shillings [4 US cents] for four jerry cans. There is a private tap right here but it is too expensive for me: 200 Shillings [8 US cents] per jerry can. Before the meter was installed I collected water from a spring, but so many people near it have pit latrines, the water was contaminated.”

Back in Rubaga, Rehema is hopeful that she will be able to benefit from piped water soon too. “It would change my life to have clean water and live in a better environment.” 

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Andre Olschewski, water, environmental management and spatial planning specialist at the Skat Foundation. Andre discusses the work of WASHTech, a two-year project to strengthen the WASH sector’s capacity to effectively invest in new technologies. WASHTech was funded by the European Commission FP7. The WASHTech consortium comprises: Skat Foundation — Switzerland; IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre — Netherlands; WaterAid — UK, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Uganda; Cranfield University — UK; Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) — Burkina Faso; Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS) — Uganda; Training, Research and Networking for Development (TREND) — Ghana; and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) — Ghana. A version of this blog post also appeared here.

Participants at the scoring workshop on U2 pump in Mukono, Uganda, November 2012. Credit: Andre Olschewski

Participants at the scoring workshop on U2 pump in Mukono, Uganda, November 2012. Credit: Andre Olschewski

Why bother with WASH technologies? Current WASH discourse focuses on sustainable service delivery, monitoring, and governance. Many WASH technologies, such as the India Mark II handpump and the VIP latrine, were successfully adopted and have improved the lives of millions. However, not all promising WASH technologies invented or introduced have led to sustainable services. And most technology does not function all of the time. These are lost opportunities...

Many governments, development partners, international organisations, and increasingly the private sector in developing countries promote specific WASH technologies to improve WASH services. However, a challenge is to find an efficient and robust way to assess if the technology really has the potential to be scaled up and to realise the intended benefits. This challenge has been addressed in the EU-Funded action research project WASHTech.

One of the key outputs of the project is the Technology Applicability Framework (TAF). The TAF is a decision-support tool that helps to assess if a specific WASH technology is applicable in a certain context. For example, the Rope Pump has been successful in Nicaragua; would it work as well in Togo or Tajikistan? Using 18 indicators, the TAF provides a comprehensive assessment of the likelihood for a successful scaling up of a technology. The indicators consider different aspects of sustainability and the perspectives of different stakeholders, including:

  • the users of the technology,
  • the producers of the technology, and
  • the regulator, facilitator, or funder of the technology introduction process.

The TAF is a stepwise process to screen and assess technologies. Data is collected in the field and then verified and interpreted at a multi-stakeholder workshop. All relevant actors including users, producers, and regulators participate and bring their views and perceptions to this workshop.

Based on the results of the workshop, a graphical profile is developed, showing the strengths and weaknesses of the technology, as well as gaps in knowledge. This profile helps to uncover specific interventions or design changes that could improve the technology or the uptake process. For example it may point towards subsidies or capacity development of the producer.

Hypothetical example of a TAF profile. Credit: Andre Olschewski

Hypothetical example of a TAF profile. Credit: Andre Olschewski

The special feature of the TAF is its transparent and participatory process. It is not a magic box piece of computer software that spits out the ‘right’ answer. It brings very different stakeholders together and enables them to listen to each other and learn. The easy-to-understand graphical presentation allows all actors to recognise the key issues and identify who is responsible.

The TAF has been rigorously tested in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Uganda. This process comprised of three rounds of testing on 13 different WASH technologies. Testing included established technologies, such as the India Mark II handpump, and emerging technologies, such as solar-powered systems. In all three countries government institutions have been intensively involved in the testing of the TAF. They confirmed that it fills a gap and will be very useful when external agents come to their countries to introduce a new WASH technology. Governments have all appointed an institution to host the TAF so that it can be readily used.

The second major output of WASHTech is the Technology Introduction Process (TIP), still under development. This is a guidance document that will help organisations improve the way they introduce technologies in a particular country context. The TAF and draft TIP have been presented at various conferences and symposia, where they have garnered a lot of interest. Some organisations already plan to use the TAF to test specific technologies.

By the end of 2013, when the WASHTech project concludes, all of the tools will be available free of charge. So far there is no follow-on project foreseen, but project partners are seeking opportunities for follow-up, and to support other countries. A web-based resource, hosted by the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN), is being built. It will provide the TAF and TIP manuals, and enable some Q&A support. It will also be linked to a community of practise of TAF users.

Anyone who is interested in the TAF and TIP and its further development is invited to contact me for more information. You can also find out more about WASHTech here. Questions or feedback? Leave a comment in the comments section below.

Young girl filling jerricans in the Ogurotapa village of the Pallisa district, Southeast Uganda. Credit: Rudi Dundas

Young girl filling jerricans in the Ogurotapa village of the Pallisa district, Southeast Uganda. Credit: Rudi Dundas

Editor’s Note: We pose four questions to Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network, on how collaborative partnerships can scale the impact of multi-sector programs. 

Tell us about the H2O+ Uganda initiative BPN helped to launch last year.

H2O+ is a multi-sector initiative designed to eliminate the root causes of poverty. We developed the H2O+ initiative to reduce morbidity and mortality rates, and promote economic development in Uganda by integrating five related initiatives: (1) improved access to sanitation; (2) improved access to safe water; (3) improved community hygiene practices; (4) strengthened capacity at district and community health facilities; and (5) increased school enrollment of girls. 

ILF drilled a borehole well in the Ogiroi village for the H20+ program. 1,373 children and villagers will have safe drinking water from this water source. Credit: International Lifeline Fund

ILF drilled a borehole well in the Ogiroi village for the H20+ program. 1,373 children and villagers will have safe drinking water from this water source. Credit: International Lifeline Fund

H2O+ was piloted successfully in Pallisa, a district in Southeast Uganda, in 2012. The program brings clean water solutions and improved capacity to health clinics as well as communities. Five borehole wells were constructed near health clinics providing 6,392 villagers living in these five communities with direct access to clean water.  Additionally, those traveling from afar to these health clinics will have access to clean water, which we have calculated as approximately 4,000 visitors per year per health clinic. Because of the strategic placement of the wells, the program will benefit 25,600 people annually in these five communities.

How did BPN set up a private-public partnership to launch H2O+ in Uganda?

Boys playing near the Obutet borehole well where 2,610 people now have access to safe drinking water. Credit: Rudi Dundas

Boys playing near the Obutet borehole well where 2,610 people now have access to safe drinking water. Credit: Rudi Dundas

Once we formed the H2O+ concept, we identified key players at the local, regional, national, and international levels to build a unique collaborative model that could be replicated across Uganda. With a network of nearly 100 WASH members working in 27 countries, we invited one of our members, International Lifeline Fund (ILF), to take the lead on implementing the program. ILF is a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce human suffering through WASH initiatives, fuel-efficient stove programs, and micro-enterprise. They have constructed more than 200 borehole wells in Uganda serving over 150,000 people. Their demonstrated expertise in Uganda and entrepreneurial approach aligned well with the H2O+ model. 

ILF Water and Sanitation Team in Uganda working on the H20 Health+ project. Credit: International Lifeline Fund

ILF Water and Sanitation Team in Uganda working on the H20 Health+ project. Credit: International Lifeline Fund

H2O+ was launched in partnership with ReachScale, a company that brings social innovators, including corporations, NGOs, and governments, together to scale initiatives that increase innovation and impact.

Management Sciences for Health played a critical role in the planning stages of H2O+. They manage healthcare clinics throughout Uganda, and around the world, and implement WASH activities through advocacy, community mobilization, and hygiene and health education.

Local governments in the district of Palissa and community leaders were involved in H2O+ planning, baseline research, and analysis and implementation. Africa AHEAD  joined H2O+ and will introduce Community Health Clubs in Phase II as the best way to ensure a community-led approach to water and sanitation program development.

What was BPN’s approach to integrating the 5 related initiatives (water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and education) and identifying metrics?

The H2O+ initiative recognizes that health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and education are inextricably linked at the local level, as shown in the diagram below. H2O+ partners have experience leveraging their work to solve multiple community issues. BPN asked its partners: “How can we impact multiple aspects of community poverty?” rather than “How can we increase clean water, or how can we decrease visits to the health clinic?” The answers led to H2O+, an integrated approach to poverty alleviation. BPN worked with its partners to agree upon the project model, planning, implementation, and monitoring components. H2O+ partners agreed upon a common set of metrics that will be reported and analyzed on BPN’s platform.  

Source: Management Sciences for Health, BPN and Reach Scale

Source: Management Sciences for Health, BPN and Reach Scale

What were the challenges, lessons learned, and positive outcomes of coordinating the different stakeholders and getting everyone on board?

A girl from the Ogurotapa village where the Obutet borehole well was drilled in January 2013. Credit: Rudi Dundas

A girl from the Ogurotapa village where the Obutet borehole well was drilled in January 2013. Credit: Rudi Dundas

Agreeing on how to operate together was the largest challenge of H2O+, given the multi-level commitment of each partner. 

H2O+ planning was launched with several virtual planning meetings, and followed up with a site visit in Kampala, Uganda with representatives of several H2O+ partners. The program structure, metrics, and roles were discussed virtually, while the in-country visit was essential for building trust amongst district officials and H2O+ partners. As Dan Wolf, ILF’s founder and executive director explains, “The lesson always is to lay the groundwork well in advance of beginning operations.” Dan and his team realized that building collaborative relationships with local government officials was difficult without a foundation of understanding. “The problem was a lack of familiarity and trust with a new organization. We learned that we can always do a better job of explaining and leveraging our experience to show the District Water Offices the benefits of our partnership.”

H2O+ partners are now looking at economic development opportunities for women. Empowering women to make and sell clean cook stoves is a unique addition to a traditional water or health program. Carbon accreditation will generate a revenue stream that pays for equipment maintenance and community education. This multi-sector model has attracted funders because they see the opportunity to leverage partner integration for greater program outcomes.

The takeaways are:

  • Detail planning and role delineation up front is key. 
  • Combine the virtual with the physical. Being virtual encourages creative solutions.  Getting together in person builds trust that strengthens partnerships.
  • Be honest about evaluating progress and results. Always be open to refining the process for greater impact and stronger partnership. Measure, measure, measure.
  • Celebrate successes together, no matter how small. Partnerships are hard work, so it’s important to remind people every time you make progress toward your common goal. 

Editor’s Note: In this guest post, charity: water announces the receipt of Google’s Global Impact Award. The $5 million award will enable charity: water to develop and pilot a remote sensor technology to determine which water points are working and which need repairs in real time. A version of this post originally appeared here.

Woman in India pumping water from water point. Credit: charity: water

Woman in India pumping water from water point. Credit: charity: water

We’re proud to announce that charity: water is a recipient of a Global Impact Award from Google.

The first projects we ever built were six wells in a refugee camp in Uganda. We wanted to prove to our donors that their money was spent exactly how we said it would be, and where it went.

So we walked into an electronics store and bought a handheld GPS device for $100. We took it to Uganda, went to each project and plotted six points on Google Maps™. Then we made the information public on our web site along with the photos for everyone to see. We’ve been doing that ever since.

Fast forward six years later, and we’ve now funded over 6,994 water projects in 20 countries that will serve more than 2.5 million people. And although we’ve continued to map every single water project, we don’t think knowing their location is good enough anymore. We want to know whether each one of them is working right now, in real time.

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re launching a $5 million pilot project with Google to develop remote sensor technology that will tell us whether water is flowing at any of our projects, at any given time, anywhere in the world. Google has funded this entire initiative through the new Global Impact Awards. This award will help charity: water further advance transparency and sustainability in the water sector.

Although our staff and local partners visit our programs frequently, it’s simply not possible to visit every project often enough to ensure that water is flowing all the time. Thanks to this Global Impact Award from Google, we’ll be able to go from hoping that projects function over time, to knowing that they are.

charity: water's sensors will transmit real-time data to determine whether or not a water point is working. Credit: charity water

charity: water's sensors will transmit real-time data to determine whether or not a water point is working. Credit: charity water

Over the next few years, we’ll develop and install 4,000 low-cost remote sensors in our existing and new water projects in several countries. These sensors will transmit real-time data to us and our partners, and eventually to you, the donor.

But just knowing the status of projects isn’t good enough. If a breakdown occurs, there needs to be a system in place to ensure that it gets fixed quickly. That’s why an important part of this pilot will be to continue training and establishing local mechanic programs all over the world who can dispatch to communities within their reach and make repairs. This will create new jobs and small business entrepreneurs in places where they don’t exist today.

We know the data will uncover new challenges, but we’re excited and committed to meet them head on. We’ve used Google Maps™ to innovate over the last six years, and today we’re incredibly excited to work with Google on remote sensor technology, this time to further increase transparency for our donors, and to deliver water more reliably than ever before, to the people who need it most.

Editor’s Note: This guest post was authored by Nicole Rosenleaf Ritter who is the communication specialist for the Project WET Foundation, a nonprofit based in Bozeman, Montana, and active in more than 65 countries. Nicole discusses Project WET’s evaluation work, including its innovative use of mobile technology and collaboration with Engineers Without Borders. All of the WASH education materials referenced are available for free download on the Project WET web site, including formal reports regarding the northern Uganda evaluation process.

Teachers in rural northern Uganda used mobile phones to complete follow-up surveys about the impact of WASH education. Credit: © Project WET Foundation

Teachers in rural northern Uganda used mobile phones to complete follow-up surveys about the impact of WASH education. Credit: © Project WET Foundation

The Lake Victoria Primary School (LVS) in Uganda offers an object lesson for anyone curious about the importance of WASH education. As part of a water provision project, gutters and downspouts were constructed and a water tank was provided to LVS to allow the school to harvest rainwater. What wasn’t provided as part of the project was education — either about the benefits of rainwater harvesting or the way such a system would be set up. As a result, the water tank ended up unused and in storage with small, potentially contaminated containers capturing only a tiny fraction of the usable water. Meanwhile the school was shelling out US$600 per month for municipal water that was available from only one tap.

Enter Aggrey Oluka, LVS’s head science teacher. Fed up with high rates of waterborne illness and unsustainable water bills, Oluka went looking for solutions. He found the Project WET Foundation, which was launching a new program in Africa with USAID to create culturally appropriate WASH-related educator guides, children’s books, and classroom posters, and to train teachers to use them. He participated in writing workshops for the materials and enthusiastically adopted them for use at LVS. Applying the knowledge he and his students had gained, Aggrey was able to finally get the rainwater harvesting system implemented — to the benefit of the students’ health and the school’s budget. The municipal water bill dropped to just US$30 per month, and students had increased access to clean water for healthy habits such as hand-washing.

Thanks to experiences like this one, the value of WASH education is finally being recognized. The WASH Sustainability Charter gives WASH education top billing, with the preamble singling out “the lasting provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education” as a “leading development priority of our time.” (For more information on the Charter, read this WASHfunders guest post.)

Given the growing influence of WASH education, finding ways to measure and evaluate educational programs and projects is also increasingly important and challenging. While it stands to reason that a populace educated in the basics of water, sanitation, and hygiene will be better able and more likely to actively participate in sustaining water provision projects, the evidence surrounding WASH education’s impact on behavior remains in early stages.

As a longtime proponent and provider of WASH education, the Project WET Foundation is exploring new and innovative ways to evaluate the results of its WASH education materials implementation. Targeting youth through school and community educators, Project WET materials, including educator guides and lesson plans, colorful children’s activity booklets, and durable classroom posters, teach children, parents, teachers, administrators, and government officials  about WASH using games, songs, role-plays, whole-body learning, subject integration, and other interactive pedagogical methods.  Educators learn to use the materials through a train-the-trainer process, and students share the lessons they learn at home and in the community. Materials have been translated and localized on three continents, reaching millions of children.

So what happens after the intervention? Getting to that answer is critical for all WASH education actors, but it is not easy. Partnerships and novel approaches can help.

Following implementation in rural northern Uganda in 2009, Project WET used traditional site visit and survey techniques to evaluate results in 2010. However, recognizing the limitations of those techniques — particularly the lack of reliable internet connectivity for e-mail follow-up, the prevalence of teacher transfer, and the time constraints for staff — Project WET teamed up with Adam Lerer, a PhD candidate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lerer’s thesis work focused on using the Open Data Kit voice system, a web-based interactive voice response technology that allows the user to design and record survey calls to be received on any kind of mobile phone. 

The innovative combination of mobile phone technology plus traditional techniques, allowed successful follow-up with 92 of the 500 schools where educational materials were implemented at a cost of US$5.90 per teacher and US$.06 per student. The mobile phone surveys allowed teachers and schools to respond quickly and easily, boosting return rates. The data collected showed that of the schools who responded to the follow-up, 90 percent were still using WASH education materials with their students a year after implementation, and 92 percent reported positive changes in student behavior related to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Increased hand-washing behavior and facilities were most often reported, as well as healthy behaviors relating to water storage, cleaning of the latrine, and water sources. At least 25 percent of users reported that the materials had also been shared with the wider community, supporting the notion of schools as gardens where ideas can grow and be shared.

While mobile phone surveys provide a promising, low-cost evaluation technique, extended on-the-ground monitoring is likely to remain the gold standard for independent assessment. However, many nonprofit organizations cannot afford to carry out such programs on their own. By partnering with the Montana State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Project WET has been able to both wrap education around water provision projects EWB has underway in Kenya and tap EWB student leaders to carry out year-by-year site evaluations in areas where Project WET materials have been implemented. The results of this three-year study — due out in 2015 — should shed light on the effects of WASH education on water provision projects and communities. 

By partnering inside and outside the WASH sector, experimenting with innovative techniques, and — most importantly — sharing lessons learned, WASH education practitioners can improve the work being done and secure education’s place at the center of WASH sustainability.

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