Currently, more than four billion people live in urban areas. And counting. Projections show that by 2050 close to 7 billion of us will live in urban areas (Ritchie, 2018). With great, rapid urbanization, comes great responsibility. This includes providing adequate and inclusive sanitation services that meet the needs of the whole population.
Nearly 57% of people who live in cities lack safely managed sanitation, and 16% don’t have access to even basic sanitation (UNICEF & WHO, 2019). Imagine what this shortfall implies for public and environmental health. Fecal matter that is mismanaged or unmanaged contaminates water bodies, proliferates disease, and ultimately affects the livelihoods of people all over the world.
A fecal sludge treatment facility in Naruku, Kenya. A sanitation system deals with human excreta from the time it is generated until it is used or disposed of safely. Fecal sludge management includes emptying, transportation, treatment, and use or disposal of fecal sludge from an on-site sanitation technology (like a pit latrine or septic tank). It addresses the last three components of a non-sewered sanitation system.
Addressing this challenge requires a mix of solutions, people, and organizations converging across sectors to develop and enact sanitation strategies. A range of sanitation solutions, from traditional toilets and sewers to less-accepted non-networked solutions such as latrines and fecal sludge management, must all be used and integrated to achieve universal sanitation. Mayors, municipalities, or utilities lead policy development, and plan and regulate sanitation services. Businesses, such as emptiers, often provide those services, including emptying and transporting fecal sludge from latrines to be safely treated. Technical and academic institutions also have a role in providing training opportunities to support the skills development necessary to enable sanitation systems.
Coordination is key. And so is capacity. Timely and targeted capacity development services can reinforce the coordination of these organizations.
Focusing on the less accepted, but absolutely necessary non-networked solutions, in 2018 CAWST conducted a study of the existing services, knowledge, and skills available to sanitation service providers in ten African and South Asian countries.
“What we observed out of the study were ‘islands of excellence’—strong, one-off training workshops or courses, but a disconnect between the offerings and the needs of learners,” explains Laura Kohler, PhD, Senior Knowledge and Research Advisor. “Many of the opportunities were expert-led lectures, which lend themselves to knowledge transfer, but which do not necessarily translate to participants taking action based on their learning.
Moreover, CAWST discovered that although there were many people and organizations working towards inclusive sanitation, they lacked the support they needed to succeed.
So we asked ourselves, how do we develop capacity at both the organizational and individual levels to better support sanitation service delivery for all?”
The answer: strategic partnerships.
Working alongside the organizations best equipped to reach and serve sanitation professionals who were delivering the services, CAWST engaged in three strategic partnerships:
- With emptying professionals, through the Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA)
- With the African Water Association (AfWA), to actualize their mentorship and training program for African municipalities and utilities for implementing citywide inclusive sanitation
- With ITN-BUET in Bangladesh, to develop and deliver citywide inclusive sanitation through fecal sludge management training for municipalities.
Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors launches at Fecal Sludge Management 5 conference. With members from over 19 countries across Africa, the association convenes emptying professionals to advance their rights and reputation through networking, peer-to-peer learning, and advocacy.
Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors
Emptying professionals are responsible for the safe collection and transport of fecal sludge, from latrines and septic tanks to disposal sites. Despite providing services that are essential to public health, the work of Emptiers is usually misunderstood and underappreciated. Facing common challenges and stigma, emptying professionals convened to form an association for advancing their rights and reputation.
The Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA) was officially launched in 2019 at Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) 5, a biennial international conference that advances sanitation policy and practice. “Emptiers were previously underrepresented in conversations about sanitation policy. Bringing together the secretariat from across the continent for the official launch of PASA at the FSM 5 conference was an exciting occasion, as this was one of the first times they were well-represented at this type of high level event,” explains Kelly James, MSc, CAWST Knowledge and Research Advisor.
Comprised of representatives of municipal and national emptying associations from 19 countries across Africa, PASA facilitates networking, peer-to-peer learning, and capacity development. They advocate and ensure that Emptiers are present in all conversations about sanitation service delivery and expand the ways in which Emptiers engage in fecal sludge management.
CAWST worked with PASA even before their official launch. Together, CAWST and PASA have hosted workshops amongst Emptiers from across the continent, and designed capacity development tools to structure training and services for Emptiers. Collaboratively, we also began thinking about PASA’s capacity development strategy, with a vision to expand PASA’s network and support all members through peer-to-peer learning and sharing.
African Water Association meets to evaluate the first phase of their program that engages 30 cities across the continent to plan and implement inclusive sanitation strategies to reach the growing need of cities. The next phase of the program will scale training, mentoring, and training-of-trainers in support of citywide sanitation planning.
African Water Association
While many of our efforts started with members from the emptying community, supporting them without strengthening the contexts in which they work would nullify their achievements.
Strengthening said contexts meant exploring opportunities to support African municipalities and utilities, which are the authorities typically delegated to manage water and sanitation services in cities. The African Water Association aims to strengthen the capabilities that underpin access to sustainable water and sanitation for all, and has been doing so since its inception in 1980. AfWA now also operates as a platform that facilitates knowledge sharing, networking, collaboration, and advocacy across Africa.
Through 2019, CAWST and AfWA’s relationship centred on supporting PASA. In doing so, new opportunities for collaboration emerged.
Under one of their many programs, AfWA aims to build the capacity of 30 African cities to implement citywide inclusive sanitation. As AfWA concluded and evaluated the first phase of their program, CAWST supported in defining criteria to select participating countries and cities going forward. We also collaborated on designing questionnaires to assess sanitation in participating cities and the strengths of AfWA’s five regional implementing partners. This included documenting municipal and utility competencies to inform training and mentorship, and Citywide Sanitation Planning training-of-trainers.
AfWA’s program is a great example of how capacity development can contribute to the enabling environment for inclusive sanitation solutions. It is multimodal, growing both capacity and coordination among key stakeholders to improve the coverage of sanitation options and the management of urban fecal sludge, wastewater, and more.
Dr Lona Robertson, CAWST Global Learning Advisor (centre), with participants and trainers of a sanitation workshop, developed in collaboration with International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
Non-networked sanitation programs in urban contexts are unlikely to succeed without participatory, action-oriented courses on citywide inclusive sanitation. Fortunately, with International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (ITN-BUET), we have co-developed exactly that type of curriculum. Together, our goal is to develop a national-level capacity building platform that will support municipalities in Bangladesh to implement non-networked sanitation. This shifts away from the typical model of expert lectures. Instead, we’re aiming for modular learning, where each module addresses one step in the planning process. The goal is for participants to emerge from the course with an action plan for applying what they learned into their own municipalities.
“We transformed the course, Fecal Sludge Management in Cities: An Element of Citywide Inclusive Sanitation. The most rewarding part for me was supporting ITN-BUET to develop something that was truly theirs and truly participatory. And they were pumped when they saw the results,” explains Lona Robertson, PhD, Global Learning Advisor. Lona supported the instructional redesign of the course, and led its evaluation.
The results of a more participatory approach were astounding. Following the first course, every paurashava (municipality) in attendance reported that they created action plans within two weeks to share their learning with stakeholders and increase public awareness. Moving forward, CAWST and ITN-BUET are exploring ways to work together. Our mutual goal is to increase and strengthen capacity development opportunities and resources to support the scale-up of non-networked sanitation services.
Strategic partnerships like these, which span continents and engage stakeholders across sectors, are indispensable to achieving safely managed sanitation, which so much of the world still lacks. “No one actor or solution is sufficient to serve an entire city; it takes collaboration and innovation, which AfWA, PASA, and ITN-BUET aim to foster,” Laura explains.
Ritchie, H. 2018. Urbanization. OurWorldInData.org. https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization. 2019. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities.
This story of impact is part of our 2019 Annual Report. To read the full report, click here.