WSUP and WEDC (the Water, Engineering, and Development Centre of Loughborough University) have jointly developed a Masters-level professional training module, ‘Water and Sanitation for Urban Low-Income Communities’. The course is now being rolled out through training sessions in Mozambique, Ghana, Bangladesh, Madagascar, and Kenya.

The course aims to fill a gap in professional training on WASH for low income communities. Engineers are often trained in technical areas and high cost technologies, but lack training on the complex social and financial challenges of improving services in low income communities. The training module, which is supported by DFID (the UK government’s Department for International Development), aims to embed knowledge and understanding of effective, viable, and sustainable pro-poor models for the graduate students who will go on to become key players in the sector and for current practitioners.

At the beginning of November 2015, the course was rolled out in Naivasha, Kenya. Kenyan water and sanitation professionals met up for five days’ training focused on the provision of water and sanitation services in low income urban communities. Participants included engineers and social specialists working for water utilities, NGOs, research institutes, and other organisations and the central objective was to learn from each other’s experiences.

Every participant was able to discover new technologies and test new management approaches. For example, one shared challenge these practitioners face is determining how water utilities can set the right price for water. The participants tried different exercises to imagine new tariffs where social fairness (ensuring best access to water for all) and commercial viability were key. Acknowledging the weight of local contexts and the influence of political lobbying or inertia on the situation, we learned how simple social, technological, and economic interventions have already improved lives in several Kenyan settlements.

All participants learnt about the newly developed ‘excreta flow mapping’ tool and drafted one for their own town, leading to lots of discussion and debate. We also debated topics like how to involve landlords in decision making, sewer expansion, and how to encourage the coordination of different stakeholders.

This training was an important few days but is only one of the many steps needed to continue developing the skills, motivations, and practices of water and sanitation professionals. The sessions emphasised for all participants the central role played by knowledge sharing and collaboration; participants pledged to communicate better and try to learn from each other’s respective failures and successes.

Materials relating to the WASH training can be obtained on our website. Please click here for Module 1 lecture notes and here for the accompanying PowerPoint. If you would like to access full materials for all 16 modules, please click here or email