Women and girls living in Kenya’s low-income settlements frequently lack access to basic menstrual hygiene materials.

This Practice Note details the development of a business model for low-cost sanitary products in Naivasha, the setbacks encountered, and what WSUP has learnt from the pilot intervention.

This discussion paper explores how high-quality sanitation can be achieved in low-income urban areas in developing contexts. It is based on findings from four research projects conducted under, or in association with, WSUP’s Urban Sanitation Research Initiative 2016–2020 (USRI), funded by DFID.

The four research projects considered here are:

  1. The Faecal Pathogen Flows study in Dhaka, Bangladesh — aiming to track and model how faecal pathogens move through urban low-income communities (LICs), as a tool to support sanitation intervention planning in developing contexts.
  2. The MapSan study carried out in Maputo, Mozambique — one of the largest and most rigorous studies ever conducted of the health impacts of an urban sanitation intervention.
  3. The QUISS study — based on large-scale surveys in Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya, aiming to identify minimum standards for high-quality shared sanitation in urban contexts, and workable indicators of shared sanitation quality.
  4. The Clean Team evaluation — assessing customer experience among customers of Clean Team Ghana, a container-based sanitation enterprise.

In cities across Africa, rapidly expanding low-income communities (LICs) pose unique technical and social challenges to utilities in expanding services – but they also present an opportunity to expand the customer base and generate revenues. COVID-19 is placing huge additional pressures on the financial viability of utilities, exacerbating the need for innovative service delivery models to this segment of the customer base. In the context of short and long-term challenges posed by COVID-19, water utilities must take every measure available to improve the efficiency of operations: service quality and attention to the customer will be even more important; greater control will be required over the distribution network; and billing and revenues will need to be maximized to support the bottom line.

Smart Water Meters are a new technology with the potential to assist utilities in this process of transformation. The model offers greater control for the customer, through a flexible prepayment tailored to the spending habits of low-income households; and greater control for the utility, enabling real-time data on water demand across the supply area, and supporting a shift from reactive firefighting to preventative planning. Pilots of the technology to date have produced good results; however, more testing is needed, particularly in LICs. One project expected to inform the evidence base is a pilot of 500 smart meters recently underway in Watamu, in the Kenyan district of Malindi.

This article is part of a review by The Veolia Institute – check out the full publication here.

Core to WSUP’s guiding strategy is the belief that market-based solutions will contribute significantly to sustainable progress in tackling the world’s biggest challenge: water and sanitation for all.

However, financially viable business models targeting the poorest residents are just not very many.

Our work with local service providers, social enterprises, and WASH-driven start-ups, seeks to de-risk entry into the water and sanitation market, and drive growth for the business models with the potential to create lasting change.

The ideas outlined in this report explores how social enterprises and sustainable investors can work together to make SDG 6 a reality.

Read more about this report on NextBillion.

Improving sanitation conditions in low-income communities is a major challenge in rapidly growing cities of the developing world.

To determine the degree through which market forces can promote safe fecal sludge removal in low-income neighbourhoods of Kisumu, Kenya, this research compared household willingness-to-pay for formal pit emptying services with the prices charged by service providers.

The results suggest that improving fecal sludge management in these neighbourhoods via the private sector will require large subsidies to address the gap between willingness-to-pay and market prices.

Raising and administering subsidies of this scale will require the development of a city wide sanitation master plan that includes investment, management, and regulatory procedures for fecal sludge management.

Building resilience to climate change experiences from Southern Zambia

As the effects of man-made climate change become more pronounced, water shortages are becoming more common throughout Africa, with Southern Africa identified as a particular climate change hotspot.

This report examines the challenges faced by Southern Water & Sanitation Company Limited (SWSC) in Southern Zambia, as climate change has reduced its available water supply in recent years.

The report outlines steps being taken by SWSC under a utility strengthening programme created by WSUP with support from Wasser fuer Wasser.

Promoting safe pit-emptying services in urban, low-income areas is required to achieve universal access to safely-managed sanitation.

To evaluate strategies for increasing access to safe, regulated pit-emptying services, this study compared the performance of different groups in coordinating incentivized emptying services to low-income areas of Kisumu, Kenya.

Improving sanitation conditions in low-income communities is a major challenge for rapidly growing cities of the developing world. Residents of low-income communities generally do not have access to formal, regulated sanitation services such as centralized sewerage networks.

Instead, they typically rely on unsafe practices for removing and disposing of fecal sludge, such as connecting pit latrines or septic tanks to drains, or employing informal manual emptiers who remove fecal sludge by hand or buckets and either bury it onsite or dispose of it in nearby waterways.

This study quantified the gap between market prices (supply) and the amount households are willing to pay (demand) for safe emptying services in Kisumu’s low-income areas.

This Discussion Paper synthesises experience from Eastern and Southern Africa and Bangladesh to explore the evolving role of regulators in driving urban sanitation service improvements.

The paper argues that effective regulators and regulations are urgently needed to improve urban sanitation services to the poorest, and highlights some ways in which this can be achieved.

The paper features six case studies of diverse regulatory initiatives, ranging from sanitation surcharges and specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to national-level institutional and regulatory frameworks. In each case, the paper aims to document how progress has been made, but also to critically assess future challenges to implementation. Key messages of the paper are:

  • Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
  • Regulations are not enough. Clear responsibilities and active regulating are essential.
  • Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
  • A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey towards active regulating.

This is a joint publication between The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

Gender inequity at the level of policy, regulation and management limits the voice and participation of women decision-makers and can perpetuate inequities throughout the sanitation sector. To address this, the Urban Sanitation Research Initiative aims to analyse gender inequity in educational and professional settings of sanitation-related organisations.

  • Among staff at sanitation-related public-sector institutions in Kenya, a large majority of both men and women recognise that women have different needs and priorities when it comes to sanitation.
  • Both men and women showed awareness of the needs of women regarding particular attributes of latrines, such as menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities or physical safety.
  • A more participatory approach allowed more gendered perspectives and seemed to lead to gender-sensitive programming and policies; an infrastructure-led approach, focusing more on hardware installation and less on participation, led to less gender-sensitive programming and policies.

This research was led by Athena Infonomics; more information about the project and other reports can be found here.