The African Water Association (AfWA), the largest representation of water suppliers in Africa and a longtime collaborator of the Aquaya Institute, convened a meeting of its Science and Technology Committee (STC) in Bamakao, Mali on Monday, February 23.

The meeting marked the launch of two new joint initiatives to be run collaboratively by Aquaya and the AfWA Task Force on Water Quality. First, Aquaya and the AfWA Task Force will join forces on a research study to evaluate the potential of presence/absence tests for detecting fecal contamination in urban water distribution networks. This study will include parallel evaluations by the national water suppliers in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali and the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company in Kenya. CPI International is supporting this important work with the donation of its Colitag™ E. coli presence/absence tests and total coliform indicators.

Second, Aquaya and the AfWA Task Force are developing a policy brief highlighting vital recommendations for urban water provision in Africa. The brief underscores the importance of engaging the public and building support for the investments needed to improve service delivery, particularly in light of growing water supply challenges driven by the worsening effects of climate change and the rapid urbanization of the African continent.

Though in their early stages, both initiatives promise exciting developments for the consistent provision of quality water in Africa.

Aquaya has recently begun a new research initiative to study the supply and demand of improved latrine slabs in rural Tanzania. With our Tanzanian research partners, MSABI, we’ve started to conduct scoping visits to possible study regions. The study will assess the supply business models for both plastic latrine slabs and concrete Sungura SanPlats. As a part of the recent National Sanitation Campaign led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and through previous endeavors, Sungura SanPlats have been introduced and masons have been trained in their construction. While some areas have responded positively to the campaign and have improved their existing latrines or built new latrines, uptake hasn’t been consistent across the country. Many regions are still lacking proper improved sanitation, according to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) definition.

edIMG_8842Aquaya has been contracted by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program to study the supply and demand of these platforms in order to better understand how the country of Tanzania can increase their percentage of improved latrines. Our scoping visits have been spent meeting with many of the parties involved with improving sanitation. We met with the Ministry of Health at both the national and regional levels, and discussed the progress of the National Sanitation Campaign. We met with village leaders and enumerators for the local areas to see what the perceived level of sanitation is at a rural scale. We met with many masons and local concrete entrepreneurs to learn about their skills and the application of those skills towards improving sanitation. And we met with local villagers to learn about their lifestyle and the role that sanitation plays in their lives. All of these visits will help shape our proposed research design.

 As we move forward, we are organizing a willingness-to-pay study with a voucher system to see what the demand is like for rural villagers. Households in selected towns will be interviewed about their current sanitation practices, and if their current level of sanitary services is unimproved, they will receive a voucher for either a plastic latrine slab or a concrete latrine slab at a reduced price. Based on the sales of these slabs at different prices, we will be able to determine a demand curve for each product and determine at what price point there is substantial demand for the product. The plastic latrine slab is a new product, recently unveiled in Kenya, and we are interested in seeing if there is high demand for the product. The local manufacturers are excited at the prospect of studying the demand of the product and have been collaborating with us.

 edIMG_8853Nuances of the study will also explore other factors that may influence latrine demand. We will be testing demand as it compares to villages who have been exposed to the National Sanitation Campaign and those who have not. We will be looking at the effects of seeding the slabs prior to the demand study, to see if word-of-mouth influences demand. In addition, we will be swabbing latrines and testing for the presence of fecal coliform. Households will be informed of the results during the period of time in which they can purchase the latrine slabs, to see if education about their risk of disease increases demand of sanitation improvements. The data will also help inform us on the impacts of using latrine improvements as a way to reduce potential disease burden.

 We have completed preliminary visits to the regions we’ve selected and will soon complete a more intensive visit to finish determining the logistics for the study. We hope to have the two teams of enumerators out in the field doing initial interviews in February and March before the rainy season arrives. Stay tuned!

 

by Annette Fay and Emily Kumpel

Originally written as a guest post for Dimagi blog.

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When health agents take water samples from rural water points in Sénégal, what additional information should they record? Rien à signaler – nothing to report/no observation – is not the answer. Especially if that water point isn’t recorded anywhere, or only one person on your team knows how to drive there – and an entire community depends on that water to survive. This was emphasized by the national Water Quality Manager at Service National de l’Hygiene (SNH) to health agents in our training on a new CommCare app that enables collection and submission of water sampling data through mobile phones in real time. SNH is one of our 26 partners across 6 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are part of the 3-year research project, Monitoring for Safe Water (MfSW), that seeks to understand the challenges health surveillance agencies and water utilities face in testing water quality. Testing for water is a critical component in providing safe drinking water and happens behind the scenes on a regular basis in developed countries. We at the Aquaya Institute, a non-profit research and consulting organization that improves access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries, are identifying the challenges faced by institutions in testing drinking water and working to find strategies to solve them.

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One of the challenges that we have seen in the water quality testing programs among many of our 26 partners in sub-Saharan Africa is that of data management; even if they can test, to get the results to a regional or national office can require transportation and substantial amounts of staff time. Our partner in Sénégal, the National Hygiene Service (Service National de l’Hygiène, or SNH) has had a very successful water quality monitoring program since last August 2013 and have conducted over 2575 water tests for 5 parameters in 13 different sub-brigades (the smallest health center unit) – a large amount of water quality data to be sent from remote rural regions, standardized, and interpreted. Many of the sub-brigades struggle to borrow a computer from a different government office to email the data to the national office or send loose paper data sheets with colleagues who happened to be traveling to the regional office.

To address this and other challenges, we’re using CommCare as a self-starter with SNH to see if an ICT tool can improve management of water quality data collected from rural areas in Sénégal. We observed that the 13 sub-brigades recorded different information about water points when they collect samples (for example, different information about the sanitary condition surrounding a water source – or nothing at all). Our goal was to make an app that fit with their existing data collection practices while also using the opportunity to standardize data collection so that it was useful to the sub-brigades, regional and national offices. We chose CommCare for a mobile platform because of our team members’ previous experience with Open Data Kit (ODK), user-friendliness of designing and building an app, and the options for support that CommCare offers. SNH is excited about this project because it will be the first time mapping all of the water points and will streamline their data management. Up until now, sub-brigades in rural Sénégal sent water quality data once a month to a regional manager who then sends it on to the national level. All follow-up to the sub-brigades was done by phone and there is little interaction between the national and sub-brigade levels.

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How did we work with SNH to set up our CommCare application? After spending time in the field making sure we understood existing practices, we went through CommCare’s tutorials to learn the system and developed our questionnaire using CommCare’s template. We then used the questionnaire to create a preliminary version of the application in French and review the content of the forms with SNH’s national staff. We trained four sub-brigades in just one region of Sénégal to use CommCare to submit their water quality testing data. In our program, we are using CommCare’s case management feature – each water sample is a case, tracked through 4 forms: 1) record basic information about the water point when collecting samples (including GPS coordinates and information about the sanitary conditions of the water source); 2) record physico-chemical parameters of the sample when testing is conducted in the health office; 3) record microbial testing results the day after sampling; and 4) record actions agents take in response to the water quality of the sample. We made many changes to the content of our forms based on feedback from the health agents during the training and first few days trying it out in the field. We found CommCare easy to use to develop an application and Dimagi staff responsive over the mailing lists when we ran into problems we couldn’t solve on our own.

The training itself consisted of two days of classroom instruction covering how an Android phone works, the content of the forms and how to use the app. We emphasized breakout sessions so the 35+ participants could practice in small groups what we reviewed as a large group. We created test logins for people with their own Smartphones to use our CommCare app on their own. Following the classroom training, we visited each sub-brigade for half a day and accompanied the sampling teams while they used the app for the first time to record sampling data from two samples.

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Currently we are piloting the app in one region in Sénégal and we plan to roll out the program to two other regions in the coming weeks. We’re continuing to develop this application based on feedback from the SNH agents using it and are encouraged by their desire to develop their own CommCare application for other aspects of their work. We intend to transfer management of the project to our implementing partner in December 2014 and at this time they will be able to decide how much support they need and can afford.

Annette Fay, Aquaya’s new West Africa consultant.

Annette Fay, Aquaya’s new West Africa consultant.

Ranjiv Khush, E.D. & Co-founder, and Annette Fay, West Africa Consultant, recently attended the 5th AMCOW African Water Week in Dakar. The Africa Water Week (AWW) is convened by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC) and organized with other development partners. It is held biennially in order to build momentum on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) water and sanitation targets by 2015, and the 2025 Africa Water Vision. The focus of the week was ‘Placing Water at the Heart of the Post-2015 Development Agenda’ which the organizers further divided into the following sub-themes:

  • • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
  • • Water Resources Management for Sustainable Development
  • • Wastewater Management and Water Quality
  • • Water and Disaster Risk Management

 

The schedule was packed with morning plenary sessions, morning and afternoon technical sessions, side events and an exhibition. It also included forums for water-related businesses and civil society organizations. There were over 1000 participants present from governments, regional institutions, international partners, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society, and international media. The week ended with AMCOW’s ninth General Assembly of the Ministers Responsible for Water in Africa, featuring Senegalese President Macky Sall and Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf.

With the goal of this fifth African Water Week being to deliberate the level of importance water and sanitation should be given post-2015, Aquaya was pleased to see the attention given to Water Quality in the third sub-theme and several related presentations. Our Monitoring for Safe Water Program (MfSW) was featured in our partner the Senegalese National Hygiene Service’s presentation on ‘Monitoring Groundwater Quality in Urban Senegal’ for the increased frequency of water quality testing they are witnessing. Following the ninth General Assembly, AMCOW released the Dakar Declaration, which highlights the need to prioritize water security and sanitation in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

The Aquaya WASH Research Internship Program aims to build research capacity of Kenyan graduate students. We received over 60 applications from Kenyan Masters and PhD students to participate in the 3-month Aquaya internship in Nairobi, Kenya. We are excited to have two interns as part of our team for the next few months — Aaron Gichaba Misati and Joyce N. Kisiangani!

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Aaron Gichaba Misati
My name is Aaron Gichaba Misati from Kenya. I have a BSc degree in Environmental Health from Moi university and I am currently a MSc student in Environmental and Occupational Health at Egerton University. I am excited for this internship and would like to express my gratitude to Aquaya Institute for this opportunity. During this internship I am conducting research for my masters thesis and for eventual publication in a renowned water and sanitation journal to contribute to the scientific community. Previously, I have worked with Kenya Medical Research Institute-Center for Public Health and Research where I participated in the development of the Global Sanitation Fund for the 2013 Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Programme and other WASH related activities.
My ultimate goal is to be a lead researcher in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. I also envisage contributing towards the development of sustainable water and sanitation strategies. These strategies will contribute to the UN Millenium Development Goal 7c which aims at halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
I am determined to make the most out of the internship program and with researchers like Dr. Rachel Peletz, Dr. Emily Kumpel and Mr. Mateyo Bonham at the Aquaya Institute. I believe that this will not only empower my career development, but also give me the framework to utilize my full potential. I plan to use the knowledge and experience gained from this internship to come up with suitable interventions to overcome water and sanitation challenges in the world. It feels great to be part of the Aquaya team and I am looking forward to increasing my skills in research, expanding my social networks and working with Aquaya.

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Joyce Kisiangani
My name is Joyce Kisiangani and I am a Masters of Public Health student from Moi University in Kenya. I currently reside in Nairobi but I am originally from Kakamega County. I am grateful for the opportunity to work as an intern in Aquaya and am looking forward to learning from the researchers at Aquaya.
My previous research and experience in public health has led me to the internship at Aquaya. My Masters’ research is a qualitative study on the assessment of women’s knowledge, attitude and health seeking behavior of breast cancer and its screening among women in Kakamega County. I will be defending my thesis later this year and the skills that I will get from the internship at Aquaya will build my confidence in preparation for my thesis defense. I am therefore looking forward to acquiring and developing my skills in organizing, processing, analyzing and presenting qualitative data for journal publication.
Previously I was a Public Health and Environment Field Practicum Fellow with the School for Field Studies, Boston University, where I evaluated the Community Health Strategy in Kajiado County of Kenya. I have also worked as a Research Assistant with Kenya Medical Research Institute and with USAID.
The internship opportunity at Aquaya is an avenue for me to strengthen my research skills, in qualitative research, public health, and water and sanitation. I am enthusiastic to work and learn from researchers like Mateyo Bonham, Dr. Rachel Peletz and Dr. Emily Kumpel on the Monitoring for Safe Water program (MfSW). Learning from them will contribute to my long-term goal in this internship – to build my capacity in research, specifically in water and sanitation, so that I can contribute to my country’s commitment to providing safe water and improved sanitation to the local population.

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