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.
Aquaya 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.
Nuances 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!
Dr. Caroline Delaire and Dr. Ranjiv Khush recently visited Switzerland to guest teach with Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. The workshop was on water supply in low and middle-income countries and included water sampling methodology, results analysis, and difficulties facing institutions in their monitoring plans.
More details to follow.