World Water Day: Training WASH Service Providers

In 2011, USAID/Zambia invested $18 million in a four-year WASH in Schools program that covered half the districts of Eastern Province and provided enough resources to meet the sanitation facility, water points, and hygiene education needs of the school population of those districts. These numbered 200,000 students attending more than 400 primary schools. SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene) was implemented from 2012-2015. The USAID funded WASHplus project, managed by FHI 360, implemented SPLASH in partnership with CARE.

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Under the SPLASH project, area water pump menders received technical and business training during a four day workshop. Trainees put their new knowledge and skills into practice by repairing broken water hand pumps.

A large component of SPLASH’s (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene’s) sustainability plan for infrastructure is to train a cadre of area pump menders (APMs) to rehabilitate, maintain, and repair the water points installed at schools and provide them with the tools they need to conduct the regular maintenance. Training has taken place in all four districts, with a total of 190 APMs trained and certified. Of these, 40 are women. During the five-day training program, APMs learn the intricacies of hand pump repair as well as business skills to enable them to become self-sufficient WASH service providers. SPLASH developed Operations & Maintenance Guidelines, which have been distributed to each school in all four districts, with an orientation session during distribution. The guidelines encourage the schools to engage local APMs to perform regular maintenance, and they include a space to record the contact information for the closest APMs for each school. The program involves mentoring where more experienced APMs helped mentor and supervise the trainees, who are being prepared to go out on their own.

WASHplus Year Five Annual Report, October 2015

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In its Year Five Annual Report, WASHplus has stories to tell, results to share, events to celebrate, and studies that add to the evidence base. WASHplus activities serve as the backdrop for many stories: the Zambian school girl who has access to privacy and menstrual supplies when she needs them, the Malian household that can now build an improved latrine on their rocky soil, the mother in Bangladesh who understands the importance of a feces-free environment, the Nepali home breathing cleaner air as it trials an improved cookstove. And perhaps more compelling than the individual stories are the results the project is beginning to record through endline data collection in Kenya and formative research on school enrollment and in Zambia. Providing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure to schools is having a notable impact on enrollment. Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) may be inoculating communities exposed to cholera. Numbers also tell the story of the project’s impact. Look for a snapshot of those figures throughout the report.

The conclusion of field activities in Uganda and Zambia this year provided opportunities to reflect, celebrate accomplishments through end-of-project (EOP) events, and share lessons learned. Several articles were published this year in peer-reviewed journals and others submitted on topics ranging from consumer preferences and willingness to pay for improved cookstoves to habit formation and costing of handwashing. WASHplus also played a key role in preparing the joint document on WASH and nutrition for publication and distribution.

WASHplus’s focus on integrating WASH into other development initiatives enabled the project to get in on the ground floor on subjects that are gaining traction at USAID and globally, such as WASH and nutrition, neglected tropical diseases, and MHM. This integration focus dovetailed nicely with the project’s mandate to serve a technical leadership role, and project staff had many opportunities this year to share its work and lessons from the field on a global stage, strategize with partners on important advocacy issues, inform policy, and develop guidance in multiple countries. Also toward that end, WASHplus launched its first two learning briefs on small doable actions and WASH and nutrition. This series details the variety of approaches WASHplus uses to improve WASH and household air pollution (HAP) across its portfolio of countries.

And finally, it’s been an exciting year for innovation with pilot projects underway in Ethiopia and Bangladesh focusing on sanitation marketing and sand envelopment. These two efforts will add to WASHplus’s body of knowledge on sanitation innovation and aligns closely with USAID’s global interest on the topic. WASHplus is also documenting its fecal sludge management work in Madagascar to tell the next chapter in that story.

Fecal Sludge Management Three (FSM3) Conference

WASHplus’ Jonathan Annis Presents at Fecal Sludge Management Three (FSM3) Conference

Jonathan Annis, Sanitation and Innovation Specialist, represented WASHplus at the biennial gathering of policy makers, practitioners, and academics focused on the emerging topic of fecal sludge management in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 19–22, 2015. Jonathan presented learning from WASHplus’s catalytic work on FSM in Madagascar and demonstrate how WASHplus resource partner, Practica Foundation, has taken the initiative forward in other contexts. His talk was presented along with three other papers at a 1.5 hour session focused on handling and transport technologies. See Jonathan’s presentation: The Efficacy of Low-cost Technologies to Improve Traditional Sludge Practices in Madagascar. Other presentations from the FSM3 Conference can be viewed here. Tweets and takeaways from Jonathan at FSM3 are below.

Q&A: What have we learned about consumer preferences of cookstoves in Bangladesh?

CROPPED-DerbyElisabethWASHplus Project’s Household Air Pollution Specialist Elisa Derby recently participated in an online Q&A session hosted and facilitated by The World Bank’s Clean Stove Initiative. The Q&A session focused on lessons learned about consumer preferences for improved cookstoves in Bangladesh, through the WASHplus project, and in Indonesia through the World Bank’s Indonesia Clean Stove Initiative. Key findings from the WASHplus consumer preferences study and related excerpts from the Q&A are provided below.

Key Findings: Understanding Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh

Methodology

  • “Trials of Improved Practices” testing user reactions to one of five different improved cookstoves (ICS) in 120 households.
  • Three-day kitchen performance tests (KPT) in 116 study households and 24 control households.

Cooking Practices

  • A major obstacle was that the cooking time was slower using the ICS.
  • Households prefer to cook rice for the whole day all at once in the morning during the three-month winter, rather than throughout the day, as is customary during the rest of the year.

Cookstove Preferences

  • At least two stoves were perceived as preferable to traditional stoves during the trials.
  • None as then produced met all consumer needs, and none met sufficient consumer needs to completely replace traditional stoves.
  • A vast majority believed ICS produced less smoke than their traditional stoves.
  • Participants widely complained of the inability to cook large volumes of food in large pots.
  • The horizontal fuel entry of ICS was not desirable. 

Fuel Saving

  • Homes using four out of the five improved stoves were found to use at least 16 percent to 30 percent less fuel than the control homes over the course of the KPT. 

Willingness to Pay and Decision Making

  • Certain stove features were valued, but the monetary worth of the stove was dramatically undervalued (most estimated them to be 1/2 to 1/4 of their actual calculated value).
  • Householders realized that metal stoves are expensive, but they were not ready to buy them at market price.
  • When given the stove as a gift in one village, almost all participants chose to keep the stove over a market value cash buy-back.

To learn more about WASHplus’ consumer preference study, download the brief “What Do Cooks Want? What Will They Pay? A Study of Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh” and the full report “Understanding Consumer Preference and Willingness to Pay for Improved Cookstoves in Bangladesh.”

Q&A with Elisa Derby: What have we learned about consumer preferences of cookstoves in Bangladesh?

Elisa Derby has worked in the cookstoves sector for over a decade and manages Winrock International’s household energy and health program, with projects and partnerships that reduce fuel use and exposure to cooking-related household air pollution. This work incorporates field-based capacity building, formative research, network building, knowledge dissemination, grants management, and direct implementation activities. She is the household energy and household air pollution specialist for the WASHplus project, and supports WASHplus consumer preferences, needs and willingness to pay research, and other activities designed to support the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves mission and goals.

Q: What do you think was the most unexpected result stemming from your study? And how do you think this finding will likely impact the market (stove manufacturers) and future development initiatives?

A: Our willingness to pay results were the most surprising result from the WASHplus study in Bangladesh. Only one out of 105 study participants given the option to purchase the stoves at market value did so, although of the remaining 15 households given the stoves as gifts and then offered the option of a cash buyout at that same market value, only three chose cash; the other 12 preferred to keep their stove. People valued the stoves when acquisition barriers were removed, indicating a need for better financing options.

Q: The WASHplus study adopted the Trials of Improved Practices (TIPs) methodology. What makes this innovative and could you please explain how this methodology works?

A: The USAID Mission in Bangladesh enlisted WASHplus to help it assess consumer preferences and identify types of stoves that would be a good fit for its cookstove promotion program, as a follow-on activity to a cookstove market assessment already undertaken. Because cooking is such a personal experience and so integral to daily life, there’s no better way to get feedback on a particular stove type than to ask potential consumers to bring the stove into their homes and assess it as they go about their daily routine over a period of weeks. TIPs is an established qualitative methodology in the WASH sector and invites participants to interact with researchers and identify, discuss, and resolve barriers to using the new technologies through semi-structured “elicitation” questions. We gave each household one of five imported ICS models to evaluate, and used both qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data. The latter included monitoring wood and stove usage via KPT and stove use monitoring sensors for both traditional and improved stoves, as well as household air pollution in a subset of homes. We ended the trials with two different perceived value and willingness to pay approaches.

Q: How do you select five imported ICS models?

A: We chose the stove models based on regional availability, performance, and characteristics. All models were produced in China or India; only the Grameen Greenway stove was currently available for purchase in Bangladesh at the time of the study, albeit in small quantities, but others had potential to be manufactured and/or assembled in Bangladesh. They all met a minimum of Tier 2 fuel efficiency according to ISO IWA 11:2012 guidelines (the Tier 0 traditional baseline in Bangladesh is a hand-built, sunken-hole mud stove). Stoves were selected by characteristics (chimney/not, fan/not, portable/not), not by brand, to represent a range of stove types. An added benefit of using imported stoves with which consumers were not familiar was the avoidance of any influence of brand loyalty. Several of the manufacturers have made modifications to their stoves in response to consumer feedback from our study, and are exploring or already pursuing expanding their markets into Bangladesh. 

Q: Is there room for adoption of dedicated devices that would be efficient for specific tasks such as  water boiling or rice cooking? In other words, could the future be towards several types of efficient task-focused devices rather than trying to go for the “mythical” do-it-all-cleanly-and-efficiently-while-customer-friendly stove?

A: As a follow-up activity to the consumer research, we’re now doing customer segmentation and market strategy work in Bangladesh and one recommendation from that research is bundling the improved cookstoves with products like electric rice cookers, as the combination would then be expensive enough to trigger microfinance options, and the products would complement each other nicely, as the rice cooking is the weak point of many of the improved stoves. This is of course only possible for homes that are electrified, one of several customer segments. In my own kitchen I have an oven, stovetop, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker, and have been thinking of investing in a slow-cooker; I’m clearly no believer in a mythical do-it-all technology! 

Q: Is water boiling a main task in Bangladesh? It is an interesting finding in Indonesia. Almost all households only drink boiled water (this a common practice in China, too).

A: Unfortunately (for other health considerations!) boiling water for drinking or bathing is not common practice in Bangladesh.

Q: Bundling products with complementary functions sounds good. But I wonder how many households will invest in such bundle. If bundling products is not targeting poor households, then the households who choose the bundle probably don’t need microfinancing either.

A: For better or worse, there are many segments of “poor” in Bangladesh, and the poorest of the poor don’t usually have electricity, so the rice cooker bundling is a moot point for them anyway. Fortunately, we won’t have to just speculate how/whether this will work, as the WASHplus research findings and market strategies are directly feeding into the USAID’s Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh program, so they’ll be able to report back to us how/whether this has worked in the next couple years.

Q: Was the finding regarding “unwillingness of customers to chop wood” reported to stove manufacturers/designers (e.g., the tech. people)? What is their reaction to this issue? This is major in my mind, as it goes directly towards adoption and actual use … because the trend in adoption overall is towards devices that make life easier and (possibly more pleasurable), not that do good only if you follow a certain set of rules. And there may be some unintended consequences on the social side of this increase need for chopped wood.

A: Yes, all of our findings were shared with manufacturers. Fuel processing is always an especially challenging factor. We know that we get the most complete combustion and therefore cleanest burn from fuel with high surface/mass ratios, but of course any user would rather just throw a big log in the fire, not have to chop up the fuel or continuously feed it. I know many in our sector have high hopes for a fuel processing service solution—wherein entrepreneurs can make a living processing wood, or selling processed wood to users who then get a cleaner burn. I wish I had the answer!

Q: Based on the study, what do you think is the biggest challenge/barrier in promoting ICS in countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia? Was the lesson learnt from your study applicable for other developing nations as well?

A: I think the biggest challenge in our sector, regardless of where cookstoves are promoted, is that we don’t have biomass solutions that both burn cleanly (read: meets WHO air quality guidelines) and that users like to use and prefer over their traditional stove 100% of the time. So we see a LOT of stove stacking, and the benefits of ICS are watered down at best and completely negated at worst. But it’s entirely rational—if you spend 5-7 hours/day cooking, of course you’d rather do it on the easy-to-use stove than the “allegedly better but annoying to actually use” option, even though the latter may provide health benefits down the road. Everyone loves cooking on LPG (and I posit in most cases would do so almost exclusively were it not for cost), and I firmly believe that universal clean fuel access should be our end goal, but we need many really good biomass solutions in the meantime that cooks will use consistently, correctly, and exclusively, and we’re just not there yet. I’m grateful for the R&D funding that’s been brought to the table in recent years to support that work.

Q: I would be interested in hearing from the Bangladesh experience about distribution channels that were used to reach users in remote areas, in particular women. For example, there is an organization called Solar Sisters that is operating in several African countries, which trains and hires women entrepreneurs from the community to market and sell stoves. It seems like an interesting approach. What good steps and strategies were used to reach the end user beyond broad marketing?

A: As the WASHplus Bangladesh activity was a research study involving imported ICS not currently available in Bangladesh, we did not rely on any distribution channels, rather we selected the 120 participant households and brought them the stoves ourselves. Previous ICS promotion supported by the Government of Bangladesh has relied primarily on sanitation shops and NGOs for distribution. I expect that the USAID Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh project (which will be the implementation follow-on to the WASHplus research) will expand their distribution networks, and the Solar Sisters model may be a good fit—I’ll pass on the suggestion!

Q: Could you please share some key lessons learnt from your project, or essential take-aways, especially on those topics that have not yet been discussed in the above thread? Anything that might be helpful for future project development and design, social marketing, awareness campaign is warmly welcomed.

A: Some important take-aways from our research in Bangladesh is the need for larger and higher fire-power stoves for Bangladesh, and given the prevalence of mixed fuel use we also recommended the development of a mixed-fuel stove. Happily, several of the manufacturers we worked with have come out with larger/higher fire-power versions of their stoves to better meet Bangladeshi needs. Prakti has received Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves funding specifically to develop a mixed-fuel stove for Bangladesh, which is already in prototype stage. Finally, I would say our findings underscore the need I think we all recognize for consumer-centered design, to really meet consumer needs while still achieving emissions reductions and efficiency goals.

The other take-away from our work in Bangladesh that we haven’t gotten into on this thread is the issue of quality control and durability. By way of background, Bangladesh has a long history of improved stove promotion over the decades, primarily focusing on variations of one type of artisanal clay (and more recently cement) chimney stove, generally called the Bondhu Chula, of which there are an estimated 500,000 still in use. We performed controlled cooking tests on both the imported and (expertly constructed) Bondhu Chula stoves, and they all demonstrated significant efficiency gains over the traditional stove. All of the chimney stoves were very successful in venting the smoke out of the kitchen. But in the field we saw a LOT of very smoky Bondhu Chulas. This is likely in part due to varying quality control prevalent with artisanal production. That said, even expertly constructed Bondhu Chulas depend on the user to keep the stove well-maintained.

The challenge with any chimney stove is that when not cleaned regularly, they can redirect all the smoke (maybe just as much as the traditional stove generates) back into the cooking area. In Bangladesh there isn’t a culture of chimney cleaning, and given that the Bondhu Chula has a cement chimney that must be cleaned from the top (unlike metal chimneys that you can clean just by banging on the side), and many homes have thatched roofs, this kind of cleaning can be next to impossible. So field testing for chimney stoves over time is really critical, especially in Bangladesh.

Kenya – Ministry alarmed by ‘long calls’ along highways, to build toilets along Nairobi-Nakuru highway

Sanitation Updates

Kenya – Ministry alarmed by ‘long calls’ along highways, to build toilets along Nairobi-Nakuru highway | Source: by Antony Gitonga, Standard Digital, Aug 8, 2014 |

NAKURU COUNTY: The ministry of health has expressed its concern over the high number of people who defecate in the open mainly along the main highways in the country. Following the revelation, Nakuru County has announced plans in major centres along the Nairobi-Nakuru and Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road to construct public toilets. According to the department of health, the open defecation was one of the leading causes in the increase in the number of typhoid and diarrhoea cases in the county.

Nakuru County director of health Dr Benedict Osore with county public health officer Samuel King’ori and USAID's WASHplus project manager Evelyn Makena examine some chairs used for defecation for the disabled at Longonot village in Naivasha. He said that around 300 of the 1,949 villages in the county had been declared open defecation free.  [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD] Nakuru County director of health Dr Benedict Osore with county public health officer Samuel King’ori and USAID’s WASHplus project manager Evelyn Makena examine some chairs used for defecation for the disabled at Longonot village in Naivasha. He said that around 300 of the…

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Sealing Leaky Pits: One Small Doable Action at a Time

bangladesh-pits “Many families in the community did not have latrines, and among those who had a functional latrine, most of those had leaching cracks in the pits. When the outreach staff explained to us the diagram of feces transmission and said having cracks in the pits is similar to defecating in the open, we all agreed to mend the pits.” She adds, “I have three daughters and if mending this crack brings good health and growth to them, why would I not do that?”

Zannat Begum has lived in Khaspara village, one of WASHplus’s rural intervention communities, since she was married 15 years ago. Her husband is a fisherman and spends most of his time away from home like the majority of the men in the neighborhood. At part of its planning process, WASHplus conducted a community situation analysis in Khaspara and identified several poor sanitation practices.

Most of the latrines in the area traditionally drained into canals or ponds to avoid the need for cleaning/desludging by hand, but this practice contaminates open water sources. Since the analysis, this practice has started to change.

Zannat and her neighbors learned about the risk of diarrhea due to leaching latrines during a mother’s group session and is now the proud owner of a newly rehabilitated latrine. Many other leaky pits in the community have been sealed to prevent feces from contaminating open water.

One of Zannat’s neighbors was unable to buy rings and slabs for her latrine and instead built a robust structure out of bamboo, wood, and plastic sacks. Although the latrine does not meet all the criteria of an improved facility, this “small doable action” approach has stopped the practice of open defecation.

Zannat says, “Many families in the community did not have latrines, and among those who had a functional latrine, most of those had leaching cracks in the pits. When the outreach staff explained to us the diagram of feces transmission and said having cracks in the pits is similar to defecating in the open, we all agreed to mend the pits.” She adds, “I have three daughters and if mending this crack brings good health and growth to them, why would I not do that?”

This is one example of how WASHplus and its local implementing partner WaterAid are working in targeted, hard-to-reach, marginalized communities in Bangladesh to improve sanitation status not only by promoting fixed point defecation but also by gradually moving households up the sanitation ladder toward more hygienic feces management.

Photo credit: Mustafa Kamal Sikder

Thoughts on Sustainability

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By Jonathan Annis

Maintaining sustainability (or longevity as I prefer to think of it) of water services requires  an ecosystem of support. This ecosystem includes but is not limited to policy, financing,  planning, learning, harmonization, and technology. The ecosystem is complex and  nonlinear; the broad categories are highly interdependent and failure in one aspect can have  a domino effect on the others.  Indeed, services are delivered, like children are raised, with  the support of an entire village.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a great session during which USAID and UNICEF presented sustainability checks. These are sets of tools intended to assess the ecosystem that leads to sustainability. The tools are different in their approach but similar in their inputs and outputs; the goal being to provide a snapshot of the state of the ecosystem at any given time. The tools include questions aimed at sanitation and hygiene behavior, but for the point of this discussion I’ll focus on water service delivery.

Financing was a common point of weakness identified by both. This is not surprising given that the costs of maintaining service delivery are rarely fully understood or considered when designing an intervention. Generally speaking, funding for rural WASH services comes from public, private, or user- generated investments. Most of the contexts we work in are resource scarce. Household contribution to initial capital investment and recurrent costs is typically very low. Regardless of the underlying reason, water tariffs for most rural schemes cover only a fraction of the actual cost of maintaining a water point throughout  its life span. Public funding for rural WASH is also largely insufficient to cover these costs, as are the mechanisms to provide outreach and ongoing support to communities. The third source of funding, private investments or bilateral donor projects that are not accounted for as public funds, also fail to cover these costs mainly because the funding mechanisms themselves are not structured to support costs beyond a fixed project cycle. The bottom line is that we simply don’t have a model to fund these costs at scale and we know it. So, what to do? Given that we don’t have an answer for the finance piece, should we simply throw in the towel and abandon our efforts to increase service delivery? What if other aspects of the ecosystem—remembering that finance is but one small component—are not neatly in place at the beginning?

This leads me to the second point, the “sustainability clause.” Let me say upfront that I am not familiar with the intricacies of including a  sustainability clause and I may be missing something here. My understanding is that the clause is a stipulation in a bi-lateral funding agreement that requires implementers to guarantee that services continue working for a fixed number of years after a project is done.

Wow, if it were only so cut and dry. We as implementers rarely have the time or mandate to focus on more than a few aspects of the service delivery ecosystem. Even the most comprehensive project design cannot possibly influence every component of the ecosystem in a way that guarantees sustainability. Furthermore, might having such a clause lead to perverse incentives for others in the ecosystem to neglect their responsibilities?  If communities or local government stakeholders know that they are going to be let off the hook by an implementing agency who is contractually responsible for maintaining the service, do they have an incentive to drop the ball?

Given that the finance piece remains a “black hole” and a project’s mandate does not cast a large enough net to influence the entire ecosystem, how can we as implementers be expected to bear the sustainability burden ourselves?  Might the sustainability clause lead risk-averse implementers to focus only on countries that have healthy ecosystems where the probability of success is high? Are we really ready to pull out of most of sub-Saharan Africa? Sustainability checks are essential tools and should be used more systematically to measure our progress. But the onus for correcting the shortcomings exposed by these tools should not be borne exclusively by the implementers; rather the checks should incite broader discussions among all the stakeholders, which would lead to shared accountability throughout the ecosystem as a whole.

About the Author: Jonathan Annis is a sanitation and innovation specialist with the USAID-funded WASHplus project (www.washplus.org). His views do not represent those of USAID or the U.S. Government.

Originally posted on Water, sanitation and hygiene service monitoring