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Hlengiwe Cele 
 Upscaling dry sanitation technologies in the African continent

The sanitation challenge is not unique to South Africa but affects the whole African continent. As such, research teams have realised the need to jointly develop local capacity and solutions for faecal sludge management. The Water Research Commission (WRC) joins the African continent in commemorating Africa Day on 25 May 2015 and reviews recent research initiatives uniting the continent in solving the sanitation challenge.

Currently, the water service authorities within the African continent face the common challenge of upscaling dry sanitation technologies in peri-urban areas as way of dealing with pits that become full.  To deal with this problem, the WRC, in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), have created a dedicated fund, the Sanitation Research Fund for Africa (SRFA), aimed at improving sanitation research and innovation to improve the plight of millions of people without adequate sanitation.

The purpose of the fund is to provide impetus for scientific-based knowledge and practical solutions for faecal sludge management. The development of local capacity is also a key project objective. A total of 12 research projects from across Southern and East Africa have already been commissioned from the US$2.8 million fund.

According to Sudhir Pillay, Research Manager for the SRFA project, the first focus area for these projects is to find out what’s inside the pit, how fast do pits fill and what influences the fill rate.  Six research teams have already started evaluating the pit processes in peri-urban areas in their regions, to inform scientific understanding of onsite sanitation systems for better management.

A second research focus is aimed at developing innovative solutions for removing and treating faecal sludge.  Another group of six research teams are exploring and piloting pit emptying and beneficiation routes for faecal sludge.

Over the last 20 years WRC-funded research has not only focused on improving known sanitation technologies but also at introducing innovative alternative sanitation solutions.  One of the most successful technologies has been the urine diversion toilet, which has become an accepted basic sanitation solution in areas such as Durban/eThekwini.

Through the adoption of these solutions, eThekwini Municipality has already won the Stockholm Industry Water Award for implementing urine diversion, ventilated improved double pit (UD/VIDP) toilets as a preferred delivery mechanism for certain communities in their area.

South Africa's Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, appreciated the excellent work done by eThekwini Municipality while delivering her budget-vote address in Parliament. “Recently, during our Sanitation Indaba in Durban, we visited three sites dealing with sanitation. At one of the sites in Inanda Ward 55, the community sang praises in honour of their councillor Vusumuzi Gebashe for giving attention to their sanitation needs and working together with them. This is a good example of how the ward councillor and the community can work together to resolve the challenges of water and sanitation. At the other site in Newlands a young lady Chemical Engineer, Lungi Zuma, led a team of scientists from various countries on the continent and Europe that explores alternative sanitation technologies”, said Mokonyane.

Contact: Sudhir Pillay, email sudhirp@wrc.org.za


Urine diversion toilets installed by eThekwini Municipality
WRC /CSIR Sanitation Demonstration Centre
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