A planner for safer water supplies and sanitation in Africa
A large number of small communities and towns in Africa suffer from a lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation - a major health risk. To help, an EU-funded project has developed a planning tool they can use to decide on the most appropriate solutions.
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The project, CLARA, developed the tool by assessing the variety of low-cost, technically simple and decentralised technologies available to small communities in Africa.
The researchers then developed strategies for adapting these to local conditions. This flexibility is especially important for places where supplies are under pressure due to population increase or the effects of climate change.
The tool allows planners and consultants to compare the best systems available to their communities, based on inputs such as population size, budget and geographical conditions. It also estimates long-term operational and maintenance costs so communities can compare the full investment needed for each system. And it suggests ways to recover resources from wastewater and human waste for re-use – such as for agricultural production.
“This simplified planning tool provides the missing link in the technical part of the overall planning process and helps users decide based on the up-front investment needed and the lifetime costs,” says project coordinator Günter Langergraber of Austria’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU).
The planner is designed for use by communities of up to several 100 000 people who are not linked into a centralised water and sanitation network. The tool is currently available for free online in the form of spreadsheets specific to communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.
By the end of the project in February 2014, the partners had trained about 100 planners in the five target countries on how to use the spreadsheet. Now, the former partners are working to transform the spreadsheet into stand-alone software, making it easier and simpler to use.
One of CLARA’s strengths was its mix of partners from Europe and Africa, says Langergraber. Local partners helped in field research in local communities, providing input on their most important needs. For example, in Ethiopia’s Arba Minch, population 97 000, the project involved the town municipality, the Compost Production Youth Association, the Solid Waste Collectors Association, the Arba Minch Health Office and the local university as partners.
Training was also provided to local entrepreneurs on sustainable business planning and on more efficient ways to collect solid waste.
The tool was also tested in other pilot communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa, incorporating economic, cultural and social aspects specific to each. The researchers helped the communities carry out a preliminary planning for integrated water supply and sanitation systems, and helped the communities prepare applications to donors for funding to implement the plans.
“It was important to take into account the opinions of local partners and to be willing to adapt the project agenda several times,” says Langergraber of the process. “You have to let local partners guide which way to go and be able to support them to let it happen. This is the way to create local ownership of the process.”
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