Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

  • rkaupp
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Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Hello,

When developing business models for pit emptying, a recurring idea I hear is that we should try to work with the existing emptiers, who can be very informal and using manual methods. In theory it would make sense (they know the market, we shouldn't destroy their livelihoods, it tends to be good practice in solid waste management strategies), but in practice, as far as I've heard, it can be painful as the emptiers may not want to purchase more 'advanced' tools or slow down their work with protective equipment, are worried about being more visible, or are just not entrepreneurial enough.

Are there different experiences of involving them?

Thank you!
Rémi

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Hi Remi,

I think it depends where you are. There are parts of the world where it is hard to regulate the unofficial workers for legal and social reasons, it depends on social standing and if they understand the benefits of investing in the additional equipment.

In South Africa we worked with existing and new pit emptiers and part of their training was to understand the benefits of the investment in additional tools. However we found that many preferred emptying by hand rather than the gulper or evac, so we developed tools that helped them work in the way they wanted. These included a framework for moving the toilet making access to the pit easier (which prevented people form going into the pit)and lifting tools for full drums of sludge onto trucks. We let the teams rent them from us rather than paying for them this way we ensured the O and M of the tools and that correct health and safety procedures were followed. I think the key with equipemnt is to ask the pit emptiers what they want not tell them what they need.

Your point about being entrepreneurial is also important we found that those who were less business minded often didnt last as long and the businesses succeeded in different ways. The work we are doing now in the Philippines we are spending as much time training our entrepreneurs in business skills as we are in the technical aspects of sanitation as while it can not always be taught, having a grasp of basic business skills goes a long way in helping address some of the longer term issues of running a business.

Esther

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Water for People has (had?) a program working to professionalize manual emptying in Kampala, Uganda utilizing the Gulper etc.

Last year I had a longer chat with on of the bosses of such an enterprise, and what somewhat surprised me was that he (a pretty business minded person I think) was more interested in collaborating with other companies in the area in order to claim certain neighborhoods as a sort of monopoly to keep prices up (my words, but that was the essence).
The idea to lower prices to expand the market (which is still pretty limited) sadly seemed not very desirable to him.

Krischan Makowka
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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Hi Kris

Funnily enough we had the opposite problem in SA. We desperately wanted to get competition into the market to force prices down but the regulation issues from the local government meant that you need enough money to ensure you could jump through the hoops and get the work in the first place, I am sure this can be a problem elsewhere.

In the Philippines we have trained groups of people and ensured as we train them they all live in different areas so that they can have an area they serve. However with no price regulation we are hoping some of the more entrepreneurial will offer more competitive prices and create a competitive environment, but its early days yet!

Esther

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Hi Remi

In Water for Peopple Malawi we were 'upgrading' people from manual emptying to using a Gulper (There is still no other equipment for the denser parts of Blantyre).

The incentive we offered is that our team of marketing interns would find customers for them to ensure they had a minimum amount of business per month in the first months. We market centrally and then give business to the nearest 'entrepreneur' or whomever was not getting much business...but eventually the plan was the let the market decide. The best will succeed.

We required a $20 deposit, and presentation of safety equipment to get a leasing agreement - and will require $20 at end of month from each for the next approx 14 months (the barrels are super expensive!)

Water for People in Uganda also have a nice system where they lease transport (a tricycle) and require receipts from the treatment works to ensure its being used for its prescribed purpose (as you know, there are more profitable uses for transport sometimes!)

Nicola
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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. Tricky business when prices are regulated indeed! In a way I'm not so surprised by that man in Kampala wanting to keep his monopoly; in Tanzania we see that the few successful entrepreneurs we have supported just want to have stable income and that means contracts with institutional customers, meaning that the poorer households are not worth serving...

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Dear Remi,
You can linkup with Doreen who works with manual empties in the program for up-scaling at WSTF. She prepares the training, the handing over of protective clothing, etc. for the manual emptier involved in the UBSUP program in Kenya. I believe that the manual empties are now linked to and promoted (supervised) by the utility. This is a way to qualify, protect and bring them into formality. I suppose, this is also helping the formalisation of the sanitation chain. Doreen will reply to this
Best regards
Roland
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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Thank you Roland this is very useful!
Rémi

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Dear Remi,

The Up-scaling Basic Sanitation for the Urban Poor (UBSUP-Kenya) has developed procedures for identification, registration, training and certification of the manual emptiers (what we call Sanitation Teams)

The Up-scaling Basic Sanitation for the Urban Poor (UBSUP-Kenya) Project is a joint programme of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, KfW, GIZ, and WSTF, aiming at improving access to basic sanitation in the low income urban areas of Kenya. There is a menu of standardised sanitation technologies that the households can choose from. These technologies include Urine Diversion Dehydrating toilet (UDDTs), pour flush connected to septic tank and cistern flush connected to septic tank or main sewer network. All the documents pertaining to the UBSUP programme can be found in the Water Services Trust Fund website: www.waterfund.go.ke

To ensure sustainable management of the dry toilets, Sanitation Teams are engaged by the water service providers within the UBSUP programme to ensure that the dry toilets (UDDTs) are emptied on a regular basis and the dehydrated faeces safely transported to the decentralised treatment facilities (drying beds) for further treatment.
Within the UBSUP programme, we have developed methodologies, procedures on successfully and sustainably integrating the Sanitation Teams within the institutional framework of the water and health sector.

We have also developed procedures for anchoring the emptying services in the pro-poor unit of the water service provider. In many low income areas, manual emptying is the only form of faecal de-sludging due to the lack of pathways for mechanical de-sludging. Sanitation Teams are therefore indispensable stakeholders in the sanitation value chain system and provide an essential service particularly in densely populated under-served areas.
Below is a group photo during the training of the Sanitation Team in Oloolaiser:



Due to the hazardous nature of their jobs, it was therefore paramount for the UBSUP programme to establish specific guidelines that guide in their formalisation and integratation.



To make matters more complicated, both the health and water sector do not collect statistical data on manual emptiers. There is therefore no socio-economic statistical data regarding appropriate health standards for manual emptiers. In addition, due to the seasonal nature of their work, it has been difficult to collect data regarding the health impact the job has had on them as many of them are involved in other forms of income generating activities.





Within the UBSUP programme, steps have been taken to ensure that the Sanitation Teams are formalized and integrated within the legal and institutional framework. A step by step procedure has been developed to inform the different types of water service providers on how best to legally integrate the sanitation teams. Standards have been developed to ensure their protection and safety in line with the institutional framework of the water and the health sector.





All the documents pertaining to the Sanitation Team can be found in the Water Services Trust Fund website: www.waterfund.go.ke

Best regards,

Doreen

Doreen Mbalo

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Thank you Doreen, I was aware of the early stages of this but good to see this progress!!

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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Thanks, great photos, Doreen! Can you also upload them to the SuSanA flickr account please?

The protective clothing looks really great. Two questions:
  1. Isn't it extremely hot for the workers in this protective gear in the Kenyan climate? Are there any possible adaptations to reduce sweating in this gear?
  2. Do you think that in the longer term, people will really look after their protective gear, e.g. have holes repaired and so forth, or would they perhaps - after the novelty wears off - not bother with putting everything on? I think it will be quite hard to "enforce" all this. I remember when I was young even at the university environment it was sometimes not easy to ensure that all the PhD students in our lab in Australia were wearing lab coats, gloves and safety glasses while doing their experimental work (or wearing hard hats when going to treatment plants). It's human nature to get slack about these things....
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  • Doreen
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Re: Working directly with manual emptiers - any experience?

Dear Elisabeth,

I apologise for my delayed response to your questions.
Yes it can be quite hot for the emptiers that is for sure, especially now in February. I don't feel comfortable advising the emptiers to reduce their clothing because I don't want any faecal-oral transmission risks. At the moment they are still quite careful and I do see them wearing all their equipment, however I cant guarantee that they will always do it. We did our best in training and advising them on health, hygiene and the importance of protecting themselves.

Regarding your second question, we informed the emptiers that it is now their responsibility to take care of their protective gear and to ensure that they are repaired or replaced when need be. They are business oriented and the groups identified also have other revenue streams such as solid waste management within the low income areas, therefore they will be able to afford to replace the protective gear. We also provided them with the Kenyan company that they could contact when they need to replace their gear.

Best regards,

Doreen

Doreen Mbalo

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