Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums - project re.source (Stanford University, USA and SOIL Haiti)

  • Ekane
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  • Nelson Ekane
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums

Thanks for the detailed response Kory! I very much appreciate the way you discuss the issues. It is good that there is exchange between both projects in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien and that SOIL operates in both locations.

Following the approach of the project, scaling up services would depend on demand. Certainly, in this context, there are many people who cannot pay or refuse to pay for services such as those SOIL is offering and prefer different options. How large is the present demand for the services and what are the efforts SOIL is making to ensure that the current service delivery levels are maintained before scaling up?

Best regards,
Nelson

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  • kcrussel
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  • I am PhD candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Stanford University. I am currently working on the topic of non-networked water supply and sanitation in Mozambique and Haiti.
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums

Dear Nelson,

At present, the demand we have met is far greater than the scale can meet. Our research includes an effort to quantify that demand and enable a bottom-up market analysis, however that information is not ready for publication. We have found in Haitian cities that clean, effective toilets are a highly aspirational amenity to have. Our entire user experience is designed to cater to that desire. Time will tell how well we have succeeded, but our initial results are promising.

SOIL is committed to making sure there is a solid base and sustainable plan for the service before any scale-up is attempted. This is and will continue to be an evolving effort with community-based organizations and local entrepreneurs. It is important to remember that this service is still in its initial stages of development and many aspects are constantly being adjusted. However, as new information becomes available we will be sharing it, so I would recommend that you follow both re.source (@resource_ful) and SOIL (@SOILHaiti) on twitter and on facebook.

Thanks so much
Kory

Kory C. Russel
PhD Candidate
Stanford University
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  • Ekane
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  • Nelson Ekane
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums

Dear Kory,

It is good that you are addressing comfort, cleanliness and convenience which are universal aspirations. Thanks for the links to twitter and Facebook. I will follow the updates. Looking forward to reading the publication when it is out.

Best wishes,

Nelson

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  • muandac
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Very interesting project and appreciate much your contribution. In 2007 a similar technology called MobiSan was developed by a Dutch consortium and piloted in Cape Town and still working today. Few issues emerged from one of our research conducted around this type of saniation system and would like to provide few comments (see also a previous thread about the MobiSan here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/52-mob...rom-the-mobisan#2749 ):

1) the conditions of informal settlement (with reference to density and land tenure) are not permitting the implementation of individual sanitation system (regardless of the technology)
2) The proposed treatment (if done on-site) may be another issues given the lack of space and inconvenience (such as odour etc.) it may cause. If off-site, access to the settlement, transport cost etc. may be another issue of concern
3) Informal settlement dwellers (being categorised as poor of the poor) may not be able to pay any fee for the service;
4) Reuse (of waste products) emerge as current trend in the sanitation field. Its acceptance should be carefully studied. In South African context, users are reluctant to use anything generated from human waste for cultural or any other reasons. Therefore, potential users of waste products should be identified.
5) Treatment technology for human waste should also consider operation and maintenance, skills of operators and related cost.

I still believe that what you are working is useful but should think carefully by looking at number of issues raised by colleagues in this forum. I would like to share our personal experience of the MobiSan if requested.

Regards

Christophe Muanda

Christophe Muanda
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Centre for Water and Sanitation Research
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Cape Town, South Africa
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  • DavidAlan
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Christopher, as some know we have been trialling a peri-urban solution using SPUs (semi-permanent units) for the past two years in Cuddalore, India. This involves a collection, storage and composting system, whereby the eventual sale of the compost generates enough income to pay for the workers involved and put a small amount into a maintenance fund. We have now expanded this to our rural 'fixed' units as well. In India we do not have a problem selling the compost and this model is proving very successful. In fact, we are just about to be given circa $100,000 to expand this trial by replicating it in another Indian State (this will enable us start from scratch and monitor far more closely). The eventual hope is that we can prove this could become some form of social enterprise that will attract investors rather than donors.

I think we also have to consider working with organisations who are not necessarily sanitation based, but agricultural-based. If we cannot sell compost on the open market, I believe we have to extend our involvement to perhaps take a share of a finished crop if we give the compost away. This is actually what Monsanto (the devil in disguise!) does – it gives away seeds to show an improved crop yield and once farmers see the benefit they then have to buy them. Many obviously cannot, but we could explore this possibility as becoming just a different investor.

It's a thought!
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  • muandac
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Thanks David and appreciate your reply
My main concerns are related to the nature of informal settlements. Because the model being developed is for replication to other slums (in India, America or Africa), the general charactristics of the slums (regardless of their geographical locations) should be be explored. As you know, the global trend is towards achieving zero waste while providing business opportunities to local...but the context of application of this model (sanitation as service and business) should consider the conditions of the slums in terms of density, level of awareness, constraints (access, topography, transport etc).
Prior to the piloting, I hope these issues were addressed, if so fine; but if not, I'm worried about working with business considering that collection, transport and even treatment (if done on-site)and other issues are not solved yet. I'm responding from my personnal experience with similar model.

Thanks
Chris Muanda

Christophe Muanda
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Centre for Water and Sanitation Research
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
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  • kcrussel
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Dear Christophe,

Thanks for your comment. As far as we can tell, MobiSan is fundamentally different from our system. Mobisan is a semi-mobile public/communal toilet with on-site feces dehydration. Our system provides household level toilets with a regular service that assures removal and transport of waste-containing cartridges to an off-site thermophilic composting facility. Our service integrates treatment into the entire supply chain and business model. In our view, it would be negligent to deploy toilets without a viable strategy for revenues, operations, and robust waste treatment. While it is true that the underlying idea of a dry toilet is present in both projects, we see little else in MobiSan that is comparable to what we are doing. That said, there can always be lessons learned from other projects and technologies. Addressing your specific points;

1) the conditions of informal settlement (with reference to density and land tenure) are not permitting the implementation of individual sanitation system (regardless of the technology)

We respectfully disagree with this generalization. The work that WSUP, X-runner, and we have been doing in Ghana, Peru, Haiti, and other locations shows that household-level sanitation in informal settlements can in fact be a viable solution that responds to the needs and aspirations of residents. Just as we do not claim that household-level sanitation is a panacea, we view blanket statements about the nature of informal settlements to be incorrect. We have deployed household-level sanitation in Cap Haitien because there is user demand for it, because we believe we can deliver it, and because there are numerous documented safety reasons why household sanitation is preferable to public facilities in Haiti. The very real and present plague of sexual assault cannot be ignored; forcing women to leave their homes at night to use a public toilet is not only sub-optimal but also flat out dangerous in many locations.
Let me be clear, we are not saying that public toilets should be excluded from the sanitation solution toolbox. Far from it, in a different context, the Sanergy team concluded that pay-per-use public toilets are more viable in their environment. However, each of these approaches must be driven by its context, and must incorporate a deliberate revenue and operations strategy.


2) The proposed treatment (if done on-site) may be another issues given the lack of space and inconvenience (such as odour etc.) it may cause. If off-site, access to the settlement, transport cost etc. may be another issue of concern

Our composting is not done on-site. If you are using composting as your primary method of treatment, then certain steps must be taken to ensure that the treatment facility is properly separated from the community, or that proper odor and hazard control is implemented. There are several examples where composting has been successfully deployed in urban areas. However, based on our and SOIL's experience in Haiti, as well as close collaboration with the Haitian government, the compost site is located outside of the urban center. Transportation is indeed a cost, so we focus efforts on maximizing efficiency. We use simple tracking systems to minimize trips and maximize the utilization of our equipment, lowering our unit costs as much as possible without compromising the quality of our service.

There are emerging treatment technologies that could enable treatment of larger quantities of waste on-site with minimal space requirements and no public nuisance. One of those that we are watching with interest is Biochar ( www.susana.org/docs_ccbk/susana_download/2-1624-von-herzen.pdf ). While biochar is a relatively old process that can be done with very rudimentary techniques, researchers are now finding ways to mechanize it for high-moisture substrates like fecal waste. The potential is substantial for reducing space and distance in treatment facilities.

3) Informal settlement dwellers (being categorised as poor of the poor) may not be able to pay any fee for the service;

This is of course true. However, the family expense associated with our system are often comparable or lower than other technologies such as composting toilets, pit latrines, and fee-for-use public toilets. Outside of major subsidization from governments and aid organizations, we believe it will be difficult to deliver any sanitation solution at a cheaper price. We also disagree with a broad categorization of informal settlements as too poor to pay. Wealth distribution within informal settlements is not homogenous and in the settlements we have been working in there is significant willingness and ability to pay for effective sanitation.

4) Reuse (of waste products) emerge as current trend in the sanitation field. Its acceptance should be carefully studied. In South African context, users are reluctant to use anything generated from human waste for cultural or any other reasons. Therefore, potential users of waste products should be identified.

We agree that proper understanding of the cultural context and demand for the end-products of resource recovery is paramount. In Haiti, we have found that thermophilic composting yields a sufficient transformation such that compost does not have the negative associations of human waste. To date, our friends at SOIL have sold compost in bags and in truckloads locally, such that currently the limiting factor on compost sales appears to be supply rather than demand.

5) Treatment technology for human waste should also consider operation and maintenance, skills of operators and related cost.

Absolutely. That is why SOIL implements Standard Operating Procedures at their compost sites including protocols for weighing the waste containers, emptying waste containers and building compost piles, checking compost pile temperature at multiple locations on regular time intervals, and cleaning the containers. All staff are trained, supervised, and required to wear proper personal protective equipment. Our research incorporates the costs associated with these necessary practices, and will be documented in future publications. You can follow our continued research @resource_ful and SOIL at @soilHaiti

Thanks so much and good luck with your work.
Kory

Kory C. Russel
PhD Candidate
Stanford University
jennadavis.stanford.edu/people/kory-c-russel
www.resourcesanitation.com
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  • gitum
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Dear Kory,

Thanks for all the information, it is a very interesting project. I also have two questions for you.

How do you plan to develop a business on sanitation as you mentioned? What are your steps on this? Have you achieved any results on entrepreneurial service?

Also, I am curious on which part of the project are you responsible? I see that this is a big scale project and I am curious in which part you focus on your research.

Thank you in advance,

Gökce

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  • kcrussel
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Hi Gökce,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you.

As we discuss on our website, resourcesanitation.com, the business is based on two revenue streams- a monthly subscription from the user, and sale of recovered products at the treatment facility. The first step is to partner with an entrepreneur or local firm that has experience in sanitation and managing logistics. The steps thereafter are to help that firm assess the local market, obtain financing, and deploy the service.

The project in Haiti was a collaboration between us and SOIL. Broadly, we led the effort to design and build the toilets, we helped SOIL plan the operation and logistics of the service, and we developed and implemented an initial monitoring and evaluation program. Our research focuses on evaluating the impacts of household sanitation service on users' attitudes toward sanitation and on the proportion of waste that is safely managed in a community.

Thanks so much
Kory

Kory C. Russel
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Stanford University
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  • llekubu
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Dear Kory,

Your prototype mobile toilet solution for urban slums is vey innovative indeed,but i have certian reservation which i would like some clarity with:

1. The level of payment for basic services like sanitation has been very low as you have experienced with your project since this services are presumed as basic rights and supported by MDG's,therefore do you think it is right to impose profit charges either than recouping operational cost of which majority of the population in African countries cannot even afford as we all know the prevailing conditions of poverty,therefore with your proposed costing structure do you think your technology is affordable? 2. Secondly are you proposing to provide the service on commercial basis?supply v.s demand? 3.The fact that there is lack of good governance strutures in African countries,does the World Community through UNEP support your efforts?
4. How will incidences be handled should there be any?
5.Is your technology supported by the current goverment of Haiti?


Lesego

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  • kcrussel
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

Dear Lesego,
Thank you so much for your interest and questions concerning the project.

1. The level of payment for basic services like sanitation has been very low as you have experienced with your project since this services are presumed as basic rights and supported by MDG's,therefore do you think it is right to impose profit charges either than recouping operational cost of which majority of the population in African countries cannot even afford as we all know the prevailing conditions of poverty,therefore with your proposed costing structure do you think your technology is affordable?

While I agree that having water and sanitation paid for would be ideal, in many areas governments are unwilling to invest or spend funds to provide water or sanitation due to a variety of reasons. Therefore, any sanitation service needs to be able to not only recover operating costs but also be able to grow or there will be no service. Private entrepreneurs operating sanitation as a business can create jobs and keep cash flow within the local economies.

As to your point about affordability, at the current monthly costs being charged in Haiti, households pay less for the toilet and service than they spend per month on cell phone airtime credit. Therefore, I do believe that this service is affordable. It may not be affordable for everyone, but it is within the reach of a broad swath of the highly economically challenged population where we conducted our pilot, and hence a large proportion of low-income urban households in Haiti.

2. Secondly are you proposing to provide the service on commercial basis?supply v.s demand?

Yes, the service is provided on a commercial basis. This is a demand-side solution; in dense urban areas we have found a high demand and willingness to pay for this service.

3.The fact that there is lack of good governance strutures in African countries,does the World Community through UNEP support your efforts?

We are not currently attempting to get the support of UNEP, especially since it is the JMP that sets standards for water and sanitation development goals. The new standards are currently being created for the post-2015 MDG era.

We believe that local governments, rather than global bodies, are the institutions whose support is necessary. That said, where local regulations are unavailable, we rely on global standards and guidelines including those published by WHO to design and operate our processes to protect the public interest.

4. How will incidences be handled should there be any?

I am sorry, this is a very broad question and I’m not sure what you mean.

5.Is your technology supported by the current goverment of Haiti?

The Haitian Water and Sanitation Ministry (DINEPA at the national level and OREPA-NORD at the regional level) authorized our pilot prior to its start and continues to support it, describing it as a necessary effort to find sanitation solutions for these areas where no viable alternative exists. OREPA-NORD has inspected our toilets and SOIL's compost site on numerous occasions, and sometimes even uses SOIL's compost site as a treatment center for waste generated at local festivals and events.

Additionally, we obtained ethics approvals from both the Haitian National Bioethics Committee and Stanford University for the research we conducted during this pilot.

All the best,
Kory

Kory C. Russel
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Stanford University
jennadavis.stanford.edu/people/kory-c-russel
www.resourcesanitation.com
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Re: re.source: Mobile Sanitation Services for Dense Urban Slums (Stanford University, USA)

To all those who have followed this discussion on Kory's research project on mobile sanitation services for dense urban slums with interest:

Here is your chance to interact with Kory (and two other grantees) live during the upcoming webinar hosted by SEI on this Thursday (7 Nov.) at 17:00 Sweden time. Some places are still left (with or without microphone rights, this depends), please see here for more information:

forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-ge...nment-institute#6195

(If you miss the event live, you can view the recording on Youtube a few days later)

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