Innovative WASH technology

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The family-friendly siphon filter.
The siphon filter, an innovative water filter for family use.

Complementary to the rights-based approach towards access to water and sanitation, WASH Alliance is a strong advocate of building local capacity on innovative and sustainable WASH technologies. During the proces of composing the contextual analsyses underlying the DWA program, a recurrent theme in many countries was the perceived lack of sustainable technological options and skills.

The WASH Alliance partners recognize that sustainability of WASH technologies is best assured if products and services can be produced and repaired locally, are affordable for the target group without subsidies, and are available through the local private sector, to achieve ‘profit-based’ sustainability of the supply chain. Local production strengthens the capacity of the local private sector and produces jobs. Strengthening the local private sector contributes to resilience of society, as local private sector companies also function in times of political instability, when local and international NGO’s might not have access anymore.

Using low-cost technologies in implementation programs allows for the more efficient use of budgets both because a given amount of funds pays for more systems, and because beneficiaries can afford technical solutions, such as water pumps for irrigation, without subsidies. Technological innovations need to be guided by local needs, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and environment.

Impact

Among NGO’s, there is a growing awareness that low-cost WASH technologies can have a strong impact towards realizing the MDG goals. Examples of this trend include the recent UNICEF manual drilling program, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funded by Gates Foundation and Rockeller Foundation, an Alliance funding sustainable agriculture programs which aim to develop water technologies for small farmers.

During the last decade, many innovations in low-cost WASH technologies have become available, such as improved household water treatment, low-cost manual drilling, a range of locally produced water pumps, irrigation technology, etc. Besides innovations focusing on providing drinking water, several innovations provide new income opportunities by putting water to productive use. More than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people are small scale farmers, and for many of them, access to irrigation water provides a substantial productivity gain and increase in food production, hence contribute to food security. The WASH Alliance views productive water as one of the entry points to creating income opportunities for these 900 million people.

Many of these solutions are still relatively unknown. The public sector and civil society have a large role in promoting sustainable technologies and services through capacity building and procurement under various programs. One of the main roles of NGOs is to disseminate best practices, strengthen the local capacity, and develop and promote sustainable technologies and services.

WASH Alliance activities

The WASH Alliance partners have planned a number of activities to bring this forward. First of all, influencing policy towards inclusion of innovative low-cost WASH technologies, by familiarizing decision makers (in national governments, in NGOs and in funding agencies) with the various low cost technological options and encouraging them to incorporate these in their programs. To this end, several lobby materials will be created, such as booklets and short promotional movies.

Secondly, strengthening the knowledge base of civil society organizations working on WASH, by making the knowledge on the technologies themselves available through the Akvopedia knowledge sharing platform. Knowledge sharing instruments include introductory articles, manuals, instructional video’s, technical drawings, etc.

Thirdly, to build local capacity in using low-cost WASH technologies. Depending on the country, this can be done through supporting the development of WASH technology centers or providing tailor-made trainings to the local private sector or local NGO’s, such as those done by our partner Practica Foundation. WASH technology centers, which are under development in a number of countries, act as local knowledge basis, training location, local R&D, etc. Activities will include sharing educational materials and providing or facilitating focused technical trainings.

Finally, to adapt technologies for which the need is apparent from the contextual analysis to local circumstances and make the results available to a wider audience.