Transforming Sanitation Problems in Peri-Urban Areas in Blantyre
July 19, 2011
By Joseph Magoya, Water For People-Malawi Capacity Building Officer
Blantyre is the commercial centre of Malawi with a population of over 850,000 and growth rate of 2.8%. In addition the majority of the population live in unplanned areas. It is estimated that 70% of the population in Blantyre live in unplanned areas characterised by poor housing patterns, overcrowding and poor road networks.
Traditional pit latrines and Ventilated Pit latrines are the common types of latrines found within the peri-urban communities. Most of the residents in the communities are tenants, with a number of houses sharing a single toilet; as such there is high user-latrine ratio which makes the latrines fill up quickly. Provision of latrines in tenancy-leased properties is regarded as the sole responsibility of the landlords. However, due to unavailability of sustainable faecal management interventions that can reach all the corners of the low income areas, the landlords are not motivated to invest in improved latrines as they already collect little from rentals.
Pit Emptying Services in Low Income Areas (LIA)
Water For People uses the Sanitation Marketing approach to promote sanitation in its targeted communities. The approach empowers the private sector to provide sanitation infrastructure and services at a fee as a business. Under this programme a simple manual and locally-made pit emptying equipment was developed in 2010, called the Gulper, to enable the households in peri urban communities to access the pit emptying service and motivate people to invest in sanitation infrastructure. The equipment relies on suction to empty the pit latrines and is easy to operate as it needs less expertise to operate and maintain. In addition, households that can hardly be accessed with a vehicle tanker can easily be accessed by the gulper. The pit emptying business in peri urban Blantyre is being operated by community based small-scale sanitation entrepreneurs (SSSE) identified and trained in business management by Water For People.
Over the past twelve months, the pit emptying business has increased the demand for the service among latrine owners. It is cheaper as compared to other methods which are also not accessible to people to hire as there are few vehicle tankers in peri-urban Blantyre that provide such a service. The Gulping service is charged per 200 litre drum. The service has a competitive advantage as it is negotiable but is also community-based. The intervention has attracted a lot of interest, even owners of septic tanks are calling for the Gulper service. However, one of the significant challenges facing the equipment is that it cannot go more than three meters deep. The other challenge facing the pit emptying business by the small scale sanitation entrepreneurs is the cost of transporting the drums of faecal sludge on a vehicle to the sewer disposal. This impedes the entrepreneurs from making enough profits.
The SSSE entrepreneurs employ a number of approaches to encourage households to request their services e.g. they conduct house-to-house visits and distribute flyers to potential customers that might demand for the service. In an effort to solve the transport problem of the pit emptiers, Water For People is developing and testing a technology to dry the faecal matter after emptying within the LIAs so as to reduce the transportation cost to the business. The equipment relies on solar energy to dry the faecal matter. The dried sludge from the solar sludge drier can be used as manure on agriculture production.
Over the past years Water For People has been working in developing locally made faecal sludge management interventions for its both Peri-Urban and Rural programmes.
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