Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Sanitation technologies: Failing to reach the market
Water For People’s business development service, Captiva Africa, whose aim it is to catalyze investment in rural latrine construction through institutions such as FMI’s an SACCO’s, recently provided some valuable information on the challenges for latrine construction businesses. Poor road quality in rural Uganda means accessing some customer’s houses is impossible. To answer this, I developed another flat-pack latrine! Branded as the ‘Easy San’, this construction is made from metal poles, which result in a latrine frame when assembled. Wrapped around this frame, the latrine’s walls and roof are made from a single piece of PVC fabric. Transparent netting on three sides of the fabric provides light and ventilation. It’s assembly requires a low skill level. In fact, here’s a video of Richard and I constructing it in 6 minutes for World Toilet Day 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bsf7wkxADRc&feature=youtu.be. When disassembled, all the components can be carried on the back of a motorcycle taxi as shown below. Locally known as Boda-Bodas, these taxis are renowned for reaching the most remote stretches of Ugandan countryside, thus solving Captiva’s transport issue.
The initial prototype was designed and fabricated in partnership with Tent Deals, located in Kampala. Technically sound and made from modern materials, the technology could be viewed as aspirational to many locals. However, question marks remain over developing a sustainable supply and distribution chain to the rural markets. Materials such as PVC fabric are only available in Kampala, which becomes an issue when considering maintenance needs. Furthermore, previous WFP studies have shown that most households prefer a latrine with solid walls as it provides greater privacy to the user.
These indications have again shown that by developing a technically sound solution, you’ve only solved 20% of the problem. The other 80% is solved through developing business models, supply chains and a route to the market.
However, we haven’t given up on the Easy San yet. As you might have considered, considering its quick, simple assembly, it could be applicable for a disaster or aid relief situation. We are currently in contact with Oxfam, who we hope will show an interest in the technology.