Uptake of new WASH technologies by policy makers, planners and the private sector is often weak. For example, no new technology for point water systems has been taken to scale since the handpumps that were tested and widely introduced in the early 1980s.
In most countries there is no formal system for technology assessment. In Zimbabwe the economic situation calls for cheaper household latrines and wider community and household use of rope pumps. However, the government has no process by which such technologies can be accepted alongside the conventional options approved many years ago. Governments in Ghana, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Uganda, among others, have delayed a decision for many years about whether rope pumps can be considered an acceptable level of supply for households and communities.
African project partners from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Uganda supported by four European partners have launched an applied research project to promote more effective investment in new technologies to achieve MDG targets. The aim is to research and develop a framework to assess the potential of new innovative technologies which may be being used in de-centralised systems. The new technologies may include some that are untested but the focus will be on those which have been piloted, but not yet taken to scale.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Technologies (WASHTech) project started in January 2011, will last three years and is co-funded under the EC FP7- Africa research programme.
The African partners WASHTech are:
- Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS), Uganda
- Training, Research and Networking for Development (TREND), Ghana
- Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana
- Centre Régional pour l'Eau Potable et l'Assainissement à faible coût (CREPA), Burkina Faso
- WaterAid Ghana
- WaterAid Uganda
- WaterAid Burkina Faso
European partners are: IRC, Netherlands, WaterAid UK, SKAT Foundation, Switzerland, Cranfield University, UK.
IRC is coordinating the consortium work and brings in experience from the WASHCost and Triple-S projects in the same three African countries.
Objective and outputs
The project objective is to strengthen the sector capacity to make effective investment in new technologies.
WASHTech action research will seek to increase awareness of new technology options, develop assessment systems relevant to different stakeholders, and build long-term local capacity to identify weaknesses in approach and assess the sustainability and scalability of new technologies.
Burkina Faso, Ghana and Uganda offer a wide range of technologies and cultural, socio-economic and physical environments. It is expected, therefore, that processes and tools developed will also be appropriate for use in other countries and outputs will be freely accessible online.
Direct outputs will be:
- A widely applicable Technology Assessment Framework (TAF) and process that will provide a simple system and criteria for evaluating new technologies and their performance, identifying sustainability issues, and analysing approaches to introduction, innovation, diffusion and scaling up.
- Well-established capacities in three countries to apply the TAF and adapt processes to local contexts.
The research will also seek to define strategies for innovation and scaling up, and the time-span and process needed to achieve successful up-take and sustainability. These outputs will be of direct use to the sector and an indication of the value and application of the framework.
No objective system to evaluate new technology innovations
Technological and institutional innovations from NGOs and small scale entrepreneurs in African countries themselves include, rope pumps, bush pumps and eco-sanitation in Zimbabwe, low cost Canzee pumps in Madagascar, small town solid waste management in francophone Africa, and many others. But although entrepreneurs, commercial companies and development organisations from Europe and other parts of the world often develop interesting technologies, they also often only promote their own protégés.
WASHTech aims to provide an objective system which provides a transparent measure of how well any one option is performing, and evaluates whether the approach used to introduce it could be improved to increase up-take and improve sustainability.
Technology assessment and validation
African governments have delayed decision on rope pumps because there is no procedure to validate technologies or to evaluate the effects of other social, institutional, economic, and market factors which would affect going to scale. There is also no objective assessment of the performance of other piloted pumps, which leads to a propaganda battle between proponents who claim all their pumps are working well or require no maintenance and opponents who claim that the same technologies are usually broken down.
WaterAid and IRC receive more than 100 hundred announcements a year from aspiring inventors who feel they have designed something which will revolutionise water supply or sanitation in peri-urban or rural areas. The inventors often have no experience of conditions in the field or of the priorities, concerns, values and constraints of potential users. It is apparent that a system for ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ is necessary.
Source. IRC. www.irc.nl/page/62222