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Saving Water to Make Money

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world’s water supplies are running low, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), four out of every 10 people are already affected. But despite the gloomy reality of this problem, entrepreneurs in the South are rising to the challenge to save water.

“The situation is getting worse due to population growth, urbanisation and increased domestic and industrial water use,” said WHO’s Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. While the WHO has adopted the theme ‘Coping with Water Scarcity’ for this year, every year more than 1.6 million people die from lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Ninety percent of these deaths are children under the age of five.

The health consequences of water scarcity include diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, salmonellosis, other gastrointestinal viruses, and dysentery.

One unnecessary waste of water is car washing. The number of cars in developing countries is growing fast, with a 27 per cent increase in sales in China this year, and South America overtaking Asia as the world’s fastest-growing regional vehicle market (Global Auto Report). And all these cars will be washed, wasting this precious resource.

The large informal car washing market in Brazil has long been known for paying low wages and avoiding taxes. On top of this they also waste water. Lots and lots of water. In Brazil, 28.5 per cent of the population (41.8 million people) do not have access to public water or wastewater services. And 60 per cent do not have adequate sanitation (Brazilian Institute of Applied Economic Research).

Started in 1994, Drywash uses a locally available Brazilian organic carnauba wax to clean cars without using water. Drywash has also developed a line of cleaning products that cleans every part of a car without the need for water. They estimate they have saved 450 million litres of water in their first 10 years of operation. From the start, they set out to change the status quo and run a business that “thinks like a big corporation,” said its international partner, Tiago Aguiar.

To do this, Drywash’s management team focused on operating an efficient and professional business. When Brazil’s government passed strict laws against informal selling of products, Drywash was well positioned to benefit, with companies preferring to work with a legal business. Customers have also been attracted to Drywash because they know the service is consistent and to a high standard. Drywash made US $2.7 million in 2005.

Drywash prides itself on operating “on the books”, and paying taxes. They are also ambitious, and have expanded outside Brazil and into other services.

And they don’t just do private cars: they also clean private jets, with Drywash Air. They have also expanded into Mexico, Portugal and Australia, on top of 50 Brazilian franchises. They also want to enter the US market.

In China, Landwasher toilets is tackling the growing problem of providing flush toilets to the country’s 1.32 billion people. As its founder Wu Hao told the World Resources Institute (www.nextbillion.net), “Assuming all of our country uses water-flushing toilets, not even the Changjiang and the Yellow Rive will be enough.”

Formed six years ago, it has patented a process using a special agent and sterilisation to dispose of human waste without using water, and very little electricity.

Hao graduated from Beijing University’s Physics Department and developed management experience working in manufacturing, securities investment and corporate management.

“On a personal level, I love the natural environment… I can’t endure the large scale waste and damage to the environment caused by the process of construction in China.”

Landwasher has seen its sales grow to 40 million Yuan (US $5.2 million), and has six sales offices covering 27 provinces.

Landwasher has just been awarded a contract to provide portable toilets to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Published: September 2007

Resources

  • World Water Council: Established in 1996, the World Water Council promotes awareness and builds political commitment to trigger action on critical water issues.
  • Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council: Works on sustainable sanitation, hygiene and water services to all people, with special attention to the underserved poor.
  • The Stratus Group is a Brazilian fund looking for sustainable SMEs in Brazil’s high-growth green sectors.

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Toilet Malls Make Going Better

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, clever entrepreneurs are transforming services that were bare-bones, grim and out-of-date into modern facilities packed with features that help to pay for their operation. In Kenya, an entrepreneur has used this approach to transform the poor quality of public toilets.

Public sanitation is essential for good health and a high quality of life. Around the world, more than 2.6 billion people, or 41 percent of the world’s population, are without access to basic sanitation. As a result, most have to make do and defecate or urinate wherever they can. In crowded urban areas, the result is an unpleasant source of disease and filth that fouls living spaces and sickens or kills many people.

Nairobi’s slums are notorious for so-called ‘flying toilets’ or ‘scud missiles’: plastic bags filled with excrement that act as the only toilet available for many. Half the population also has no access to clean water. It has been estimated these appalling conditions contribute to up to 50 percent of health problems for slum dwellers.

The Iko Toilet started by David Kuria first came to life in Nairobi’s central business district.

“What we saw in the last 10 years, the few public toilets that existed were in very poor shape,” he told CNN. “In fact they had been taken over by the street boys, and they were a point for mugging and drug trafficking. With that background we needed some sort of social transformation. For people to gain the confidence that you could have a public toilet which is clean which is safe and you can go in and come out the same way.”

The solution was “toilet malls,” complete with a range of on-site micro businesses to make going to the public toilet attractive. Apart from music and radio to listen to, there is a shoe shining service, snack bars selling fruit and water, and even banking services. The idea is that the micro businesses pay for the upkeep and cleaning of the toilet. And their presence also keeps the toilets safe because there is always somebody around.

While the concept was pioneered in the business district, it is now moving out into Nairobi’s slums. So far, Kuria has completed 12 toilets in Nairobi and has another 18 under development. He is also rolling out the toilets to other parts of the country. He receives the plots of land from local municipalities and his company, Ecotact, builds the toilets.

It costs five Kenyan shillings (US .07 cents) to use the toilets.

Kuria had become frustrated with the city council’s inability to provide clean and safe public toilets.

“I thought for some time before coming up with the idea,” he told The Nation. “People had nowhere to go and thugs were holding them to ransom in the few facilities then run by the council.”

Kuria said people are leaving good comments about the toilets and say it makes them proud to be Kenyan.

The cost to build a toilet is Sh 2 million (US $26,000) and the toilet is managed by Kuria for five years. At the end of the contract, he will hand them over to the local council.

“We are getting support from UNDP and other partners like East African Breweries, the Global Water International and the Rotary International,” he said.

An architect by training, Kuria is hoping to employ more than 1,000 people by the end of this year. So far 120 people work for the Iko Toilets. Like so many others, he is also affected by chronic water shortages.

“We are worried because when there is scarcity of water, we are forced to buy it at an additional cost,” he said.

Private vendors currently provide the water for the toilet malls.

Iko Toilets are so successful they have made it into the ‘Hall of Fame’ at the World Toilet Organization (http://www.worldtoilet.org/). Kuria was also winner of the World Economic Forum’s Africa Entrepreneur of the Year award earlier this year.

And his ambitions extend beyond Kenya.

“We also want to go to other countries. Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa have already approached me for Iko Toilets,” he said.

Published: August 2009

Resources

1) World Toilet Organization: The global non-profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org

2) World Toilet College: Established in 2005, the World Toilet College (WTC) started as a social enterprise, with the belief that there is a need for an independent world body to ensure the best practices and standards in toilet design, cleanliness, and sanitation technologies are adopted and disseminated through training. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org/ourwork3.asp

3) Official website for the 2008 International Year of Sanitation. Website: http://esa.un.org/iys/

4) Waste has expert knowledge on domestic solid and liquid waste management and sanitation issues. Its website offers a comparison of designs and methods for toilets. Website: http://www.ecosan.nl/page/353

5) A set of photos on Flickr of the Iko toilets. Website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wateradvocates/3306962447/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Clay Filters are Simple Solution for Clean Water

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Access to clean water is critical to good health. It is a basic human need that when met, leads to the biggest improvements in health and well-being. Dirty water causes diarrhoea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diarrhea), cholera and typhoid. Diseases caused by dirty drinking water kill almost 5,000 children a day around the world (WHO).

But millions have benefited from a simple solution using clay filters invented and pioneered in Central America, and now manufactured by 28 small factories in 23 countries – the largest in Ghana and Cambodia. Each factory makes up to several thousand filters a day. They offer an ingenious solution that also creates local jobs and skills.

Looking like 30 centimetre-high flowerpots, the filters designed by Guatemalan chemist Fernando Mazariegos blend local clay and plant husks to create a filter capable of killing 98 percent of the contaminants that cause diarrhoea. The husks are burnt away when the filters are fired in a kiln, creating tiny holes that filter out harmful organisms. A coating of colloidal silver (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colloidal_silver) is painted on the filters after they have been fired in the kiln.

“Each filter can support a family of six,” said Kaira Wagoner, Coordinator of Ceramic Water Filter Projects with the NGO Potters for Peace (www.pottersforpeace.org). Founded in Nicaragua but now US-based, Potters for Peace has popularized the filters and helps with all the training and support required to establish the workshops and market the filters.

The first filter-making workshop was set up in Managua, Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch in 1999 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Mitch). That workshop has made and distributed 40,000 filters through the Red Cross and NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. Potters for Peace has now stopped running workshops and factories themselves, and provides others with the training and advice necessary to produce clay filters.

To work, the filters are placed in a plastic bucket, a spigot added, and a cover put on top to prevent contamination. The filters are capable of filtering four litres of water an hour.

The genius behind the filters is the fact they can be made by small, local workshops – making access to clean water available anywhere, and creating jobs. Just three to four people can produce up to 50 filters a day. According to tests by the Family Foundation of the Americas, a Guatemalan NGO, the filters halve the incidence of diarrhoea in households that use them.

“The cost of establishing a workshop varies largely,” said Wagoner, “depending on the factory’s location, desired production – from 50 per day to 1000 per day – and on the equipment already available in the potter’s workshop. Potters for Peace generally tries to work with potters who already have some of the needed equipment, such as a hammer mill and clay mixer.

“Filters are distributed hand in hand with health and sanitation information which highlights practices such as hand washing,” said Wagoner. “Since many individuals would otherwise boil their water, the filter significantly reduces the time many women would spend gathering firewood. This gives them time for other things such as school and income generating activities, and is better for the environment, especially in locations where problems with deforestation are significant.”

Experience has found marketing is key to the successful adoption of the filters by communities.

“It is very difficult to create a market in a region of poverty,” said Beverly Pillars, also from Potters for Peace, “and to gain acceptance of a new product that the community will want to purchase to keep a workshop sustainable. NGOs may distribute the ceramic water filters, but for the community to fully accept the idea of seeking out clean, safe drinking water on their own, we urge the local owners of the factory to be innovative in marketing.

“Our best approach has been to select partners in developing areas that have some experience such as a potter or brick maker, and help them to find methods that work in their communities to distribute as many of the ceramic water filters as possible, such as a distribution link through local health centres and small corner markets, adds in Yellow Pages, road signs.”

To get a workshop up and running, they need to have a machine to press the clay filters, a kiln to fire them, and a pyrometer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrometer) to measure the temperature of the kiln. It usually takes between three and six weeks of training to become proficient at making the filters. Trainers help with acquiring the proper equipment, building the kiln, the clay filter formula, quality control procedures, and marketing techniques and materials.

“My advice to people wanting to start making filters is to look for local craftspeople to partner with,” said Pillars. “Look at local access to brick, clay and sawdust. Be prepared for hard and rewarding work to bring safe, clean drinking water to developing populations.

“Every location is a best location, because the demand for safe, clean drinking water worldwide is so great. The beauty of the ceramic water filter technology is that it uses very few resources: clay, sawdust or other burnout material available and bricks for a kiln. We have found these resources to be present worldwide.”

The filter has been cited by the United Nations’ Appropriate Technology Handbook, and is used by the International Red Cross and the Nobel Prize winning medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders. There are plans to start more filter factories in Cote d’Ivoire, Bolivia and Somaliland.

Published: December 2008

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022