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Solving The Water and Sanitation Crisis through Innovation


Two of the 2006 winners of Development Marketplace, a competitive grant program that identifies and funds innovative and early-stage projects with high potential for development impact, winners were in Washington DC from September 24-26, 2008 to judge this year’s contest and to offer some advice to this year’s winners. 
 
Since winning Development Marketplace, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Environment Facility, MacArthur Foundation, UNAIDS and the Global Village Energy Project, and the World Bank, among others, these two particular projects have served millions of people.
 
In total, the contest has awarded more than $46 million in grants to projects that have often gone on to scale up or replicate elsewhere.
 
 
As a member of the jury for this year’s Development Marketplace, Ian Thorpe, CEO of Pump Aid recommends that this year’s winners work through the financial model of their projects and take full advantage of the business skills training offered to winners. 
 
Ian, along with two friends, started Pump Aid in Zimbabwe where they developed the Elephant Pump and the Elephant Toilet. The Elephant Toilet uses sun-dried mud bricks, a soap plant whose leaves can be used as soap and it reuses liquid waste to fertilize a nutritional garden. 
 
The Elephant Pump uses plant fiber for the rope which lasts about 18 months and can be remade in one afternoon. Ian says that “the main components for the maintenance of the pumps are being made by the community themselves, so that’s why we’ve got really successful maintenance record.”
 
About 1 million people in Zimbabwe currently use Elephant Pumps and Toilets. 
 
PumpAid plans to reach 2.5 million people in Malawi; teach former child soldiers from Liberia about water and sanitation in refugee camps in Ghana;, set up training programs so that they can build capacity across Africa, and they are hoping to eventually reach 15 million people in the next 7 years.
 
PumpAid’s financing relies on innovative partnerships. They have developed Elephant Toilet Tissue which is sold in the UK, AquAID water cooler gives PumpAid a fixed amount per unit installed in the UK, which will bring in US$9 million over the next 5 years. Finally they have launched Thirsty Planet, a bottled water product which has sold over 11 million bottles in the UK. 
 
Pump Aid is ensuring its long-term survival by continuing to look for new sources of income to support the installation of Elephant Pumps and Elephant Toilets. It was awarded US$120,000 by Development Marketplace in 2006 to install 200 pumps over 2 years, surpassing this challenge they installed 1,380 pumps in the first year. Pump Aid has continued to grow since then and currently has US $25 million confirmed in future funding.
 
Florence Cassassuce, the project coordinator for the UV Bucket, advises future winners to start planning their scaling up strategy, their long term financial plan and sustainability as soon as possible. 
 
Two ideas are to have a commercial version that will subsidize the version for the poor and partnering with companies to create income while they get to improve their image. 
 
She also recommends a monitoring component to your project.
 
“I believe it’s not because you are an NGO that you should stop improving on your design so that’s one of the key elements of the program” said Flo. Finally, work with the Government from the beginning it will help the project scale up later on. 
 
Flo’s project started with examining the water quality in the ranches in Baja Sur, Mexico in 2004-2005. She found there was fecal matter in half of them during the dry season, and in almost all in the rainy season. 
 
Learning from the work of University of California, Berkley the team from Niparajá adapted the UV tube to the bucket so that greater quantities of water can be purified. The UV Bucket consists of a 15L bucket on top of which is placed a disinfection chamber with an UV lamp and an upper reservoir where the user pours the water to be treated.
 
The water entering the disinfection chamber flows around three plastic divisions and exits the chamber down onto the 15L bucket. The UV lamp is germicidal and the one minute the water spends in the chamber allows bacteria, viruses, protozoa and other waterborne pathogens to be eliminated successfully. The lower 15 liter bucket has a faucet for dispensing the disinfected water.
 
The Development Marketplace award allowed Niparajá to improve the design of the bucket and begin distributing. The first 500 units were installed, after monitoring 250 it was clear that design improvements were required and that there was low uptake in the peri urban areas because water was available to buy from vendors.
 
A new design was professionally manufactured in Tijuana, allowing for more units to be created and an improved system for replacing the UV tube inside the bucket. The bucket was also distributed in more rural areas where there were no water suppliers. 
 
Finally, they increased their monitoring and found that by returning to the village to monitor there was increased uptake as villagers felt like they were partners in the effort.
 
The team continues to strive for excellence, working on improvements to the bucket and ideas to reduce the cost. The Government of Mexico is interested in spreading the technology further. Eventually, they hope to train Government employees to promote the UV bucket. This will allow the technology to spread further throughout Mexico but also improve water and sanitation skills in Government staff. Their aim is to reach 5 million Mexicans in 5 years. 
 
Flo also believes that there needs to be coordination on a global level. The World Health Organization (WHO) has the household water treatment and safe storage network, which is a first step to creating coordination however they would like to see it taken further. They would like a database that details the advantages and disadvantages of each of the water purification systems so that those in the field can enter the details of the community they are serving and see which technology suits them best.
 
For more on this story, please visit these links:
VIDEO: Pump Aid
Contact Name: 
Anne-Marie Coonan
Contact Email: 
acoonan@worldbank.org