FSM5 and AfricaSan5 2019: Highlights and Key Takeaways

Dr Sally Cawood, Research Fellow in Urban Sanitation

From the 18th to 22nd February 2019, 800 people – including politicians, academics, practitioners, consultants, innovators, donor representatives and policy makers – descended upon the Cape Town International Conference Centre in South Africa for the joint fifth Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) and AfricaSan conferences. These bi-annual conferences bring together a diverse range of stakeholders working in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector across Africa, Asia and Latin America, to learn and share innovations, good practices, consolidate old, and build new partnerships. This short blog outlines some highlights and key takeaways from the week of plenary’s, panel discussions and side-events.

Ngor Declaration Revisited

On 27th May 2015, African Ministers responsible for sanitation and hygiene adopted the Ngor Declaration at the AfricaSan4 conference in Senegal. In the opening plenary at AfricaSan5/FSM5, Mr Kitch Bawa, AMCOW Secretariat, revisited the Declaration, highlighting that, whilst many challenges remain, positive steps have been taken by member countries to establish leadership and coordination structures, eliminate inequalities in access and use, establish budgets, eliminate untreated waste, and encourage re-use.

Pan-African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA) Launch

On Sunday 17th February 2019, the Pan-African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA) network was launched, at an event convened by the African Water Association (AfWA), Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Following this, on Monday 18th, CAWST ran an EmptierEx workshop on their Emptying Service Competency Framework, welcoming feedback from emptier, utility representatives, and practitioners. During a plenary session at AfricaSan5/FSM5, the President of the Pan-African Emptiers Association, Mr. Ibra Sow, gave a compelling speech highlighting the need for; greater health and safety provision, access to finance, equipment and dumping sites for emptiers, and recognition by government and NGOs of the critical work emptiers play in managing sanitation in towns and cities across Africa.

Costing, Costing, Costing!

Here at Leeds, the BMGF-Funded Climate and Cost in Urban Sanitation (CACTUS) Project, is in full swing. As a CACTUS team member, I was instantly drawn to a talk at FSM5 titled: ‘Lifecycle cost comparison of faecal sludge and sewer-based sanitation systems in India’, by Jeannette Laramee and Chengyan Zhang, Stantec, USA. Similar to CACTUS, the speakers wanted to examine a range of costs for different (i.e. on and off-site) sanitation systems; identify the cost drivers; and when costs are incurred (i.e. CapEX, OpEx) along the sanitation chain. They found that there were higher per-capita CapEx, OpEx and all-in costs for sewer-based models, compared to FS models. Whilst the latter had fewer capital costs, it had higher operational costs, when compared to the sewer-based systems. The primary cost driver for sewer-based systems was therefore the connection, and for faecal sludge (FS)-based systems, collection. Unlike CACTUS, containment was not included; the focus was not explicitly on citywide systems; and results were relevant only to the Indian context only. CACTUS is developing a costing framework that can be applicable worldwide (from the UK to Bangladesh and beyond).

Sanitation Workers Workshop

On Friday 22nd February 2019, a ½ day workshop on sanitation workers – ‘the missing link in the sanitation chain’, was convened by WaterAid, the World Bank, SNV, International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Water Research Commission (WRC).

Dr Andrés Hueso, WaterAid, opened the event, highlighting the limited focus on sanitation workers in the sector to date. Ndeye Awa Diagne, World Bank, then outlined key findings from a desk review and upcoming report. This was followed by a presentation on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) of manual and mechanical workers in 16 cities, by Antoinette Kome, SNV, who highlighted that poor health and safety can be found in both operating types; challenging assumptions that mechanical emptying automatically leads to improvements. The 70 workshop participants then broke into a world café format to learn about good practice cases from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa. This was followed by group discussions on key thematic areas, including; access to finance and equipment, health and safety protocols (beyond PPE), enabling environments, personal wellbeing, dignity and challenging discrimination, income generation, livelihood improvements and organisational capacity building. In the closing panel, Carlos Carrion-Crespo, ILO, remarked that workers and their partners must “recognise, formalise and organise”recognise the importance of the work (as a profession); formalise the work to improve standards, and organise into associations, unions, and cooperatives, to make demands. Great to see this important topic, also a priority for us here at Leeds, (see, for example the recent WASH blog by former MSc student Mariam Zaqout), getting the attention it deserves!

Final Takeaways

FSM5/AfricaSan5 was a further stepping stone in building momentum around Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2. Whilst there were suprisingly few talks on gender and sanitation, and reaching the poorest in cities, the event created space for South to South learning and knowledge sharing, with representatives from India, South Africa and Senegal playing a key role. The active paritcipation of Ministers and policy makers, also demonstrated the growing political commitment to sanitation and hygiene. In his closing speech, the Hon. Minister of Water and Sanitation in South Africa Mr Gugile Nkwinti (pictured) stated that “because of you” (the audience), “we will launch a report into open defecation in South Africa”. Will political figures from other countries also take action? Being the host country for such a large event clearly makes an impact! It would be great to see FSM6 and AfricaSan6 (and 7, 8, 9 and 10!) in different locations, to ensure this momentum is sustained, and has local, as well as national and international impact.