Finding Solutions to the Problem of Pit Latrine Filling
4 February 2013
Sanitation Ventures (SV) was set up to find solutions to the problem of pit latrine filling.
The scale of the challenge – and the opportunity - is huge: there are around
1.7 billion latrine users worldwide. In this report we share our thoughts and progress on identifying, developing and delivering solutions for these people.
New Open Innovation Challenge
8 May 2012
After the success of Sanitation Ventures’ recent InnoCentive challenge, we’re very excited about the role open innovation can play in helping improve sanitation for the poor in developing countries. So it’s great to see a new open innovation design challenge from Project Sammaan, a development project working to create improved sanitation services for the urban poor in India’s slums.
The project is driven by a consortium of Quicksand Design Studio, Jameel Poverty Action Lab and two large Indian city governments, and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It seeks to design and build 119 sanitation facilities in India’s slums, with more than 1,200 toilets, as well as bathrooms and spaces for clothes-washing. More than 60,000 people will benefit when the facilities open in mid-2013.
To help reach these goals, the Project Sammaan Open Innovation Challenge is looking for radical ideas and new perspectives that will help reinvent low-cost urban sanitation. There are three specific challenges: architectural design, hand-washing dispensers and waste management. Find out more here.
Open Innovation Inspires BSF larvae Prototype
30 March 2012
Based on the success of our InnoCentive Challenge, we’re taking important steps closer to a sanitation system using Black Soldier Fly larvae.
Following our recent open innovation Challenge in partnership with InnoCentive, we’re now in a strong position to move towards prototyping a sanitation system based on Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae. The affordable, user-friendly system will use the larvae to reduce waste mass in pit latrines. The larvae can then be harvested and used elsewhere as an economic resource.
The Challenge inspired a fantastic response. After selecting four winners from almost 50 entries, we brought together members of our diverse network for a two-day workshop in London, to decide the next steps. Together, we selected two ideas to develop for prototyping. Both harness the natural movement of pre-pupal larvae away from food, towards dry dark crevices – perfect locations from which to harvest them. One of these was also the overall InnoCentive Challenge winner – ‘the Kone’, designed by Emil and Erik Martinsson, water and waste engineering consultants from Sweden. Find out more about both our lead ideas here.
Although the Challenge was about designing a system that could be fitted into existing latrines, the workshop also generated interesting ideas for a contained system integrated into a specially designed latrine or toilet and highlighted additional directions for our research into BSF behaviour. For example, how far can the larvae travel, and how fast? We’ll feed this knowledge into the development of our new designs.
We’ll continue working with Emil and Erik to take our lead ideas to workable prototypes that are safe and acceptable for users and for whoever installs, empties and maintains the system. This is vital, both for consumers’ health and dignity, and so that we can create a product that’s commercially viable. This way, we’ll have the greatest impact on poor people’s lives.
Join the InnoCentive Sanitation Challenge
20 December 2011
InnoCentive and Sanitation Ventures launch an open-source Challenge around the BSF larvae approach to improving latrines
Could you help us design a new on-site sanitation system? That’s what we’re asking problem-solvers worldwide, thanks to an online Challenge launched by InnoCentive, the pioneer in open innovation and crowdsourcing.
The Challenge is based on one of Sanitation Ventures’ approaches to reducing the problem of pit latrine filling. It seeks an affordable and user-friendly system that will allow Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae to be used to reduce waste mass in pit latrines and then harvested and used elsewhere as an economic resource. By consuming many times their body weight in organic matter, the larvae help tackle the problem of full pits, which cause health risks and expense to poor families. In addition, in their prepupae stage, the larvae are a valuable commercial resource which can be processed into high-protein animal or fish feed, biodiesel or soil conditioner.
A fresh approach to innovation
From Procter & Gamble and NASA, to the Rockefeller Foundation and The Economist, InnoCentive enables organisations to solve key problems quickly and cost effectively by connecting them to diverse sources of innovation. These include millions of employees, customers and partners, who together make up world’s largest ‘problem solving marketplace’.
“This is exactly the type of ambitious, far-reaching Challenge that will mobilise our Solver network,” says InnoCentive President and CEO Dwayne Spradlin. “With the Earth’s population now exceeding seven billion, basic sanitation is an increasingly critical issue. Solutions to this problem will greatly enhance the lives of people who live in vulnerable communities.”
How to take part
Anyone can become an InnoCentive Solver, so why not find out more about the Challenge and help improve lives worldwide?
The Challenge carries a total award payout of $10,000, with one guaranteed award of at least $5,000, and potential additional awards of at least $1,000. It runs until 19 January 2012, with the results announced in March.
“The global sanitation problem is huge,” says Sanitation Ventures Director Walter Gibson, “which is why we’re particularly excited to work with InnoCentive and the Solver community on the BSF larvae approach. The potential impact of this Challenge is vast.”
Read Walter’s blog about the challenge on InnoCentive’s website.
Tiger Toilets Begin to Take Shape
11 November 2011
Work on our lead innovation, the Tiger Toilet, is progressing fast on all fronts – design, technology and consumer research.
We’d welcome your thoughts and ideas on the latest developments, to help us bring good sanitation as quickly as possible to people who live without it.
Creating the Tiger Toilet
We want to make sure we design a toilet that meets people’s needs – one they’ll want to buy and use. So our design approach is rooted firmly in what we’ve learned about consumers’ key concerns (such as size, safety and smell). Find out more about our design for a prototype toilet to meet the challenging conditions in unplanned urban areas of developing countries.
Finding out how worms work
The success of the Tiger Toilet will lie in the effective performance of the Tiger worms in the system. We know they’re robust and can withstand a wide range of conditions – but what factors will enable them to work the hardest in the system we’re designing? We’ve set up a lab at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales to carry out Tiger worm experiments. These will help us answer questions about the conditions they need to work best in the Tiger Toilets – such as how many worms are needed, what bedding material they prefer, how much waste they can process, or how they cope with shocks such as flooding.
Introducing the concept to consumers
To make sure we design sanitation solutions people want and will use, we’re testing our innovations with consumers at every stage. We recently introduced the Tiger Toilet concept to people in the test market of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s main city. The results were positive, confirming our understanding of people’s priorities regarding sanitation design. Learn how people felt about worm-based technology and Tiger Toilet construction, emptying and affordability.
Tell us what you think
Sanitation Animated: Problems and Opportunities in 90 Seconds
In a keynote address at the 2011 AfricaSan Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the launch of a strategy to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program, called on donors, governments, the private sector, and NGOs to address the urgent challenge, which affects nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population. Flush toilets are unavailable to the vast majority in the developing world, and billions of people lack a safe, reliable toilet or latrine. More than a billion people defecate in the open.
“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” Burwell said in her speech at AfricaSan, the third African Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene. “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”
The foundation also announced $42 million in new sanitation grants that aim to spur innovations in the capture and storage of waste, as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertiliser and fresh water. In addition, the foundation will support work with local communities to end open defecation and increase access to affordable, long-term sanitation solutions that people will want to use.
Funded by a grant from the foundation to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, Sanitation Ventures is part this approach to reinventing the toilet. Watch the foundation’s light-hearted animation for a summary of the problems we’re helping to overcome – and exciting potential solutions to providing good sanitation for everyone.
Sanitation Ventures Leads Session at AfricaSan 3 Conference
19 July 2011
Sanitation Ventures will be launched publicly at the AfricaSan 3 Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, from 20-21 July 2011 where we’ll host an interactive session at the conference’s Technical Fair on Delivering radical innovation in sanitation for the poor.
Project Director Walter Gibson, of Bear Valley Ventures, will lead the interactive 60-minute session. “Over the next year, several radical innovations to address the problem of pit latrine filling are likely to emerge from the Sanitation Ventures project,” he explains. “Our intention is to work with partners to deliver these solutions through commercial ventures. At AfricaSan, we’ll seek input from our audience on how we can maximise the impact of our work, reaching the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.”
The Technical Fair complements the formal conference programme with informal dialogue and debate, designed to connect and inspire participants through stories, interviews and presentations addressing key and emerging sanitation issues. Key questions at the Sanitation Ventures’ session will include:
- Which countries would be most suitable to launch these innovations in terms of business climate, government support, need and eventual impact?
- How can governments and NGOs help to bring these innovations to market?
- What risks can you foresee that we should focus on now?
- How and where can we find entrepreneurial partners to help us commercialise these ideas?
- Are we missing any opportunities?
The session will take place in a relaxed cafe-style setting, with only 50 participants, to encourage dialogue and inspire non-conventional thinking. This perfectly complements Sanitation Ventures’ open approach, where anyone with relevant ideas is invited to get in touch and contribute to our work.
It’s our hope that the session will give us deeper appreciation of the challenges and opportunities ahead on our path to sanitation innovation. We’ll bring you its outcomes soon afterwards.
Delivering radical innovation in sanitation for the poor, Sanitation Ventures’ session at the AfricaSan 3 Technical Fair, takes place on Thursday 21 July at midday local time.
Economic Potential of BSF Larvae Confirmed
July 19 2011
A team of MBA students from the International Business Development Team at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, has created sustainable business models for products derived from the larvae of the Black Soldier Fly (BSF), which feed on pit latrine contents.
Sanitation Ventures asked the Haas team to find out whether there was a business case for sustainable on-site sanitation in Tanzania using the Black Soldier Fly larvae to transform latrine sludge into a viable product, capable of sustaining latrine emptying operations. The proposed technology uses the BSF larvae, which feed on excrement, to reduce the volume of pit latrine material. In turn, the larvae can either be harvested and sold as a high-protein animal feed, or processed into bio diesel.
The team examined the operational and economic feasibility of an independent, for-profit, entrepreneur-owned business model, as well as the risks and challenges associated with its implementation. Their aim was to understand whether such a business would generate sufficient revenue to sustain latrine emptying services. This would solve the problems of full pit latrines for poor communities.
The study began with market sizing analysis for bio diesel, chicken feed and fish feed in Tanzania, followed by market research among end users. The team then analysed the operational requirements needed to bring the end product to market, including labour, capital expenditure and process flows. Finally, they created a financial model, including estimates for fixed and variable operational costs, in addition to revenue.
On this basis, the team created sustainable business models for BSF products. Through their interviews, secondary source research and financial modeling, they showed that production of BSF bio diesel and high-grade animal feed represent attractive business ventures. In Tanzania, these products should generate sufficient revenues to enable the emptying of 2,640 pit latrines per year, potentially benefiting communities of over 118,000 latrine users on a regular basis.
Other countries could also benefit significantly from these business models, with the financial model working as an assessment tool to identify other pilot locations.
These findings are an exciting endorsement of Sanitation Ventures’ research into the behaviour and potential of BSF larvae as an innovation route.
We’ll bring you the full Hass report during summer 2011, and its implications for our work.