Africa Wide Sustainable water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Technology Review

This is a summary of the WASH Tech report: Parker, A. et al., (2011). Africa wide water, sanitation and hygiene technology review (WASHTech Deliverable 2.1). The Hague: WASHTech c/o IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and Cranfield: Cranfield University. 93 p


The WASHTech project (2011-2013) is a work by Cranfield University, IRC (Netherlands), SKAT Foundation (Switzerland), WaterAid (United Kingdom) and partners in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Uganda. It is a three-year action research initiative that aims to facilitate cost-effective investment in technologies for sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH). In the WASHTech review, a total of 14 technologies currently used throughout Africa in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector have been examined via literature review to provide an assessment of the technical, social, financial and institutional success. The project was co-funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission's Africa research programme. The full report is available at [Wash Tech Africa]

Evaluation Criteria, Methodology and Technologies

In total 14 technologies were evaluated by the WASTTech: the Rope pump, India Mark II, Playpump, Bio-sand filters, Hand dug wells, Constructed rainwater harvesting jars, Water jetting, Life straw, Jerry cans, Bio-additives, VIP latrines, Urine diversion dry toilets, Gulper and the Tippy tap. For each technology there is a background of the range of literature available, a concise description of the technology itself, its application, a selection of pertinent case studies, and an explanation as to whether the technology meets technical, financial, social and institutional success criteria. The aim of the review is to understand how technologies have been developed, how they were introduced, whether they have gone to scale and to explore the reasons why they were successful or not.

Evaluation Criteria:
1) Technical - is there a verification that the technology performs its intended role if used correctly?
2) Financial - has the technology never been criticized for being too expensive for purchase, operation and maintenance either by the users or by district scale development programmes?
3) Social - if users are given the technology, will the majority use it with satisfaction?
4) Institutional - has the technology been accepted by governments and donors?


Each technology evaluation was approached separately, and described in five sections:
• A description of the range of literature available on the technology allowing the reader to assess the likely bias and comprehensiveness of the review.
• A concise description of the technology itself.
• A description of the application of the technology, supplemented by the introduction and scaling up process of the technology in each country in Africa.
• A selection of interesting case studies on the technology.
• An explanation as to whether the technology meets each of the success evaluation criteria described above.

The literature review for the evaluation includes a variety of both academic and grey literature sources which were gathered via standard search methods, including Google Scholar and academic engines searches such as Web of Science. A summary of the type of literature is presented in each section in attempt to balance the grey and peer reviewed literature; the bias of grey literature is also assessed. It is important to note the authors report a lack of depth and variety in the available literature on the topic of technological project evaluation, which reveals a serious knowledge gap and the need for much more attention and research this area. The authors also observe how the academic literature tends to mostly focus on technical performance rather than social issues and the business models involved which are of crucial importance.

Key Findings and Recommendations

Most technologies were technically successful apart from the bio-additives and Playpumps. Only two technologies met all four success criteria: hand dug wells and the India Mark II pump; the latter only with the caveat of a functional maintenance system. The least successful technology was the Playpump, which was successful only at institutional level, after significant pressure was put on governments by non-conventional donors. There seemed to be no pattern for technology adoption across the different technologies as they are introduced by different organizations, different funding mechanisms and different reasons for either successful scaling up or remaining at the pilot stage. Jerry cans and the Gulper only met the technical success, although may meet other success criteria with further research. The financial and social success criteria was met by roughly half of the technologies

There were also examples of a geographical bias affecting distribution of technologies - for example the biosand filters were primarily found in Anglophone countries due to the policy of CAWST. Bio-additives were usually distributed in neighbouring countries to the manufacturers (Kenya and South Africa), and the VIP latrines are most common in countries bordering their inventor's country of Zimbabwe.

  • Commercial Interest: All the commercial or imported technologies (India Mark II, Playpump, Lifestraw and bio-additives) received government approval. This may be due to the fact that they have the resources and the contacts to complete the approval process. However, their scale-up relied on government funding as well, and this was only achieved by the India Mark II. However there are further examples of imported technologies that have not received approval from governments.
  • Capital Cost and Investment Model: Two of the sanitation technologies (VIP latrines and UDDTs) were promoted and funded by both government and NGOs but neither went to scale, in both cases because they were too expensive to be invested in by users. This is a particular problem for sanitation where intervention is required at a household rather than a community level. A few technologies relied on investment by users (hand dug wells and Jerry cans). These technologies had no clear advocates but are almost ubiquitous across Africa.
  • Local Manufacture and Quality: Technologies that are manufactured locally and are specifically designed to be low cost (rope pumps, biosand filters, constructed rainwater harvesting jars, water jetting and tippy taps) struggled to get government approval and funding and relied on the efforts of NGOs, and have not scaled up. Their local manufacture helps keep costs down, but can also lead to variable quality and hence performance. Exploring how these technologies can get government approval is a key issue for the WASHTech consortium.
  • Timescales of Technology Introduction: Even with a more globalized society where in theory technologies can be disseminated rapidly, new technologies like the gulper still only exist in small numbers, and have not proved their scalability. There seems to be a time lag between what is happening in the field and what is documented.
  • Appealing to naive donors: The market for Playpumps and Lifestraws is that of people and organizations in the developed world who donate to charity. They are captivated by a technology that could solve Africa's water problems and are inspired to donate to a particular technology rather than to support a more generic water and sanitation programme. Their opinions are consolidated by the numerous awards that these technologies have received, as well as praise in the media. This mismatch between appropriateness and popular appeal is a core issue to be explored.
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Authors Ivana Z.
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 1 pages link here
Aliases Water technology evaluation
Impact 273 page views
Created January 31, 2012 by Ivana Z.
Modified October 18, 2022 by Irene Delgado
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