Sanitation partnerships

What is the role of partnerships?

The first rule for partnership approaches is to “build upon assets” (Flexibility by Design, BPD 2002).  Who are the existing stakeholders are and what do they offer?  In poor communities sanitation providers are extremely diverse.  They range from the fundis (local masons) who build household latrines to communities that build and run toilet blocks, from manual pit-emptiers to municipal-run vacuum trucks.  Customers are themselves a varied group, from pay-and-go users of toilet blocks to landlords letting out accommodation, from housewives making home improvements to tenants emptying a shared latrine.  Often the engagement between these different parties, a series of ‘sanitation transactions’, happens more or less organically, with little direct involvement of public authorities and other bodies.  Yet these providers are not working in isolation – often far from it.  Manual pit emptiers in Kibera make use of sewerage facilities to dump their sludge.  Private vacuum trucks in Dar es Salaam take their waste to public treatment works.   


Within this context, BPD identified three broad roles that sanitation partnerships can play.  The first role is to improve the relationships between those supplying sanitation goods and services and the individuals, households and communities that are their customers.  Partnerships should look to encourage more and better sanitation transactions between these two parties.  The main goal here is to better meet the needs of both indivuduals and providers. 


The second role for partnership is to harness these transactions more effectively to deliver the public goods of improved health and environmental protection.  While households’ principal desire is for dignity and comfort, partnership approaches may offer scope to broaden existing sanitation transactions to encompass hygiene education.  Partnerships may also facilitate providers’ relationships with public authorities, helping align informal sanitation provision more closely with formal urban management. 


The third role for partnership is to overcome fragmentation within the system.  Institutionally sanitation is also diverse - one finds that many organisations have a stake in sanitation, from ministries of health and education to water and sewerage companies, to environmental health officers.  Ways must also be found to address the institutional fragmentation that results in a plethora of organisations with a stake in on-site sanitation but precious little effective collaboration between them.  Mechanisms are also needed to co-ordinate across the fragmentation of the on-site sanitation system into access, removal and treatment stages.  These three roles are all explored in more detail in the overall findings of BPD’s work on this subject, below.


Sanitation partnerships: harnessing their potential for urban on-site sanitation (pdf)

While effective sanitation partnerships are currently relatively scarce, the five case studies suggested that, given careful attention to the particular challenges of on-site sanitation, partnerships can play an increasingly useful role in the years ahead.