USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Water and Sanitation

Clean Hands Inc. – 5 Questions with Bear Valley Ventures

Bear Valley Ventures, a grantee of USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, is investigating how to radically improve hand hygiene habits in India, through product innovation. Bear Valley and partners created Clean Hands Inc (CHI) to develop new products for the urban poor that can be used by households with substandard or no sanitation and constrained access to water. With support from DIV, they have launched their pilot. 

Where did the inspiration for your approach come from?

The evidence that improved hand hygiene can have a positive impact on health is clear and there’s increasing interest globally in promoting handwashing with soap. But in the settings we are interested in – urban slums – there are many practical reasons why soap may not always be the best solution. Reasons like water being a valued resource people don’t want to waste and soaps lack of portability when people go to the toilet outside the home.

Youth in India. Photo Credit: Walter Gibson

What makes your approach different?

Like many with an eye on public health around the globe we want to improve hand hygiene at scale in a way that’s sustainable. However, our approach is different in three ways. First, our products are exclusively designed to get hands germ free post-defecation. Not because other moments like before food don’t matter but because we think defecation is a missed opportunity – what soap manufacturer wants their brand associated first and foremost with defecation! Products for post-defecation need a different functionality and positioning, and we think it’s  easier to target than eating in low-income settings as it can be made more routine. Second, we aim to get to scale through a social business model, which no one else is trying to do in this area. And third, not only are our product formats novel but we have a product ingredient that sets us apart, Byotrol®.

What are the first steps you you’ve taken to get your pilot of the ground so far?

As the funding kicked in, our first step was to fly straight to India to meet with research design agency Quicksand, our partner. Together we checked out one of our products – a foam that doesn’t need rinsing – with households in slums in Bangalore; met experts with whom we’ll work over the coming year on issues like distribution, positioning, and packaging; and re-worked our plan for the year. In parallel we’re working with Byotrol Consumer Products Ltd, our technology partner, on product formulations, which will incorporate their unique anti-microbial technology Byotrol®.

What have your biggest challenges been so far? What will be your biggest challenges in the future?

There are so many challenges it’s hard to know where to start! On the hygiene side we’re trying to innovate practices people do habitually and unconsciously. They are not driven by a belief that if I don’t clean my hands properly someone could get sick or die. So we’re not tapping into a desire that exists and will have to create one. On the product side affordability and distribution are huge challenges. And as a team we have to make sure that we use everything that happens over the coming year – including the set backs, to learn and move forward to achieve our vision of improving health through hand hygiene where it matters most.





USAID Launches its First Global Water Strategy

This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Representative Earl Blumenauer and Representative Ted Poe, launched the first USAID global water strategy in the Agency’s history. Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats represented the State Department.  Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network and Gemma Bulos, Founder, A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW) and the contemporary Christian band Jars of  Clay also participated.

I began at USAID almost four decades ago working on international disaster assistance efforts, meeting water, health and food needs in the Sahel. While our planet’s needs for sustainable supplies of water and food have increased, so has our capacity to meet these needs. It’s a privilege to be part of the team that developed – and will now help implement –a water strategy that will do much to meet water, health and food needs for decades to come.

The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. The strategy sets out two overarching objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.  Here are four projects which represent the kinds of activities we expect to be supported by the strategy:Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP) – Ethiopia;Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development (WaterSHED)Lower Mekong;Water and Development Alliance (WADA) – Senegal; Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH)

The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement programfacilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.

Access to safe & clean water saves lives & is vital to a productive future for every man, woman, & child. Photo Credit: USAID

The strategy seeks to manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security. This will be achieved through increased emphasis on more efficient use of rainfall and improved efficiency and management of existing irrigation systems. The Haiti Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources  supports a vertical drip irrigation system, an innovative farming method that will benefit farmers with very small land plots. By planting certain crops vertically using this irrigation system, farmers can produce better yields using less land and water, particularly helpful in this heavily deforested country. In Mali, USAID has worked with farmers on ridge tillage to help increase the efficiency of rainwater capture for improved agricultural production. This has boosted cereal crop yields.

The strategy advances activities consistent with Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 including establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We have designed criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation services. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.

In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches to development.

Leveraging partnerships is a key theme. In 2012, USAID joined Sanitation and Water for All, a global partnership of governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to use scarce resources more effectively. USAID is partnering with the Coca-Cola Co. to address community water needs in developing countries around the world, with a combined commitment of over $31.5 million. We have partnered with a range of public and private sector organizations, including joining with Rotary International in nearly 250 communities in the Dominican Republic, Ghana and the Philippines to develop water and sanitation projects.

One example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, a partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This grant will scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. DIV is one of the ways the Agency is integrating innovative approaches into how we do business.   In another example, USAID has been working with  its Global Development Alliance partner Rotary International to develop and test a tool kit to predict the likely sustainability of WASH interventions.

Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy. The Ghana WASH Project seeks to improve rural and peri-urban communities in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene by linking up with communities, local NGOs, government agencies, as well as international organizations working in the sector. Through a multi-level approach, the project works to build the capacity of local communities and organizations, and not only improve water, sanitation and hygiene, but also empowers the host country to promote sustainability and development well after the project has reached completion.

Looking ahead, we are fortunate to have a great team at USAID , along with highly skilled and valued  partners, who will implement a strategy which will benefit the lives of millions of people throughout the developing world.

Video of the Week: Clean Kumasi: Digital Tools to Transform Urban Waste Management

In the fall of 2012, partnered with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor to tackle the issue of open defecation. and WSUP were the recipients of a Development Innovation Ventures  Stage One grant to test a hypothesis that the application of digital tools could effectively change behavior related to the management of human waste.

Building off the lessons learned from rural community-led total sanitation efforts, the team worked to adapt that methodology to an urban context.

The team designed a system that allowed community members to report instances of open defecation by calling them in, in response to signs posted around the neighborhood. This information fed into a database of contacts managed by a community organizer who then called the participants to gather for meetings and clean-ups.

This video shows the and WSUP teams in action – from organizing hackathons in San Francisco to conducting field work in Kumasi, Ghana, live prototyping of the mobile platform and technology, and ultimately to the community gatherings and clean-ups.’s project is supported by the DIV and Gates Foundation WASH for Life Partnership. Read more about the partnership’s new grantees.

Folow @DIVatUSAID  on Twitter and join the conversation with #DIVWash.

Photo of the Week: USAID Launches Water Strategy

Globally, over 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in severe water stress conditions. To address these global water-related development needs,  Administrator Rajiv Shah will join Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) to release the U.S. Government’s first Water and Development strategy in Washington today. Its purpose is to provide a clear understanding of USAID’s approach to water programming, emphasizing how sustainable use of water is critical to saving lives. The new water strategy has health and food security as priorities, highlighting the critical role of water in saving lives.

Read the entire USAID Water and Development Strategy.

Follow @USAID on Twitter and join the conversation with #WaterStrategy.

Photo of the Week: Pumping Water to Urban Nigeria

Three young boys look to be having some fun while they use a public standpipe in Bauchi town, Nigeria. This is one of the sites where town residents retrieve water since few have water taps at their homes. In December 2011, USAID’s Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa project signed an agreement with town officials to help them expand and improve services to residents. Demand for water in urban areas like Bauchi exceeds 200,000 cubic meters per day—nearly four times the volume the town’s water utility is currently able to pump to its customers. Photo is from Emily Mutai, SUWASA.

Read the recently released FrontLines issue to learn how USAID is working to provide safe water to the millions who live without this vital resource, and how unique approaches to wipe out neglected tropical diseases are faring.

In Tajikistan, Little Drops Make the River

This originally appeared on FrontLines.

In Tajikistan, there is a familiar proverb: “In every drop of water, there is a grain of gold.” Water is the most precious resource in this mountainous, landlocked nation that is slightly smaller than Wisconsin.

More than 70 years of Soviet industrialization depleted water resources; moreover, many of the collective farms that maintained irrigation systems were dissolved 20 years ago and water systems have fallen into disrepair. For villages that have water, it is often contaminated. About half of all Tajik rural households do not have access to safe, potable water. In many instances, polluted irrigation water is the only source of water for household use.

School children in Khatlon enjoy their first taste of drinking water outside their school. Photo credit: USAID

According to the World Health Organization, waterborne diseases in Tajikistan account for 60 percent of gastroenteritic disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Repeated illnesses linked to poor quality water not only keep children out of school and contribute to poor health outcomes, including stunted growth, but it is estimated that, in recent years, one in six deaths among children under age 5 in Tajikistan were linked to waterborne diseases.

Previous local efforts to build or maintain water systems were unsuccessful due to a cumbersome legal framework, lack of clarity over management responsibilities and lack of funding. Operators of small water systems often did not have training, and local residents had low awareness of the dangers of waterborne illnesses.

But, as communities begin to understand the value of steady access to clean water, they are coming together with USAID and other partners to install and maintain pipe networks. These new networks, often co-funded by local communities and built by local citizens, are proving sustainable in ways that earlier networks never were.

A Holistic Approach

USAID recognized that any solution would have to be multi-faceted and cross multiple technical sectors. To be successful, the safe drinking water program would need to build the skills of engineers, increase community awareness on water and health, and partner with local governments to democratically maintain the water systems. In addition, through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s flagship food security initiative, USAID is partnering with local government officials in their efforts to increase the role and effectiveness of community-based water users’ associations and increase household consumption of nutritious food.

Jamoliddin Gulomov, chairman of Novobod Township, was eager to partner with USAID. His village in the southern province of Khatlon has never had access to clean water. Residents relied on the river, but the high price of fuel kept most people from boiling water before using it. USAID trained township specialists to maintain and repair the pipe network. The project also trained local peer educators to teach residents about health and hygiene practices. Finally, to ensure that the system was financially sound and sustainable, the Agency provided technical assistance and training to the local government to develop a transparent scheme for user fees.

Community members spoke up at local government meetings to set user fees, dug the pipeline, installed the pump station and, finally, celebrated the opening of the new system.

In addition to reporting a dramatic decline in the incidence of gastroenteritic diseases, Gulomov said, “We now have proven that the local government and citizens can cooperate to make life better for everyone.”

A Focus on Sustainability

Gulomov’s experience mirrors that of other communities involved in this project. Priority areas for this program were those that had received the least donor assistance and that had the worst health indicators. Local townships applied and were selected based partly on their capacity to sustain the improvements.

USAID partnered with a local university to train engineers in maintaining the new water systems. Students received internships to practice their engineering skills. Communities formed water, sanitation and hygiene committees to create a community health index report of baseline data and develop community health action plans based on the results.

Over the past three years, USAID has invested more than $1.7 million in improving 57 drinking water systems that provide access to clean drinking water to 150,000 people in Tajikistan…[continued]

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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Outcomes are Nice, But What About Measuring Them?

This originally appeared on Agrilinks.

This post, written by Alain Vidal, is cross-posted from the CGIAR Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog and the Challenge Program on Water and Food’s (CPWF) Director’s Blog.

This week we are publishing thirteen CPWF outcome stories. Just a few days after the groundbreaking ceremony of the CGIAR Headquarters in Montpellier, where French authorities were told how the new CGIAR was “big, bold and beautiful,” these outcome stories may look small, even tiny. “Islands of success” in the middle of an ambitious “ocean of change.”

What we in CPWF have learnt over the last ten years is that it is not so easy to “get people to do things differently.”  We cannot just provide ‘evidence.’ Science lays the foundation by providing deeper understanding of the problems, better ways to target interventions or new solutions (also called “innovations,” “interventions,” “strategies” or “alternatives”).  But in order to influence stakeholder behavior and achieve outcomes we need to go one step further and engage stakeholders in the process of research itself. It is through their own learning processes that people begin to change or alter how they make decisions.

But let’s consider them more carefully, because outcomes – the new paradigm for the whole CGIAR, which our program was entrusted to test at its creation ten years ago – come in all shapes and sizes. Indeed, outcomes can be defined as changes in stakeholders’ behaviors through shifts in their practice, investments or decision-making processes. They are more about change than about size.

Cambodian woman and man with irrigation drip-kits. Photo credit: WLE

For instance, in Cambodia, the story of drip irrigation farming linked to market opportunities demonstrates how improved water efficiency, primarily in the form of irrigation drip-kits, resulted in water savings, lower labor requirements and improved yields. Income of the target farmers more than doubled.

Another outcome, related to benefit sharing mechanisms in the Rio Ubate / Fuquene lake watershed in Colombia, shows how different stakeholders changed their attitudes towards one another. Combining conservation agriculture with Payment for Environmental Services, partners set up a revolving fund program managed by farmers’ associations. The fund provided smallholder farmers with credit to make an initial investment in conservation agriculture. So far, 100% of the first round of loans have been recovered. From 2006 to 2009, more than 180 hectares of land were brought under conservation agriculture, which in turn increased farmers income by 17%.

These outcomes are not the end of the road. In both instances, the initiatives further innovated and led to new outcomes. In Cambodia IDE is continuing to improve service delivery and diversify markets. The work in Colombia has continued under the guidance of CIAT in the Andes.

The main lesson that we have learned is that outcomes take time to generate, are iterative and not linear. There are not magic bullet solutions in getting to outcomes.

Over the coming months CPWF will be capitalizing on its ten-year research for development experience. Identifying ways to achieve ‘islands of success’, in all their shapes and sizes, is just one way CPWF can contribute to CGIAR’s envisioned ‘ocean of change.’  In its quest to reach millions, CGIAR must focus on the essentials: working through partnershipsengaging with development actors, building trust and listening to the problems at hand rather than just identifying big science-based solutions. What other lessons can we offer to help contribute to this change?

Read the outcome stories…

Learn more about what USAID is doing to meet CGIAR objectives.

Water from a Stone: Jordanians Stretch Meager Resources to Sustain Syrian Refugees

This originally appeared on FrontLines

Zaatari village lies just south of Jordan’s border with Syria, where small villages are interspersed with livestock, olive farms, dairies and food factories. In 2009, Ahmed Al Khaldi received a $1,700, USAID-funded revolving loan from his village cooperative to install a 30-cubic-meter cistern to store rainwater harvested off his roof. The 51-year-old retired police officer knew it would give his family peace of mind during recurring periods of water scarcity.

Jordan is among the driest countries in the world. Rapid population growth has reduced the amount of fresh water available to the average Jordanian to less than 158 cubic meters per year—10 times less than the average U.S. citizen consumes. The renewable water supply—the water that is replenished each year by rainfall—only meets about half of total water consumption.  The rest of the water used in Jordan comes primarily from aquifers that are slowly being depleted; alternative sources such as desalination are very expensive.

Girls in Jerash pose in front of their school’s storage tank that is painted to look like an aquarium. Photo credit: Alysia Mueller

As is typical across the country, municipal water was delivered infrequently in Zaatari. If the storage tank ran out, the Al Khaldi family had to buy expensive truckloads of water from local businessmen. “With the cistern, I feel secure. Every time I need water, I just pump it from the cistern,” he says. “We can even share with neighbors if they run out of water.”

The cistern does not meet all the water needs of the Al Khaldi family. But it does provide important support for three generations of Al Khaldi’s immediate family—15 members in all—living under one roof.

Al Khaldi also couldn’t imagine that this cistern would eventually help him throw a lifeline to relatives living hundreds of kilometers away in Homs, Syria. Like many Jordanians in the north, his tribe lives on both sides of the border. In 2011, his Syrian cousin, Ahmad Swaidan, fled to Jordan with his wife and five children and his brother’s five children. “The shelling threatened our lives daily,” Swaidan says.

Like 200 other families in Zaatari, the Al Khaldis took in their Syrian relatives, housing them in an adjacent family property. By local estimates, the village’s Jordanian population of 8,000 had absorbed 2,000 Syrian refugees by November 2012. Al Khaldi says “it’s not easy” to support an additional 12 people on his monthly pension of $500 and the modest army salaries of his three sons—two of them married. “But we share,” he says…[continued]

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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A New Life for Goma’s Water System

This originally appeared on FrontLines.

Overhaul of dilapidated infrastructure means a lasting source of water comes to hundreds of thousands of DRC’s most vulnerable.

In the shadow of Africa’s most active volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, the shore of Lake Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) bustles with crowds each day. From dawn until dusk, hundreds of people—from as young as 5 to the elderly—come to the lake with dusty yellow plastic jerry cans to fill with as much water as they can carry.

Though the water is dangerous— risking cholera and other water-borne diseases—many families living in the nearby city of Goma have few alternatives for drinking, washing and cooking.

Goma’s dilapidated water system—already leaking, inadequate and badly damaged by lava flow when Nyiragongo erupted in 2002—simply can’t provide enough water for the city’s inhabitants. This is compounded by the more than 60,000 people who have been displaced when rebel forces took over the city for a short time in November 2012. Many travel for more than three hours to collect just one container of this untreated water, leaving little time for adults to earn income or for children to attend school.

Siya Marguerite’s children. Photo credit: Mercy Corps

“Here, there is no water, there are no rivers, so we all suffer,”  said Siya Marguerite, a mother of five children. “My children are growing up in conditions much worse than I had at their age. It really pains my heart to see and I am worried for our lives.” Marguerite settled in Goma after fleeing violence that plagues rural eastern Congo.

Here disease is closely linked to water quality. A 2008 survey of Goma inhabitants found that the incidence of diarrhea in children under age 5 was 22 percent. Although a 2010 government survey indicated that nearly two-thirds of urban areas have access to clean water, estimates for Goma are at best, 40 percent. Cholera outbreaks are a regular occurrence.

USAID, in partnership with Mercy Corps and other donors, is close to providing a lasting solution to the city’s water problem for disadvantaged families. In time for World Water Day on March 22, USAID and Mercy Corps completed the first and most significant phase of work rehabilitating, improving and massively extending the city’s water system, bringing safe water to the doorsteps of more than 250,000 people in Goma, nearly a quarter of the estimated population of the city…[continued]

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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FrontLines Releases March/April 2013 Issue

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn how the Agency is working to provide safe water to the millions who live without this vital resource, and how unique approaches to wipe out neglected tropical diseases are faring. Some highlights:

Three young boys having some fun while they use a public standpipe in Bauchi town, Nigeria. This is one of the sites where town residents retrieve water since few have water taps at their homes. In December 2011, USAID’s Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa project signed an agreement with town officials to help them expand and improve services to residents. Photo credit: Emily Mutai, SUWASA

  • When a family of 12 fled violence in Syria, the Jordanian relative who took them in was not too concerned about providing everyone with adequate water – a scarce resource in this region of the world – thanks to a USAID project that helped build cisterns to harvest and store rainwater.
  • water ATM? Similar technology that meters public water sources is a welcome development for some urban Kenyans who would otherwise face the high cost and inconvenience of procuring water for cooking, washing, cleaning and everything else.
  • Cambodia is enlisting a variety of players – including school children – on its mission to wipe out snail fever, an infection that can lead to debilitating illness, and, in children, malnutrition and cognitive difficulties.
  • Delivering medications efficiently could stomp out two debilitating diseases endemic to Haiti; wearing new sneakers kicks up that protection even more by creating a barrier between parasites and kids’ feet.
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