By Katharina Conradin, Switzerland
The Millennium Development Goals with their sub-target to halve the number of people without access to basic sanitation until the year 2015 are well known by now. It is also well known that lacking sanitation causes enormous costs and has tremendous negative effects on economy, health, human dignity and the environment.
Yet, the world is off track in terms of attaining the Millennium
Development Goals, specifically in relation to the sanitation target.
In 2008, still more than 2.5 billion people were without access to
basic sanitation . This is not only due to a lack of finances (though
recent studies have shown that 1USD invested in sanitation in
development countries yields 9 USD), but often, it is also a lack of
capacity. Many solutions how to make sanitation more sustainable have
been developed and successfully tested, yet those who are actually
working in the sanitation sector do not know about them – there is a
severe lack of professionals who are able to plan, design, implement
and maintain sustainable sanitation solutions.
Hence, seecon international and the Ecosan Services Foundation ESF
have, in cooperation with other partners, started to work in the field
of capacity development to educate more people about sustainable
sanitation approaches. Yet, capacity development does not only mean to
train students or professionals how to build sustainable toilets.
Capacity development is a much wider process, including – among others
– human capacity (skills, i.e. training), structural capacity
(institutional settings, enabling environment), and tools (here, i.e.
the toilets and maintenance structure). In the words of sanitation,
this means for instance that an engineer can very well understand the
concept of sustainable sanitation, but if the institutional environment
does neither allow him to reuse nutrients from human excreta, nor is he
able to find separating seats for a urine diversion toilet – the
implementation of sustainable sanitation solutions is difficult,
although the human capacity is there.
Considering this, the approaches of seecon international gmbh and ESF in terms of capacity development have been much wider:
(1) Involvement of NGOs, Students, Professionals
(2) Involvement of decision/policy makers
Conducting of training courses, presentations and workshops for NGOs,
students, professionals, educational institutes, government agencies
etc. They are the main pillar of the capacity development programme.
There is a range of available courses, from two-week face to face
expert courses with field trips, to short ecosan e-learning courses.
(3) Involvement of educational institutes
Organisation of national workshops on sustainable sanitation with a
number of government representatives. Furthermore, conducting of
training courses within the framework of the Indian Total Sanitation
Campaign with government representatives, i.e. state and district
(4) Mass Awareness through Media
Launch of the “sustainable sanitation exchange” project, where Swiss
and Indian schools will jointly work on sustainable sanitation issues
and virtually meet on e-learning platforms to discuss possible
In India, ecosan is part of the curriculum in several boarding
schools that have at the same time implemented ecosan sanitation
(5) Involvement of rural beneficiaries
Furthermore, mass awareness on ecological sanitation has been
promoted – ESF received a media sponsorship from the Water Digest
magazine and thus media coverage on courses conducted.
Information of the public through radio interviews, local newspapers and magazines.
(6) Involvement of Technologists
Rural beneficiaries are involved in the capacity development projects
through awareness raising campaigns and social marketing methods:
village meetings, exposure visits of villagers and representatives of
rural schools to functioning ecosan toilets.
(7) Involvement of builders/developers, and manufacturers
Participation in annual exhibitions organized by Indian Water Works
Association, including organized workshops for all water experts
present in the conventions.
The results of these efforts are respectable. Ecological sanitation approaches have been declared as an alternative technology in household sanitation in the Total Sanitation Campaign of the Indian Government and are thus rooted in the institutional level. Numerous decision makers have learned about ecological sanitation and are now in a position to institutionally support them. In 13 training courses, more than 300 people have been trained in ecological sanitation approaches, of which about a third have taken part in the expert course that enables them to plan, design and implement ecosan solutions on their own – and last but not least, dozens of pilot projects have been implemented, showing the feasibility of introducing ecosan to India in real life.
Also builders and developers are involved in the capacity development
programme – either by taking part in training courses, or also via a
cooperation with local manufacturers who produce urine separating
toilets for the Indian market.
The important lessons learnt from this programme are:
- When promoting ecological sanitation, we must not focus on a certain technology, but instead on the approach as such. There is a wide variety of ecosan technologies with which the core thought of recycling and reusing can be promoted. This thought is the main seed we need to plant!
- Furthermore, it is crucial to find suitable entry points and messages for different target groups, from policy makers to grassroots implementers.
- Technologies must be adapted to local conditions – only then are they also fully functional and accepted by the end users.
- Pilot projects are of crucial importance for conveying the message of the ecosan approach: “seeing and not smelling is believing!”
- … is not about a certain technology
- … is not only about low-tech waterless toilets
- … is not (only) about wastewater treatment.
For further information, please contact:
- … ecosan regards all (dry and wet) “wastes” as resources.
- … is all about reuse, recovery and recycling of nutrients & water
- … is a new holistic way of thinking, not a specific technology!
Johannes Heeb, seecon international gmbh, Bahnhofstrasse 2, CH-6110 Wolhusen Switzerland,
Michael Kropac, seecon international gmbh, Laurenzentorgasse 8, CH-5000 Aarau, Switzerland,
Ecosan Services Foundation, "Vishwa Chandra", 1002/42 Rajenda Nagar, Pune – 411030, Maharashtra, India,
The authorKatharina Conradin