Innovative activities have been undertaken to develop a sustainable and scalable model of operation that delivers cost-effective sanitation services and technology. BRAC WASH looks into new horizons and focuses on innovation and development of learning tools to further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its activities. The programme has taken on several different action research projects in this regard.
Reuse of faecal sludge as organic fertiliser
All over Bangladesh pit latrines are filling up, and the waste is being dumped unsystematically. The WASH programme has taken on this challenge in order to avert a probable environmental issue resulting from it. A team from the programme has been exploring various ways to solve this matter. The most reasonable solution is reusing the pit content as organic fertiliser. The study has covered seven climatic zones of Bangladesh, and field trials have been conducted with vegetables and rice paddy to see if it is suitable for human consumption.
Microbiological analysis of the organic fertiliser was conducted in the laboratory to minimise risk of cross-contamination. In addition, essential nutrient elements have been tested in the laboratory to determine its quality and standard. Despite the lack of laboratory facilities in Bangladesh, the research team developed the testing protocol and overcame the challenges by meeting both national and WHO standards.
The key objective of this project is to identify and develop micro-entrepreneurship skills for the marketing of organic fertiliser from human faecal waste as a business model. To develop the compost business model, the project conducted surveys for market analysis to assess the entrepreneurial skills of people in rural areas and the demand for compost, in order to sell them to local farmers. Since national and WHO standards have been met, the project is going to start entrepreneurship upon approval from the concerned licensing authority.
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Feasibility study on the bioenergy project
An action research bio-energy project (Action Research on Commercially Viable Biogas System Using Fecal Sludge and other Agricultural Residues in Bangladesh) was carried out by Biosol Energy Limited on behalf of BRAC WASH. The objective was to test the commercial viability of producing biogas and organic fertilizer from faecal sludge on a large scale. Researchers tested the collection procedures for faecal sludge through the use of vacutugs in three different sub-districts of Bogra, in northern Bangladesh. It also piloted the collection of chicken manure and corn stovers. The study checked the feasability of producing 400kW of energy and estimated that it would be profitable to run a plant on that.
To ensure that customers have access to low-cost, good quality sanitation products in rural areas, especially the more remote ones, BRAC WASH undertook supply chain management. The main purpose of this chain is to facilitate better functioning of the RSCs. These are usually the primary sources of sanitation materials in rural Bangladesh. Sanitation entrepreneurs are provided with training, which emphasises on the quality of production, as well as building their capacity by focusing on book keeping, administration and marketing skills. Beyond that, much effort is taken to strengthen linkages between communities and RSCs as well as the local government institutions (LGIs).
The availability of sanitation entrepreneurs is crucial for an effective and sustainable programme. Thus supply chain analysis has been put in place to identify gaps, and to test current and future demands. It is a mechanism to check if the supply meets demand and prepare policies accordingly.
Qualitative information system
In order to see the real impact of the WASH programme, BRAC and IRC have jointly developed and applied the qualitative information system (QIS) to measure the progress achieved in terms of outcomes. QIS quantifies qualitative process indicators, such as participation and inclusiveness, and outcome indicators, such as behavioural change, with the help of progressive scales (or ‘ladders’). Each step on the ladder has a short description, called a mini-scenario, which describes the situation for a particular score. The data is collected on smartphones by trained quality controllers. Further information on QIS is available here.
WASHCost is a way for BRAC WASH to analyse expenditures, service delivery, and the outcomes achieved as a result of those services. It allows for a financial sustainability check by taking into account all aspects of a service, from initial construction to ongoing maintenance and eventual replacement. This approach helps to improve targeting future investments by assessing past performances. Moreover, it is a way to monitor the services delivered over time, thus resulting in a better value for money. Life cycle cost approach (LCCA) is a part of WASHCost project; it helps to calculate the life span and a better understanding of each service.
Identifying the sustainable and affordable water source(s) is one of the main objectives of this study. Water collection is one of the major challenges due to the distance of water source. Since rural areas are rapidly adopting an urban setup, the necessity of safe drinking water is also increasing. It has therefore, become an urgent need to understand the true costs (capital expenditure, recurrent expenditure, capital maintenance expenditure) of existing water sources.