Transformation of informal pit emptiers into cooperative for city-wide sanitation service in Faridpur, Bangladesh

                                                              

Transformation of informal pit emptiers into cooperative for city-wide sanitation service in Faridpur, Bangladesh

Practical Action
Solution proposed by: 
The work is jointly carried out by Practical Action Bangladesh and Faridpur Municipality, and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID UK-Aid.
In a Nutshell: 
Informal pit emptiers have historically provided sanitation services in South Asia, but they are highly vulnerable to poor health and social stigma. Faridpur municipality is supporting the transformation of informal pit emptiers by helping them improve their work, organize into cooperatives, and by signing Service Level Agreements for their work.
Where and When: 
The solution is being implemented in Faridpur Municipality from December 2014 to till date November 2017
Challenges: 
Transformation of informal pit emptiers into more formal business cooperatives and relevant institutional capacity and business skill development, is itself a long journey. Pit emptiers need to change their practices to ensure safer emptying, transportation and disposal. There is also a need to build demand in a context where residents are happy to let their pits empty directly into nearby drains. The mindset of the municipal conservancy department who were initially unwilling to lease-out the emptying services; and mobilizing the required investment for the emptying, transportation and treatment were also challenging
Innovation: 
Innovations are in the systems and technologies. Systems: The project uses Service Level Agreements (SLA) as the basis of a new relationship between the Municipality and the pit emptiers. The rationale for this was based on citizen’s preference for using the informal emptiers who are more flexible and readily available. The SLA requires the emptiers to improve the safe management of the sludge, and allows them to lease equipment they would not otherwise be able to afford. Technologies: the system is testing and adapting small-scale, easily repaired technologies for pit emptying, transportation and low-cost, but safe treatment.
Concept: 
The key concepts used in the development of this work were (a) analysis leading to the production of a ‘shit-flow’ diagram which helped to demonstrate the scale of the problem and the important points of intervention; and (b) the use of participatory market systems development tools and thinking, which helped to bring stakeholders together and empower actors who have previously been excluded and marginalised. The initial analysis revealed that only 10% of sludge was being safely disposed of, and 90% was left exposed to pollute the town’s environment. Only 30% of toilets are emptied when they should be. Both the municipality and sweeper groups were providing pit emptying services. In the new system, the Municipality will play the role of regulator and contract-holder. It will own and lease out equipment. But it will not directly deliver pit emptying services. Business modelling was carried out to establish the rates that should be charged at different points in the system, for example for leasing equipment, and for payments to pit emptiers for disposing of their waste safely at a treatment plant. The initiative demonstrates that the informal sector can be part of the ‘formal’ solution.
Description: 
With the concept of city-wide faecal sludge management service led by private sectors, the transformation process of the two informal sweepers groups into to formal business cooperative launched. Initially the groups were sensitised on the negative sides of the current mode of operation and health and economic impact. Also the financial benefits from the improved service and legal agreement that has be discussed and they agreed to participate in the transformation process and the process initiated by forming the cooperative and then submitting for their license to the Department of Cooperatives. Two cooperatives formed with two informal pit emptier groups: Muslim Emptier Cooperative (MEC) and Harijan Emptier Cooperative (HEC). MEC received their business registration from the Department of Cooperatives and municipality signed a Performance Based Contract agreement (PBC) with them for pit emptying service in the city. Through the signing of PBC the MEC received emptying equipment form the municipality and initiated limited scale emptying service. The HEC is in the process of getting their registration and forming PBC with the municipality. We have also worked to sensitise all city dwellers and ensure greater enforcement to stop illegal connection of containment with drains. Finally the construction of a low-cost treatment plant is ongoing. It is designed to be modular so it can be expanded as demand increases. With the fully functional treatment plant, both the MEC & HEC could reach their optimum service delivery level and then the environmental pollution causing by the second generation sanitation problem will be resolved and the city public health and environment as a whole will be improved.
Impacts: 
The solution is transforming informal emptiers into formal business cooperatives for pit emptying and transportation while securing the emptiers’ occupation with improved health and incomes. Simultaneously the city authority’s investment for treatment functions and demand generation of the service is creating a sense among the residents of proper management of their sludge to avoid polluting their environment. The work is being recognized nationally and globally: Practical Action is leading work to draft the Faecal Sludge Institutional and Regulatory Framework for the government, and is co-ordinating efforts to design a large national programme for the BMGF.

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photo credits:     Practical Action
photo credits:     Practical Action
photo credits:     Practical Action