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South-South Technology Transfer Offers Low-Cost Sanitation Solution for Africa’s Urban Poor

September 12, 2013


A sanitation marketing campaign seeks to replace basic pit latrines with flushable toilets connected to shallow sewers.

Photo: Water and Sanitation Program

  • South-south transfer of condominial sewer technology from Latin America could offer solutions for low-cost sanitation for the urban poor in African towns and cities.
  • A condominial sewer network – shallow sewers that serve clusters of housing – together with innovative sanitation marketing approaches are being piloted in Zambia following exchange visits to Brazil, Peru, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.
  • Lessons from the pilot project targeting 45,000 residents of a peri-urban settlement in Lusaka City will inform replication and scale-up approaches in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa.

South-south transfer of condominial sewer technology from Latin America could offer solutions for low-cost sanitation for African towns and cities grappling with the challenge of serving increasing populations of urban poor living in informal settlements. More than a third of Africa's one billion inhabitants currently live in urban areas, which are dominated by informal settlements that lack basic services such as water supply, sanitation and waste removal.

In Zambia, the development of a condominial sewer network together with innovative sanitation marketing approaches are being tried on a pilot basis to provide affordable sanitation to 45,000 residents of Kalingalinga, a peri-urban settlement on the outskirts of Lusaka City.

The pilot project is being implemented by the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC), with support from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), and other partners.

Affordable piped sewer systems for informal settlements

Access to sanitation is particularly low in Zambia’s urban areas, especially in the peri-urban low income settlements of Lusaka which accommodate more than 60 percent of the city’s population.

Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company, which provides water and sewerage services in the city, is under pressure from informal settlements where increasing incomes have boosted residents’ aspirations for better but affordable sanitation solutions, and better service delivery.

While pit latrines offer practical and affordable ‘on-site’ sanitation for the community, the proliferation of pit latrines could contaminate the rich underground water aquifers of Lusaka that provide 50 percent of the city’s drinking water.

On the other hand, piped sewer systems are expensive to install and maintain, and as a result often not accessible to many residents in low-income settlements. A piped system also increases demand for water to flush the sewer, and requires significant behavior change to ensure proper usage and maintenance.

The challenge facing urban utilities in Zambia is to deliver a piped network for peri-urban areas in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. This will increase access to sanitation for the urban poor and also enable water utilities to increase revenue through water sales and sewage service charges.    

South-south knowledge exchange and technology transfer

The condominial sewer system was introduced in Zambia in 2010 following exposure visits to Brazil, Peru, Senegal and Burkina Faso to identify innovative solutions for delivery of affordable piped sanitation services within peri-urban areas.


The knowledge exchange facilitated by the Water and Sanitation Program enabled technical staff of LWSC and Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) to learn about developing and maintaining the simplified sewer systems, managing community demand for improved sanitation and behavior change at the community and household level.

The condominial sewer network is now being piloted in Kalingalinga peri-urban settlements where more than 80 percent of the residents use basic pit latrines. By providing an alternative to pit latrines, the condominial sewer network will safeguard the longevity of 15 boreholes around Kalingalinga that account for one-fifth of ground water supplied by LWSC.

So far, a total of 4.5 kilometers of water piping and 3.2 kilometers of the sewer network have been installed within Kalingalinga. Other components include a sanitation marketing campaign to encourage households to build toilets and connect to the sewer line, pay for water and sewerage services, and to adopt hygienic practices.

Securing community buy-in and leveraging financing

The pilot project employs a bottom-to-top approach to engage and sustain the participation of community leaders, landlords and tenants in planning, community sensitization and consultations, and overall decision-making.

The willingness and ability of landlords to buy into the new technology and to invest in household sanitary facilities is critical in ensuring that the sewer system can operate sustainably. Already, 90 percent of the landlords have indicated their readiness to construct toilets and connect to the condominial network.

The pilot project has also successfully leveraged financing from diverse partners. The Ministry of Local Government and Housing has provided US$513,000 for primary sewer lines and the sanitation marketing campaign; Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company has spent US$176,000 for water supply improvement and allocated another US$2.4 million for sewer network extension and water supply improvement.

The World Bank, through the ongoing Water Sector Performance Improvement Project (WSPIP), has committed US$200,000 for social marketing and committed additional funds to introduce ICT-based mechanisms for strengthening consumer voice and accountability, while WSP is providing US$900,000 in technical assistance. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has committed US$54m for the expansion and rehabilitation of wastewater treatment ponds and replication of the sewer in a neighboring settlement.

The lessons from the pilot project will inform replication and scale-up approaches in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa.