Three-wheeled carts, better septic tanks help clean up Jakarta
Mini 'sanitation trucks' that remove fecal sludge, and improved holding tanks, may help bring improved sanitation to millions of Indonesians without it.
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2. Improved Septic Tanks: A custom, specially designed septic tank made from available, local materials was designed to meet the needs of up to five people. The tank requires limited ground space, has a built in bio-filter that separates and cleans the refuse without the use of chemicals, and only requires de-sludging of fecal waste once every two years.Skip to next paragraph
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By sharing these innovations with the private sector, PUSH showed that the size of the potential sanitation-services market had grown exponentially, simply by making new clients physically accessible.
While working to bring supply costs down, the team recognized the other side of the market equation—demand—needed attention as well. Taking a cue from the for-profit world, Mercy Corps built some buzz about the innovations by launching a marketing campaign to educate consumers about the importance of sanitation.
The campaign included radio and billboard ads, full-color comic books, and school bags for children. It even hired a well-known comedian to talk up better sanitation systems.
To date, the project has surpassed many of its original objectives, having already increased access to more than 9,000 individuals in 1,800 households. The project is not only achieving its own objectives but also having multiplier effects: Jakarta’s district health offices have replicated some of the educational aspects of the project, and the project’s authors claim that community and local government participation in the project has been one of its biggest successes.
Mercy Corps found that even with the sanitation market model in place, there is lot of work left to do. Consolidating services and improving the supply chain has lowered costs significantly but installation still costs the target demographic 150 to 250 percent of a month's income. To address this, Mercy Corps Indonesia has been working with microfinance institutions to let customers spread the costs of their sanitation systems over 20 months, allowing families to pay for their new, private latrines with the savings they would otherwise spend on communal latrine access.
Still, the cost of materials to create the septic tanks and carts fluctuates, making it challenging to keep prices low. Microfinance institutions are interested in staying involved, but aren't yet convinced that the sanitation market is a priority worth investing their own resources. Private sanitation companies have also been slow to refine their models in response to changing consumer demands.
The project’s ambitions are huge: it hopes to tip the scales by introducing lower-priced products, facilitating the entry of the private sector, and improving awareness of the necessity and affordability of sanitation services. If ultimately successful, millions of Jakarta’s poorest residents will have access to microloans to pay for better latrines and sludge removal, which will keep them healthier and leave more cash in their pockets in the long run.
Despite—and perhaps because of—the challenges that lay ahead, this idea is worth following. By adding value to the demand and supply side of the sanitation industry, Mercy Corps is proposing a sustainable and mutually beneficial solution that addresses one of the most dormant Millennium Development Goals and fundamentally changes the role played by international aid groups.
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