28 March 2014 South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a partnership to find innovative sanitation solutions for rural and peri-urban communities. SAinfo reporter Sanitation in South Africa, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas, remains a huge challenge, with population growth counterbalancing the significant strides made to reduce the sanitation backlog since 1994. “By applying creative thinking and innovative approaches to sanitation challenges, we can dramatically improve the health of women, children and communities,” said Chris Elias, president of the Gates Foundation’s global development programmes. “We believe that the pairing of South Africa’s governmental leadership with new business models and innovative sanitation solutions will dramatically increase the progress that has already been made in tackling the global sanitation crisis.”Global safe toilet backlog: 2.5-billion According to the foundation, an estimated 2.5-billion people around the world do not have access to safe toilets. This is harmful to the health and wellbeing of children, undermines women’s and girls’ dignity and safety, and hinders economic development and growth. In 2011, the foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme initiated the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to come up with toilets that remove germs and parasites from human waste, recover energy, clean water and fertiliser, operate “off the grid”, without connections to water and sewer systems or electrical lines – and cost less than US$0.05 cents per user per day. The Department of Science and Technology has partnered with South Africa’s Water Research Commission to identify, develop and evaluate new technologies in the country. “In terms of rural school sanitation, the technologies will be demonstrated in the Cofimvaba district in the Eastern Cape as part of the Technology for Rural Education Development project,” the department said. “The technologies will also be demonstrated in the 23 district municipalities that have been identified by the government as critical in terms of service delivery.” This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the department and the foundation at the second Reinvent the Toilet Fair in India last week. Searching for ‘non-sewer’ solutions The department said the aim was to fund the research, development and manufacturing of “alternative, non-sewer” sanitation solutions for South Africans without access to water-borne sanitation. Announcing the partnership on Monday, the department said it had committed R30-million to conducting field tests on technologies developed as part of the Gates Foundation’s global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, with the foundation contributing US$1-million (R10.6-million) to support this testing.
Rural women engaged in the fabrication of tulsi mala beads in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district have received support from a technical design intervention by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, which has helped improve their old machines. The new apparatus has increased production two-fold and added innovative features for designing and polishing.Hundreds of women in Bharatpur district’s Kaman, Deeg, Nadbai and Sewar tehsils have been earning their livelihood since long by making tulsi malas which are supplied to the temple towns such as Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon and Barsana, situated nearby. Regular religious events also ensure a good demand and consumption of tulsi malas throughout the year.IIT-Delhi’s Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) took up a project with the help of the Bharatpur-based Lupin Foundation in 2012 for improving old devices used by women and evolved a new machine. In its latest initiative, RuTAG has made major changes in the apparatus by enhancing its speed, added new features and helped in its operation with a comfortable sitting posture.Lupin Foundation’s executive director Sita Ram Gupta told The Hindu on Monday that the new machines have been designed with wooden boxes, in which other tools could also be kept, while a state-of-the-art technology had been used to add the utilities of designing and polishing. RuTAG has offered the machines to women of the region at a subsidised price of ₹5,500 each.Trained in IITA woman entrepreneur, Omwati, from Bailara village of Nadbai tehsil, underwent training in IIT-Delhi in the use of new apparatus and passed on the skills to other women. RuTAG presented machines to Ms. Omwati and Lupin Foundation’s in-charge of women’s empowerment programmes, Salho Hembrom, at an event in New Delhi last month.