Project Lead(s): R. Taber Hand
Many of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people live in communities that are in direct proximity to water – in floating houses or in stilted homes over flooded areas – where poor sanitation leads to the spread of diarrheal diseases and increased child mortality. In Cambodia, an estimated 25–45% of the population lives in these types of challenging environments. However, informal settlements of floating villages are found in many countries, such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Nigeria and Indonesia.
The Wetlands Work (WW) team introduced a sanitation and wastewater treatment system – the HandyPod – in two floating community regions comprised of ten villages in Cambodia. The HandyPod is an innovative system for providing effective sanitation to floating communities. Using sequestration and a biological filtration system, the HandyPod effectively treats human waste.
Creating the demand for sanitation and an awareness of the HandyPod system as a viable sanitation option has been challenging because the alternative – open water defecation – is ‘free’. In addition, the rollout of this particular project faced a number of unique challenges, with historically low water levels during the dry season forcing floating households onto land and fish catches dropping to record lows, slashing incomes for the majority of the families.
As dwellings were forced onto the shoreline, the original HandyPod design had to be modified to cope with ‘amphibious’ conditions, rather than being targeted at homes that had been permanently afloat. The team adapted the design by replacing the floating section of the system with a biological filter attached to the house. This new system works equally well whether the house is on water or on land, and has shown good results following testing with households and schools in the communities.
HandyPods are now being used by over 1,200 children in six floating schools, with the potential to convey key sanitation messages to their families and neighbours. Twelve community-led total sanitation (CLTS) sessions were also held, each reaching at least 30 members of the local community. A program was implemented to select demonstration households that would create exposure to the product, with 380 raffle tickets purchased by prospective HandyPod users.
Fourteen demonstration households totaling about 70 individuals are now using HandyPods, and over 3,000 people have the opportunity to purchase a HandyPod on credit through their local savings group.
Before scaling the product across the wider Tonle Sap lake region and beyond Cambodia, Wetlands Work will continue to monitor the product’s uptake to learn whether any adjustments are required to the sanitation marketing and supply chain model.
WW intends to apply for funding to scale up the distribution of the HandyPod. In addition to Grand Challenges Canada support through WaterAid Cambodia for this proof-of-concept sanitation marketing program, funds were provided through the World Toilet Organization to introduce sanitation in the floating schools of the 10 target villages.