Q&A: Etta Projects

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PWX members can use this space to discuss elements of the Organization. PWX members can post questions or comments and they will be seen by everybody. Any PWX member can respond to the questions and comments, not just the submitter.

purity, cost, guarantees?

Posted over 7 years ago

Hello Katie

a few general comments and then a couple specific questions.

First off thanks for all your work in Bolivia. Seems fairly clear that your project's focus of improved water and sanitation/hygiene is widely needed there. The ecological latrine sounds very promising and i'm wondering if it could be adapted to our situations found in Cambodia.

I personally believe in grass-roots training and really like your approach of training the kids first, and although it will probably always take longer i suspect it is a deeper, more fundamental way to generate behavioral change. That younger generation should grow up to have an innate/inherent /better understanding of good hygiene practices and why they matter.

Did you or anyone associated with your water filter project around Montero ever try to test the typical water purity, before or after filtration? Curious how much improvement was provided by those particular filters. Anyone know if a study was ever done on the effectiveness of the biosand filtration system Mike mentioned above?

Regarding your upcoming plans for the hydropneumatic tower...can you tell me a little bit about the estimated cost of that approach, and what criteria you weigh before investing in more of a community-scale project like that vs. smaller scale / familiy-sized solutions?

Finally, i noted in your profile a statement that says "we leverage our resources and increase project sustainability by guaranteeing local government backing and participation." Can you discuss exactly what this guarantee entails, and how you can ensure it? Is this a model that could effectively be used with governments elsewhere?

thanks in advance for your insights

--Bo

purity, cost, guarantees?

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Bo,
Thanks for taking the time to read the posts.

In response to your questions:
Etta Projects, with support from Engineers Without Borders, utilized 3M Petrifilm to run monthly tests on the filtered water. We were able to purchase 3M Petrifilm in country. Water testing proved that the filters provided a significant improvement in water quality; however, it was not perfect. Most water tested directly out of the bottom bucket (after passing through the filter) proved to be free of e-coli. Unfortunately, we learned that water often became contaminated after leaving the faucet. Animals and children drinking directly from the faucet most often contributed to the contamination. Etta Projects distributed to each family a small tube to place over the faucet that essentially became a barrier between the faucet and the source of contamination. This improved the problem, but it did not completely resolve all issues. At times families opened up the water system or did not correctly maintain the system, leading to contamination issues.
We did consider biosand filters. One critical issue against the biosand filter for the communities we were working with in Bolivia -- weight. The units are typically concrete and weigh a few hundred pounds, rendering them fairly permanently placed. The families in the neighborhood where we work often squat in their homes and more numerous times in 1 year. The filter units we designed and implemented could be transported wherever the families happened to be (the sugarcane fields, a new home, etc.)

Biofilter maintenance is also more nuanced than scrubbing a ceramic filter. You need the right kind of sand, you need to grow then keep an active biolayer, and you need to clean the sand every so often.

I am aware of a couple organizations now making plastic casing for biosand filters, but from what I hear they tend to work with extremely large development projects (1000s of units) and create a reliance for foreign manufacturers.

Moving on…The cost of the hydropneumatic tower is much lower than the cost of the water tanks they replace. There is a company in Chochabamba, Plastiforte, that sells them from $600-$3000 USD. They have a guarantee of 20 years and the largest one can provide water to as many as 750 homes. We do not want to use the water filters because we are working in a remote village (difficult to purchase replacement filters) that currently rely on only one community water well (difficult to transport the water from the well to the home). Moreover, the state government recently installed a deep water well in the village; however the village continues to lack a pump and distribution system so the well remains capped.

Yes, Etta Projects always partners with local municipalities. We have been successful in securing a financial contribution from local government- usually between 10%-50% of the project budget. We also encourage participation in workshops, monitoring & evaluation, etc. Every municipality works differently and securing government support is a timely and sometimes tedious challenge. Before beginning a project, EP and local village leaders arrange a meeting with the local mayor to begin the process of securing a legal contract clearly laying out the responsibilities of each institution before implementing a project. The Law of Popular Participation in Bolivia provides federal resources to each municipality that villagers can claim in their Annual Operating Plan. Some projects utilize funding from this Annual Operating Plan (POA). Etta Projects is lucky to have someone on staff that has a lot of experience and knowledge of local governments. We feel that municipalities’ contribution is necessary to support the sustainability of the project. Moreover, municipal workers have replicated our training programs and project designs in other communities, and at times seek our support for an education component. To date we have successfully partnered with six municipalities throughout the Department of Santa Cruz.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Thank you again!

Katie Chandler

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Welcome to the PWX application process. As you probably understand, the PWX philosophy differs significantly from most funding scenarios in that complete transparency is part of the process. Applications, budgets and status of projects funded within the network are posted and available for public viewing and we can all learn from each success or failure. This is a great model incorporating shared knowledge and experience of the group.

The composting latrines sound like a good idea. Could you elaborate on the unit cost and on-going maintenance requirements? Can they be constructed locally with materials in the served communities? Can on-going costs be borne by the users or are fees assessed by local sanitation committees to make sure that they continue to function properly?

Likewise, can you elaborate a bit on the water filters, useful life, replacement cost and any maintenance requirements?

Thanks,
Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Thanks for the comments. Etta Projects appreciates your interest in learning more about the projects. Given the hot and rainy climate in Eastern Bolivia, the composting latrines have proven to be really effective.

In response to your questions: Families have an option to build their own superstructure from materials they have at their convenience (mud bricks, wood, etc), or to contribute a larger financial contribution to the project in return for bricks to build the superstructure. Therefore option one includes only the lower half of the latrine: the double vault system, the stair case, the two-holed toilet seat, a urinal and the roof. The roof is turned into families after families finish building the walls of the latrine. The total cost of this model is $350, with families contributing a total of $30. The second option distributes all the necessary materials to make the superstructure out of adobe bricks. The total cost of this model is $445, with families contributing a total of $88. Families also assist in the daily construction of the latrine and assist interactive hygiene and sanitation community workshops.

Etta Projects has already accomplished major breakthroughs with the traditional model during the current Ecological Bathroom Project. Project staff were not satisfied, for example, with the heavy, fragile cement toilets commonly utilized in ecological latrines implemented by other NGOs and thus designed their own model. The new design offers a light weight, easy-to-clean, easy-to-transport, affordable alternative. Staff also made modifications to the doors in the back of the latrine, making it easier for families to remove the compost and securely relocate the doors.

Each of the participating families is responsible for the latrine’s maintenance. The family members are responsible for adding dry material after every use to facilitate composting. Ash has proven to be the most widely used dry material because it can be obtained from the wood stoves used in the majority of homes in Bolivia. Once a month, a family member is responsible for stirring the waste to enable proper composting. This can be done by inserting a long piece of lumber though the hole in the concrete where the toilet is placed. About once per year, the compost needs to be removed from the vault and spread for agricultural purposes or be disposed of elsewhere. Then the families need to reattach and seal the vaults. At this time the toilet will have to be switched to the empty side to begin the cycle over again. None of the above operational duties will require skilled labor, and the costs are minimal.

The bricks used for the latrine construction are locally manufactured assuring that the material will be available to the participants. Our initial latrine design has a projected life of 20 years, making it economically sustainable in the long run.

Families are expected to cover the minimal cost needed to maintain the latrines. All participating villages have established water and sanitation committees as well as two elected sanitation promoters. These members are responsible for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the latrines as well as offering support if there is an unexpected difficulty.

The water filter project was a pilot project that Etta Projects implemented in four neighborhoods outside the city of Montero. Many families in these neighborhoods are not homeowners and move many times in a given year. In addition, a large percent of the families receive water from contaminated shallow wells. For these reasons we chose a portable, two bucket simple candle filter water purification system. The principle objectives of the project were:
• To educate the community's residents about water sanitation and hygiene
• To train the community on building, using and maintaining appropriate and sustainable treatment technology to ensure clean water
• To evaluate changes in water quality and use and disease burden on the health of community residents as project outcomes

The project connected the distributor located in Cochabmba to two local hardware stores in Montero to carry the water filter for $14/filter. 74 families participated in the project. At the end of the project cycle 63 families were still correctly utilizing the water system. Now, almost two years later, EP is conducting another evaluation of the impact of the project. We’ve learned that approximately 40% of the families continue to correctly and consistently use their water filter system. Broken faucets were the most common problem that led to discontinued use. The families that used their filters correctly stated that all members of the family took advantage of the filter and used it often for drinking water. Additionally, they also stated that their family no longer suffered, or suffered less, from water-related diseases.

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Katie,

Thank you for the information and I am gratified to learn of the emphasis on educating at the grassroots-level. Training and participation by the families using the latrines in labor/cost seems to be important in making any introduced technology appropriate and sustainable. I don't know if Etta encourages the use of Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks (ISSB) instead of fired bricks, if not this may be a way to reduce the cost of latrine construction (info available from www.unhabitat.org).

Can you provide a bit more information about the water and sanitation committees, does Etta help villages set these up? This is a subject that many of us struggle with and perhaps we can learn from your experiences.

Is there a component of the latrine maintenance and/or repair of water filters that supports or could support a micro-business opportunity?

Best regards,
Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Mike,
Thanks for the information regarding ISSBs. It sounds like a really interesting idea. I just passed the article along to the Coordinator of the Ecological Bathroom Project.

Etta Projects works with villages to elect members of CAPyS (or water & sanitation committees). All members receive interactive, experiential training regarding roles and responsibilities, system implementation & maintenance, system administration, project planning and coordination with local government. Once the training workshops are complete EP continues to make ongoing routine visits to the villages to offer support and evaluate how the water system is being managed at the local level. Etta Projects distributes to each committee: worksheets to track payments, spending, technical problems, system maintenance, etc; training manuals; vests and calculators.
Etta Projects began doing water projects in 2009. Currently we have an intern that is evaluating the sustainability of the water committees and their participation in the community.

Next year Etta Projects hopes to implement a water project using a Hydropneumatic Tower. There are many advantages to this system; mainly that it is easy to install, easy to operate, and cost effective. Normally EP hires an outside institution to install the water system. This project, however, trains local people to install, operate, maintain and administer the water system. As always, families will also participate in hygiene and sanitation workshops.

This is the first year Etta Projects has implemented an ecological bathroom project; it will be exciting to see how business ventures develop. In one area a group of women have started a flower business. They pay families a small amount from their compost and offer the service of emptying people’s vaults. What was once a waste now is a source of income generation! The women then use the compost to enhance the flowers.

Water For People also recently started working on a Sanitation as a Business program, testing possible sustainable sanitation services in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According to Water For People "the program will combine profit incentives for small local companies and income generation programs for poor households and schools, demonstrating a shift from unsustainable, subsidy-based sanitation programs toward sustainable, profitable sanitation services." Etta Projects has connected with Water For People in Bolivia, and is excited to see some of the outcomes of this project. As long as the education piece does not get lost in the design, I think it could be a very valuable, creative solution.

Thanks again for the input and the brick idea!

Take good care,
Katie

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Katie,

I learned about the ISSB's from another PWX implementer during a proposal revue process -- typical of the value of information exchanged within the PWX network. It has been suggested that the press used to make the bricks could be rented to communities for a nominal cost as a micro-business (I recall the press is $100 or so).

Do the water and sanitation committees assess fees to the users? If so, how are the fees handled, since most rural villages do not have access to bank accounts to hold deposits.

Is the hydro-pneumatic tower the same or similar to the "ram pump" which can generate hydrostatic head from flowing water without moving parts? I'm interested to learn more.

The Etta Projects seem to have been very successful in improving sanitation in rural settings. Do you have specific information about the Ecological Bathrooms or references you could share with PWX?

Thanks,
Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Mike,
Thanks again for information on the press used to make the bricks. Would we make the press in the country, or can it be purchased somewhere? This would be a great way to reduce costs and make the ecological latrine more sustainable in local communities.
Yes, the water and sanitation committees collect fees for water use. Some villages categorize households and pricing based on water use. Etta Projects, however, highly recommends water meters. Not only are these more fair but they encourage families to fix leaky faucets and other problems much more promptly. Meters have also proven to create more sustainability in collection of water fees. A treasurer is elected to handle fees. Thus far we have not encountered many problems with misuse or loss of money. We encourage transparency through monthly meeting with all community members. We have thought a lot about this as well, and would love to learn about alternative options since it does pose a risk on the treasurer.
I am attaching more information about the hydro-pneumatic tower and the ecological bathroom in Etta Projects documents section for your review. Please let me know if you would like more information.
Thanks again!
Katie Chandler
Etta Projects

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Katie,

The micro-finance trend may someday solve the problem of affordable ways to "hold" fees and other assets, but for those living in thatched huts, simple security of cooperative fees can be a difficult burden.

Thank you for the downloads. During installation of rainwater harvesting systems we have learned that the FIRST phase should have been basic education in sanitation and establishment of household facilities (i.e. latrines), otherwise the potential benefits of the safe water systems in schools can be negated by poor sanitation habits at home -- part of our learning process. Etta Projects seem to have addressed this and given sanitation training the proper priority.

We have not used ISSB, but are intrigued by their potential. There is a firm in Kenya that makes and sells the presses, http://www.makiga-engineering.com/. In Sierra Leone I saw some conventional brick molds that looked like they might be suitable with some modification.

The hydropneumatic tower does appear to be a ram pump, and these do have the advantage of no moving parts or seals to fail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_ram), but they do require a constant and relatively high water flow. Where these conditions are present, this could be very appropriate technology for the developing world.

The power of the PWX is in the exchange of ideas and experiences to learn form each other, hopefully and evolving toward better solutions.

Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Mike,

Similar to Bank of Rain, Etta Projects has learned many lessons along the way involving the education component of projects, particularly with schools. A few years ago EP’s staff worked directly with students. We planned really amazing activities involving puppet shows, community clean ups, fairs, and the implementation of school gardens. We had incredible outcomes that year, but the following year the schools did very little to continue addressing water/sanitation/nutrition in their curriculum. Now we take on the “waterfall” approach. EP works directly with school teachers, school boards and community leaders. For example, we present different concepts to teachers and they lead activities with the students and in their community. Our goal is that teachers bring the concepts to students, and then students to the greater community. The results definitely move slower under this model, but we have learned that the projects and the ideas are much more sustainable.

Most areas in the Integrated North of the Department of Santa Cruz have a high water table year round, making the hydropneumatic tower a viable option. Again, next year will be a pilot project for EP using this technology, and I will make certain to share our experiences with you.

Thanks again for the comments Mike. Not only do I enjoy the dialogue, we greatly appreciate all your ideas and insight.

Hasta pronto,
Katie Chandler

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Katie,

In our Sierra Leone project we had the opportunity to work with Safer Future Youth Development and they described their training approach whereby their trainers identify "natural leaders" in communities (could be, but usually NOT, Chief or village elders, and often were women). They work with these individuals to build the committees and infrastructure, implementing sanitation programs from the village-level ("community-led"). SFYD relate that this approach does take time and effort, but the success rate is much better than most NGO-implemented projects. This requires a sustained, on-the-ground presence, and for a small organization like BOR we now see our role as a partner with others that have the local infrastructure -- more of a specialist sub-contractor concentrating on those aspects of a program for which we are best suited. Thanks for your interest in joining PWX.

I appreciate learning about Etta Projects' approach and look forward to continuing to learn from postings of future projects completed by EP.
Best regards,
Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Re: the eco-san toilet, the diagram in the word doc is not clear.

You say you have made a breakthru and that's good. What is the new toilet floor made of? Where is it made and how much does it now cost?

Regards,
Rajesh

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hello Rajesh,

I posted a description of the toilet seat as well as some challenges Etta Projects has faced with the new model. Responses to your questions are found in the attachment. In theory, it is a great idea that has many advantages. Unfortunately we did not use the correct material to make the insert for the toilet seat and have come across many issues that we are currently trying to resolve. Any input and ideas would be greatly beneficial!

Thanks,
Katie

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Katie,
I have enjoyed reading about your projects and viewing your webpage. Glad to see all of your good work.
Can you tell me a bit more about the water filter project and the filters that are used? Are these individual filters that each family owns? How are these constructed and long do they last / how many gallons of water can be filtered? What is the maintenance like for these filters?
Thanks.
Eugene

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Hi Eugene,
Thanks for your interest in learning more about our water filter project. I posted a new document on Etta Projects’ profile page that explains step-by-step the construction process with pictures. Yes, each family owns their own filter system. Depending on the size of the family, the water usage and the quality of their filter maintenance filters generally last about 6 months. Maintenance is fairly easy. Families need to scrub the filter with a sponge and wash the faucet with bleach (mainly because (despite our efforts) children and animals tend to suck water directly out of the faucet). There is no reason the bottom bucket should be opened; however, if there is a problem and the family needs to open the bottom bucket, they need to complete a more thorough cleaning process with bleach.

The project had fairly positive outcomes, but it did not prove to be extremely sustainable. Despite the systems benefits, I would be somewhat reluctant to utilize this same technology again. The education has to be extremely strong to avoid water contamination. Moreover, the water filters and system parts are somewhat fragile, making it difficult to last in the campo.

Please let me know if you have any other questions. Again, I appreciate your comments.

Take care,
Katie

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Katie,

Thanks for posting information on the Etta filter.

Another filter design used by several of the PWX members is the biosand filter which can be made from local materials and may be less susceptible to damage. BOR have not used them, but the reports of success in training programs to locally construct them seem encouraging. The biofilm that forms naturally on the sand and gravel is very effective at removing pathogens from the water.

Best,
Mike

Sustainability and Cost-Effective Implementation

Posted over 7 years ago

Thank you all for the great information and dialogue.

I really like the experimentation going on at Etta and hope this platform provides the sharing, continued learning, and long-term operating info.

Looking forward to putting all your projects on the system and tracking them.

I like your filter documentation, the same could be used to make a biosand filter. The candle would be replaced in the top bucket with the biosand layers. It would become heavy for sure (and possible unstable without water at the bottom) and not portable.

Regards,
Rajesh


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