Sanitation-focused Water Operator Partnerships as Change Accelerators

As we continue to celebrate World Toilet Day 2023 at the UN in Bonn, GWOPA recognises two partnerships under the EU WOP Programme on Accelerating Change– the theme of this year.


  1. VAKIN-WaterAid-Nepal Partnership regulating private emptiers and reducing the cost of faecal sludge emptying services

Since the Government of Nepal declared the country an open-defecation-free nation in 2019, the number of households with toilets has significantly increased. However, faecal sludge management remains largely absent in the sanitation value chain, resulting in environmental and health problems, especially in low-income communities. The Water Operators’ Partnership (WOP) between Vakin, Sweden, and WaterAid Nepal is working toward improving WASH monitoring and engaging stakeholders in Godawari Municipality, Nepal, to implement sustainable sanitation solutions.

Although 96% of the households in Godawari have toilets, the municipality is facing challenges in managing faecal waste. Most of the population relies on private emptiers, which results in a financial burden on low-income households. The Water Operators’ Partnership is addressing this by providing support to enhance institutional capacity. The survey data will be used to calculate the feasible and affordable cost of faecal sludge management provided by the municipality.

The team is currently working on training vendors to regulate them with the municipality. Along with improving the sanitation infrastructure, the WOP team will design and build a faecal sludge and wastewater treatment plant in the municipality. Adapting the technology learned during a field visit to Sweden and from regular online training sessions with the Vakin team, the goal is to provide sustainable waste management to all within two years and reduce waste tariffs by 30-40%.

Photo: Preparation of the infrastructure work for the intake and reservoir tank, Lele village, one of the ongoing activities to improve the structures of the drinking water system in Nepal


  1. Water and Sanitation Access in Kenya: Reducing Inequalities through Partnerships between Kenyan Operators led by Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company

In Kenya, 9.9 million people drink contaminated surface water sources directly, and approximately five million people practice open defecation. Only 25 % of the households have hand-washing facilities with soap and water (USAID).

The Water Operators’ Partnership (WOP) between Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO) of Kisumu City and mentee Operators in Mombasa, Kakamega, Kiambu, Vihiga, Kajiado counties with the support of Water Services Providers Association of Kenya Nairobi and Simavi, Amsterdam, The Netherlands is focusing several areas of improvement including low-income management, water production and water distribution. The WOP aims to establish a pro-poor unit in mentee counties and train staff to ensure pro-poor service delivery.

Low-income communities often depend on illegal emptiers to manage their faecal sludge, often at night through ‘dig and bury’ where they empty pits and dump or bury the nearby in the community. This practice leads to environmental and health problems, particularly when it rains, and contaminates flood water, which drains into Lake Victoria, the primary source of water supply for Kisumu city.

KIWASCO engages with private vacuum truck emptiers (apart from owning trucks themselves) and manual pit emptiers in the county by registering them in groups and regulating their work according to standards for basic improved sanitation. This ensures formalisation of private operators and dignifies sanitation workers, who are often stigmatized for their jobs. Also, the emptied faecal sludge is dumped in the utility, where it is dried and treated in lagoons.  While KIWASCO is awaiting public funds for building a planned Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant for Kisumu city, with GWOPA/UN-Habitat supporting the strengthening of sanitation policies in Kenya, public investments in sanitation will be realizable.

During the EU WOP Programme,  KIWASCO trains its Kenyan mentees to establish a dedicated pro-poor unit to improve service delivery to underserved and low-income consumers. This not only means improving the capacities of mentees but also breaking cultural barriers that have disproportionately affected pro-poor access and realising sanitation as a human right.

Photo: The KIWASCO team  involved in providing the waste management system to the community

The two field stories show that sanitation-focused water operator partnerships (SWOP) have a high potential to improve sanitation access as a change accelerator in Kenya’s rapidly growing urban areas and bridging missing links in sanitation value chains in Nepal combined with proper policies and public investments in sanitation infrastructure. Check out our work on SWOP.