Water For People Announces more than $100,000 in global innovation grants as part of 2023 Shitovation Awards

Denver, CO, Jan. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- To address the disconnect between desperately needed innovation and the global sanitation crisis, Water For People announced the 2023 Shitovation Awards which dedicates grants totaling $104,472 to fund innovative sanitation projects across Peru, Bolivia, Rwanda, Uganda, and India.

Unless we make drastic changes, it will be impossible to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 of water and sanitation for all by 2030. Nearly half the world’s population,  3.6 billion people, do not have access to safely managed sanitation in their homes. Poor sanitation leads to almost 1 million preventable deaths a year, often from diarrheal diseases like cholera.

Since 2018, Water For People’s Shitovation Awards have provided funding to invest in innovative solutions aimed at addressing the crisis. As a result, in Latin America, the organization has developed locally-made septic tanks, pioneered a publicly-funded subsidy with government partners for households lacking basic sanitation, and cultivated relationships with hardware stores to offer toilet packages at discounted rates for this same population. Similarly, in Uganda and Malawi, more than 50 pit-emptying enterprises have been incubated and supported to establish viable business models.

“As part of efforts to improve access to safe sanitation in Rwanda, we’ve been working with communities, leaders, private sector, and financial institutions to find sustainable financing mechanisms for households to improve their latrines,“ explains Eugene Dusingizumuremyi, Country Director, Water For People Rwanda. “Winning this award gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that there are long-lasting, affordable, and environment-friendly options. As a result, communities will be much healthier, safer, and wealthier because this initiative will improve the hygienic condition of toilets, create jobs, and then boost local economies.”

This year’s award recipients include:


Biomass (fuel from organic materials) is still the most important source of energy for most of the Ugandan population. About 90% of the total primary energy consumption is generated through biomass, which can be separated into firewood (78.6%), charcoal (5.6%), and crop residues (4.7%). This demand for fuel spurs deforestation, contributing to environmental degradation and, ultimately, climate change. Several years ago, we helped bring fecal sludge briquettes to market. These briquettes are 4.4 times more cost-effective than normal charcoal and burn significantly longer. We’ve also come to understand that they produce more ash than traditional briquettes. This grant will research innovative solutions for this ash so that consumer interest in the product doesn’t fall.


In Rwanda, only 75% of households have access to improved latrines with solid, safe slabs (the platform over the latrine’s pit), 9.2% of households have limited access to sanitation services, 13.1% use unimproved sanitation facilities, and 2.7% have no sanitation facility at all. Poor quality slabs have been identified to be the main challenge to unimproved toilets in the country, in part due to a lack of skills and knowledge in making them. With this award, Water For People Rwanda will train local communities and masons on how to build improved slabs using locally available and sustainable materials.


India's National Flagship program of Swachch Bharat Mission has been successful in creating large number of toilets in the country, including in the eastern state of Bihar. This uptake in infrastructure development has also given rise to fecal sludge treatment facilities, which are yet to evolve. It’s critical that treatment facilities are able to meet the demand so that usage continues and sanitation issues improve across Bihar, which ranks last in Indian states when it comes to people’s access to basic sanitation facilities. This award funds a low-cost, modular fecal sludge treatment facility in Bihar and helps develop a pit-emptying market and integrate Gulpers and pit life extenders into the sanitation supply chain.


Rural areas in Arani, Bolivia, don’t have a sewerage network. The treatment and disposal of sludge is challenging for the dispersed communities, which leads to contamination risks. This award tests a low-cost, environmentally friendly sludge treatment technology for people in rural Arani. Having this solution (a composting biodigester) in toilets removes the need for a wastewater treatment plant and will also produce an organic fertilizer that can be used for vegetables and fruit trees, promoting more nutrition options.


In rural Peru, wastewater treatment relies on technologies that are expensive and improperly used and monitored. This grant will improve rural treatment plants in the Asunción, Cascas, and Reque Districts, which will ensure the proper treatment and disposal of wastewater while using low-cost, odorless technology. In Reque, the team is going to convert "Las Delicias" rural treatment plant (composed of two primary lagoons) into a wetland. In the other two districts (Asunción and Cascas) they are going to maintain the existing rural treatment plants. This award also funds the development of an easy-to-use monitoring app.


Applicants from Water For People’s country programs throughout the world present their ideas and strategies to a committee which then ranks projects along the lines of innovation, supporting evidence or data, the potential for high impact, and opportunities to scale. Awards are given to projects that score the highest on these criteria.


Water For People-developed fecal sludge briquettes

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