Fecal sludge management platform

by André and Hanneke

We are very happy to finally make this public. For the past few months we have been working on a proposal to create a Fecal Sludge Management platform in the city of Maputo, Mozambique.


  • In Maputo (Mozambique) the capacity to deal with fecal sludge (FS) collected in on-site systems (e.g. septic tanks and latrines) is very low. Inappropriate fecal sludge management (FSM) has serious consequences, leading to decreased life expectancy and environmental pollution .
  • Only 5-10% of the population is connected a sewage network in Maputo. The rest of the population uses mainly septic tanks (37%) and latrines (53%) . These systems fill-up and need emptying, this task is performed by around 25 de-sludging operators who empty them mechanically. The FS is then brought by truck to the wastewater treatment plant in the Infulene valley. Part of the systems are also emptied by informal operators that do the work manually (e.g. buckets), and another percentage are abandoned when full.
  • The sanitation sector in Maputo is caught in a vicious cycle. The wastewater treatment (WWTP) plant is not working due to lack of maintenance and is not equipped to treat FS. Since there is no discharge fee for desludging operators or user fee there are no funds to rehabilitate the WWTP, let alone expand it, to treat FS. The institutional capacity in Maputo is low, with the Municipality controlling the access to the plant only during daytime on weekdays, which is insufficient to prevent illegal discharge. These factors have led to the extensive pollution of the rivers and sea in the region of Maputo and to the contamination (Nitrate) of the groundwater used by many of the city’s inhabitants as drinking water.

The main idea
We aim to break the vicious cycle through introducing a fecal sludge management platform linked to a future fecal sludge treatment plant (FSTP). The platform is the mediator between the person who needs his/her on-site system emptied and the desludging operators. It generates discharge and user fees necessary for the operation of the treatment plant and the enforcement of regulation to prevent illegal discharge. In addition, it drives up the competition between de-sludging companies through competitive bidding, which is expected to lead to a reduction in de-sludging costs. The platform will operate in the following way:

  1. De-sludging operators emptying septic tanks are added to the managing institution’s database; for this the operators must be certified by the regulator CRA,
  2. Whenever a inhabitant of neighbourhood need to have their septic tanks he/she contacts the managing institution (e.g. call-center or sms) providing address, type of system, volume to be emptied and content (e.g. solid, solid and liquid, only liquid),
  3. The call-center contacts all operators providing information about the job,
  4. One operator is selected from all operators interested,
  5. Once the job is done the user pays the managing institution for the job. This can be done for example one of the available mobile money services such as Mkesh or Mpesa, and
  6. The managing institution retains part of the money (treatment fee), the rest is transferred to the operator. The treatment fee is regulated by a regulator and it can be a function of the type of job done (type of system emptied, volume, distance to the FS/WWTP, etc).

A similar platform has been implemented by ONAS in Dakar, Senegal, with increases in treated FS and a reduction in de-sludging prices being reported. The project of ONAS was partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been recently featured in Guardian. It has also been thoroughly discussed at Susana. This would be new for the Mozambican context that is lagging behind the innovation in the sanitation sector, in particular that of FS management and treatment. Also, for our platform we propose payments via mobile phone (Mkesh/Mpesa) which, we believe, would minimizes corruption.

The partners
We are trying to involve as many partners as possible and we have already contacted several government (Municipality of Maputo, AIAS, CRA, DNA) and non-government organizations (WSUP and WSP).

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