Citywide Sanitation Strategy for Malawi

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Focus Areas: Water & Sanitation

This project aims to create a sustainable citywide sanitation strategy, focusing on provision of sanitation to slum dwellers. The first precedent is the construction of individual toilets.  To date, 7 individual ecosan toilets have been built in Kawama and 4 in Mulenga.  Even though precedent setting projects were planned in Kamatipa and Ipusikilo events that transpired forced project activity to move to another settlement. Construction moved to Chambishi, in neighbouring Kawama, which already had a housing project. The second precedent is shared septic tanks in Kawama. In order to decrease the loan amount to be paid by beneficiaries, septic tanks were to be shared by a minimum of 2 households. However, the beneficiaries who paid the security deposit live in isolation to one another, and their neighbours had difficulties in contributing for materials. Thus the paid up beneficiaries ended up building individual eco san toilets.  The third precedent involves the rehabilitation and management of public toilets in Kawama. In Mulenga compound, construction of water born ablution blocks is planned for 2 market places. Mulenga is seen as the starting point of this part of the project.  The final planned precedent involves the construction of bio latrines but a settlement has yet to be identified. Negotiations on this started with Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA) and Water and Sanitation Association of Zambia (WASAZA) following a sanitation forum held by the Federation in Lusaka.

Location: Kombo, Blantyre and Lilongwe, Malawi


The inroads the Alliance has made with the government helps the sustainability of the project.  The Alliance has shown itself to be a good service provider and implementer of ecosan. The first precedent saw an increase in capacity, which strengthens the ability for when construction goes to scale. The pay per use component of the second precedent allows for maintenance costs to be covered. The construction also improved technical experience and capacity of the Alliance. Charges for its use will be used to recover the costs of the communal facilities. Charges comprise MK 35 (10 cents) for toilet use and MK 45 (15 cents) for shower use. It is expected that cost recovery will take eight years.

The project has also seen an increase in dialogue between Federation and non-Federation members, local authorities and private sector service providers on the design and construction of low cost sanitation.  This approach has provided the city of Kitwe with a new outlook on service provision (especially in terms of water and sanitation) while demonstrating the strength of local processes and their impact of slum upgrading. Relationships with Nkana and the City Council have progressed.   The Federation’s presence in the two projects areas was important for Nkana, due to their weak ties to the community. The Kitwe Federation sought to formalize their relationship with Nkana and use this as an instrument to negotiate more affordable and sustainable modes of sanitation provision. This builds on a previous MoU signed with Kitwe City Council that led to the Federation obtaining land at a reduced rate. 

Yet the project has yet to make an impact on poor sanitation supply in Kitwe and has experienced various challenges.  The Federation model is based on loan financing; whereas, Nkana was going to supply toilets through grant funding.  Thus it was difficult to mobilize communities to financially contribute to a resource which Nkana was to provide free.  Additionally Nkana’s construction of 1000 toilets is a once-off intervention and is not replicable to different social contexts.  Grant funding of individual toilets could never reach the scale of need in the city. Additionally Nkana toilets are costly which hinders opportunities for going to scale.

The pace of delivery for Nkana is slow, with Nkana claiming ADB’s loan stipulations are to blame. Other reasons for slow delivery is low capacity levels in the Federation and bureaucratic red tape. There is resistance to shared toilet facilities from the community. Reasons for this included variable sizes of families (all families paying the same prices with larger families being advantaged over smaller ones due to this) and landlords being reluctant to invest in sanitation.


Patrick Chikoti (+265) 1 756 781 View Website
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Project information updated: 03 October 2017

Project in depth

Detailed Information

This project falls under the Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE) programme, which is a five-year initiative aiming to help achieve the Millennium Development goals of improving sanitation worldwide. This is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK and is supported by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  SDI is involved in a portion of this, addressing citywide sanitation in cities in Africa.  SHARE projects in the SDI network occur in 4 core cities, Blantyre, Malawi; Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Kitwe, Zambia, with other cities being included after each year.  SHARE projects involve initial community-lead profiling and enumerations of settlements – establishing obstacles to achieving citywide sanitation as well as assessing needs, coverage, existing policies, infrastructure and government participation or lack thereof.  This in turn informs the various precedents that follow.
Project activity started in 2013, by the Malawi Alliance of The Federation of Rural and Urban Poor and the Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE).  The Blantyre situational analysis covered 15 settlements and found access to both water and sanitation to be a big challenge. This community-centred data collection process found that there had been little investment in sanitation in peri-urban areas by government. Infrastructure is dilapidated and water shortages are acute in settlements. Land tenure is insecure and the common landlord tenant relationship sees landlords being resistant to investing in sanitation. On average four households (24 people) live on a single plot and share a toilet. Settlements are difficult to access with motor transport and thus ‘skipper’ trucks cannot access toilets to collect waste. Additionally, settlements are overcrowded and there is little space for digging waste pits when existing pits are full. Project activity furthers work the Alliance has been doing on provision of ecosan toilets since the early 2000s. 
Banana, E., Chikoti, P., Harawa, C., McGranahan, G., Mitlin, D., Stephen, S., Schermbrucker, N., Shumba, F. & Walynycki, A. (2015). Sharing Reflections on Inclusive Sanitation. Environment and Urbanisation. Available:
Banana, E., Chitekwe-Biti, B. & Walnycki, A. (2015). Co-producing Inclusive City-wide Sanitation Strategies: Lessons from Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, Environment and Urbanisation, 27(1): 1 - 20. [Online]. Available:
Anon. (2014). Building Citywide Sanitation Strategies from the Bottom Up: A Situational Analysis for Blantyre City, Malawi. [Online]. Available:
SDI. (2014). Citywide Sanitation Projects in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania Report on Successes of First Year. [Online]. Available:

Implementing Partners

Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE)

Centre for Community Organisation & Development (CCODE)

The Federation of Rural and Urban poor