Bringing innovative sanitation and energy technologies to rural households in Ethiopia

SNV's work continues in the face of COVID-19

In Ethiopia’s Libanos and Borabor villages, the TRANSFORM WASH project is working with the Gozamen Woreda WASH Team, youth, and women groups to promote an innovative technology to meet the demand for improved toilets, while at the same time, increasing household energy supplies. To date, more than 41 households in Libanos and Borabor villages have installed toilets connected to biodigesters.

Before TRANSFORM WASH became operational in the villages, most of the households owned latrines with a poor superstructure. Many household members found it difficult to properly squat over the toilet. In addition to the absence of appropriate sanitation facilities, many households also had limited access to energy sources. They lacked energy for cooking, and traditional lamps were used to light up houses.

To address these day-to-day challenges and reduce their negative impact on personal and environmental health and safety, SNV – through the USAID-funded Transform WASH project – introduced the SATO pan and biodigester [1] combo technology.

About the technology

Installation of a SATO pan reduces odours and the presence of disease-spreading flies and other vermin. When a toilet is connected to a biodigester, human waste (mixed with animal waste) creates biogas and bioslurry by-products, which offers sources of energy for cooking and lighting. Biogas creates a smokeless source of clean energy, removing air pollutants while cooking in indoor kitchens.

SATO pan in a household

SATO pan in a household

Under construction - the combo SATO pan and biodigester technology

Under construction - the combo SATO pan and biodigester technology

Reception to the combo technology has been positive

Gebeyehu Sewnet, a household user, celebrates the eradication of worms, flies, and bad smells emitted by his old pit latrine. ‘Now, flies and worms no longer bother my children,’ he said.

Since installing a biodigester, Demeke Wondimu has been enjoying an increased sense of safety, thanks to the reliable supply of energy to power his household’s lighting, especially during the night. Commenting on improvements to sanitation and hygiene, Wondimu said, ‘This new [toilet] with SATO Pan has no smell, is easy to squat [over], and [it] [motivates] one to keep it clean.’

Today, the Gozamen Head of Woreda Water and Energy Office, Alebachew Dagne, advises households to purchase SATO pan-fitted toilets that are connected to biodigester systems so that they can access the joint benefits of sanitation and energy improvements.

All of these were not achieved simply by a technological response

But also by the tireless efforts of project staff and partners.

With support from TRANSFORM WASH, 10 youth and women groups in Tigray, Oromia, Amhara, and SNNP regions gained the appropriate capacity and skills to manage WASH and energy facilities, and strengthen their entrepreneurial and financial management skills. As a result of technical support from SNV and project partners, youth and women groups installed 124 SATO pans in newly constructed and existing household toilets (including those with biodigester technology). All these achievements were realised over a period of one year.

Benefits do not stop at sanitation and energy improvements. SATO also contributes to subsistence farming and increased incomes.

Bio-slurry stored in the toilet pits may also serve as a natural fertiliser, which farmers are now using to improve water-holding capacity and soil fertility. The use of natural fertilisers increases production of high value crops, vegetables, and fruits without chemical insecticides. To date, some farmers are already diversifying their income by selling composted or liquid bio-slurry.

Written by: Fasika Ayalew (SNV in Ethiopia Communications Officer) with Wondwosen Tsgie (Transform WASH Capacity Building Advisor)

[1] SNV's rural sanitation programme is informed by the organisation's Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) approach - an approach that has been implemented across 18 countries over the past ten years. Read SSH4A capability statement to learn more.
[2] SNV's energy programme actively explores and promotes biogas technologies as an alternative and cleaner energy source. Check out SNV's biogas page to read about the latest biogas-related work of SNV across many countries.

For questions or more information, contact: Wondwosen Tsgie (Transform WASH Capacity Building Advisor) through SNV in Ethiopia's general office mail.