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SMS pit emptying

Thomas Benn
related country: Senegal
related country: Senegal

I read this interesting article about reducing the cost of pit-emptying in Senegal using an Uber-style SMS service.

What is WaterAid's view of this innovation?

3 Answers

Ada Oko-Williams
Cristian Anton

Indeed this is a flagship in the discussion around fecal sludge management. I am glad as this was intended as an outcome of the project hoping it will inform and demonstrate what is possible when the right ingredients are available in the right mix - even in FSM!

As Remi mentioned above, one of the most important components of this project was the leadership of ONAS. As the main utility company it was clearly in the lead, it owned the programme, procured the right expertise locally and was the convener of all other actors coordinating their various inputs to the process.

Another key success factor was the willingness and responsiveness of the pit emptiers to the idea of reforms. Capacity development preceded restructuring and regulation of the market and businesses so that the organised pit emptiers were in a position to provide better quality services, in fact better value for money than their competitors (manual emptiers) making them the 'go to' service provider.

Deep and extensive customer / market researches unpinned the choices in the development of programme ensuring it is responsive to the needs of various stakeholders.

Having said that, it is important to recognise the variables in this success story and all of the investments required, and really check for applicability and scale, especially with Africa in mind.

Keeping this service sustained over time remains the challenge (this was being discussed at the time I stopped working on the project). The profitability of running the call centre, including maintenance and management of the infrastructure beyond the project phase is the learning Senegal owes the sector. Interesting and really very exciting times for FSM.



Thanks both, very useful. Indeed exciting times for FSM!


Thomas Benn gravatar imageThomas Benn ( 2015-08-18 09:27:48 )
Rémi Kaupp
Cristian Anton

Hi Tom,

This story has been buzzing around lately and in short, yes, this initiative is great, and reflective of where you get with faecal sludge management. I often quote it when I want to show examples to colleagues interested in the topic. Ada knows more about it as she worked on it before she (re)joined WA.

One interesting aspect is that this technical innovation is not the main thing here. What has worked is 1) real willingness and commitment from authorities and ONAS (the WASH main agency) to reach slums, and 2) good coordination between authorities, NGOs / civil society, private sector and academics to make it work. Innovations have stemmed from this collaboration, not the other way around.

We have other such good examples from South Africa (eThekwini).


Elisabeth von Muench
Cristian Anton

I raised a similar question here on the SuSanA discussion forum:

Unlike the contributions made by Remi and Ada, my forum post was trying to specifically look at the SMS part of this project (which is also what your question was aiming at, I think). I put it in a thread we had there on "Using ICT for Sanitation; eSani, mSani?". If anyone has more to share about that, please post it here and also on the SuSanA discussion forum.

Other questions that I raised in my post were: I am wondering a little bit if the pit emptying companies are "squeezed" so hard now that they may pay even less to their workers who are doing this unpleasant job? If the service has become cheaper, who is losing money now?