The Sanitation Value Chain: Designing Sanitation Systems as Eco-Community-Value System

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PL Photo Project Leader


RIHN/Hokkaido University

Prof. Taro Yamauchi is a professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University. He has a B.S., a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Health Sciences from the University of Tokyo. He does intensive fieldwork in hunter-gatherer society, rural villages, and urban slums in developing counties to understand the lifestyle and health of local populations and adaptation to living environments. His research interests also include sanitation and participatory action research involving local children, youth and adults. He is Vice-President of the International Association of Physiological Anthropology (IAPA) and an executive member of the International Society for the Study of Human Growth and Clinical Auxology (ISGA).

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Sub Leader
FUNAMIZU NaoyukiMuroran Institute of Technology
Researchers at RIHN
NAKAO SeijiSpecially Appointed Associate Professor
HAYASHI KojiResearcher
SHIRAI YukoResearcher
KIMURA AyakoResearch Associate
HONMA SakiResearch Associate
Main Members
ITO RyuseiHokkaido University
USHIJIMA KenHokkaido Research Organization
IKEMI MayuSapporo International University
KATAOKA YoshimiHokkaido University
SANO DaisukeTohoku University
NABESHIMA TakakoHokkaido University
FUJIWARA TakuKochi University
HARADA HidenoriKyoto University
INOUE TakashiHokkaido University
SINTAWARDANI, NeniIndonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), Indonesia
NYAMBE, Imasiku AnayawaUniversity of Zambia, Zambia
LOPEZ ZAVALA, Miguel AngelInstituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico

Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 reported that 2.4 billion people are still using unimproved sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who are still practicing open defecation. The developing world still has high under-five mortality and poverty rates. The world’s population is estimated to reach approximately 10 billion in 2050, and this population growth will happen mostly in developing countries. At the same time, depopulation and aging are increasing, especially in the rural areas of the developed world, and the financial capability of many local governments—which are key agents in the management of sanitation systems—is getting weaker.

Sanitation systems are essential for promoting public health, preventing environmental pollution, conserving ecosystem functions, and recycling resources. The question of how to handle the waste of 10 billion people is therefore highly relevant to the global environment.

Working hypotheses of the research

The project investigates the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1:Current sanitation problems are caused by a dissociation between the value which is provided by the sanitation system and the values of the individual people and/or the community of the people.

Hypothesis 2: Sanitation technologies cannot work well without a social and institutional support system. The mismatch between prerequisites of technologies and local characteristics additionally complicates sanitation issues.

Key concept — Sanitation Value chain as a solution

The project proposes a new concept, the Sanitation Chain, which has the following dimensions:

1) Places the values of people and community in the center of discussion, and prepares the sanitation system to correspond to this value chain; 2) Designs the sanitation system by focusing on direct incentives for individual users and communities; 3) Recognizes a sanitation system as an integrated system with social and technical units; 4) Designs the sanitation system by making a good match between social characteristics and prerequisites of technologies.


Goals of the project

The goals of this research project are to: 1) Propose the concept of Sanitation Value Chain in relation to both developing and developed countries; 2) Design several pilot studies demonstrating the significance of societal, academic, and professional involvement in the co-creation of this value chain; and 3) Contribute to the establishment of a new interdisciplinary academic foundation on sanitation.

Research topics for achieving the goals

  1. Topic–1 
  2. Life: By field survey, we learn about the values of people and the norm for human excreta, and reevaluate the sanitation system in relation to the residents lives.

  3. Topic–2 
  4. Technology: We identify prerequisites of sanitation technologies and reevaluate the value that sanitation will give us. In addition, we develop new sanitization technology to make use of the value chain by understanding the values of people and local conditions.

  5. Topic–3 
  6. Co-creation: We identify stakeholders and describe the value structures of people and communities, and analyze the hierarchy and structure of stakeholders’ value chain and evaluate their affinities. We demonstrate the co-creation process of the sanitation value chain.

  7. Topic-4 
  8. Visualization: In order to co-create the value chain, it is necessary to make efforts to communicate research results to actors and stakeholders. Utilizing resources and institutional collaborations of RIHN, we will develop a method to express and transmit outcomes using various media.

Research sites

The project is performing field studies at four sites: 1) Rural areas in Ishikari River Basin, Hokkaido; 2) Rural areas of Burkina Faso; 3) Urban areas in Indonesia; and 4) Periurban areas in Zambia.

How we think about sanitation

Figure 1 The concept of three values from the point of Co-creation (Figure by KATAOKA Yoshimi)

Figure 1 The concept of three values from the point of Co-creation (Figure by KATAOKA Yoshimi)

We involved multidisciplinary experts and have created a framework of understanding to capture sanitation problems as not only material cycling, but as a whole of the value of sanitation in health and wellbeing, materials, and socio-culture (Figure1). Based on the framework, we will uncover values embedded in societies and cultures, and co-create the Sanitation Value Chain by cooperating with various actors related to the sanitation system. We envisage that Sanitation Value Chain system will improve the health and wellbeing within the community.

Achievements in FR studies

Figure 1 The concept of three values from the point of Co-creation (Figure by KATAOKA Yoshimi)

Figure 2 E. coliexposure pathways. Example of measurement in Bangladesh, From: Harada et al. (2017) Fecal exposure analysis and E. coli pathotyping: a case study of a Bangladeshi slum, International Symposium on Green Technology for Value Chains 23-24 October, 2017, Balai Kartini, Jakarta.

  1. (1) 
  2. Toilet for recycling resources. We have developed functioning toilet technologies necessary for the sanitation value chain by making urine in the urban area valuable as fertilizer. These are the “Toilet that can concentrate urine” and “Toilet that can make phosphorus fertilizer”.

  3. (2) 
  4. Tracking propagation of pathogens. Pathogenic bacteria propagate through various routes. We have developed a molecular biological method of tracking this propagation. In the case of Bangladesh, we found that the most important route of pollution is bathing, and the contamination of drinking cups is more important than of the water itself (Figure 2).

  5. (3) 
  6. Establishment of “Children and Youth Club” and implementation of action research. In the peri-urban areas of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, we established a group called Dziko Langa (My Community) and conducted action research. Children and youth drew pictures and took photographs of scenes considered as community problems related to sanitation, giving explanatory narratives of their work (“Arts-based” and “PhotoVoice” approaches). The groups then held open sanitation exhibitions in their communities. Through these activities, we were able to clarify community sanitation challenges and to discuss problems with community residents.

The notable achievements(New achievements in FY2018, special remarks)

  1. We published the second volume of the international multi-disciplinary academic journal “Sanitation Value Chain”, (Figure 3) and an academic book “Resources Oriented Agro-Sanitation Systems: Concepts Business Model and Technologies” (Funamizu (ed.) 2018, Springer).
  2. In Zambia, we organized an exhibition to showcase the results of the action research which we had done with our local youth group based in 2 communities in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. The exhibition attracted many people including residents and Members of Parliament elected in the study area. We set up an exhibition booth at ZAWAFE 2018 held in Lusaka. The exhibition was well received, and we were honored to receive a visit from Vice President of Zambia (Photo 1) (visiting of exhibition booths was based on special selection). In addition, the project leader, project members, and Dziko Langa held a 3 day Sanitation Festival, with the first day being a march officially opened by the Mayor of Lusaka.
  3. In Burkina Faso, we have researched private companies and workers who remove fecal sludge in the capital city (Ouagadougou). Demand for removal of fecal sludge has been increasing along with the rapid population growth in Ouagadougou. It is also noted that the workers have developed a unique method of removing fecal sludge in the rural area (Kongoussi).
Figure 3 International academic Journal “Sanitation Value Chain” Vol.2 No.1

Figure 3 International academic Journal “Sanitation Value Chain” Vol.2 No.1

Photo 1 Action research in Zambia: Vice President of Zambia visited the Dziko Langa Exhibition Booth at ZAWAFE 2018 (Photo by NYAMBE, Sikopo P.)

PPhoto 1 Action research in Zambia: Vice President of Zambia visited the Dziko Langa Exhibition Booth at ZAWAFE 2018 (Photo by NYAMBE, Sikopo P.)