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

  1. FS①
  2. PR
  3. FR①
  4. FR②
  5. FR③
  6. FR④
  7. FR⑤


PL Photo Project Leader


RIHN/Hokkaido University

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 societies, 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).

>> Annual Report
>> Project's Page
Sub Leader
FUNAMIZU NaoyukiMuroran Institute of Technology
NAKAO SeijiKyoto University
Researchers at RIHN
HAYASHI KojiResearcher
SHIRAI YukoResearcher
KIMURA AyakoResearch Associate
HONMA SakiResearch Associate
Main Members
IKEMI MayuSapporo International University
INOUE TakashiHokkaido University
USHIJIMA KenHokkaido Research Organization
KATAOKA YoshimiHokkaido University
SANO DaisukeTohoku University
SHIMIZU TakaoKyoto Seika University
NABESHIMA TakakoHokkaido University
HARADA HidenoriKyoto University
FUJIWARA TakuKyoto University
LOPEZ ZAVALA, Miguel AngelInstituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico
NYAMBE, Imasiku AnayawaUniversity of Zambia, Zambia
SINTAWARDANI, NeniIndonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Indonesia

Sanitation generally refers to facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. 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. The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 reported that 2.4 billion people are still using unimproved sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who practice open defecation. Sanitation in the developing world has not been improved dramatically, and it 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. The conventional approach based on technology and building toilets is not sufficient to address sanitation issues. A holistic model that includes collaboration with local communities in sanitation is necessary.

How we think about sanitation

Figure 1 The Sanitation Triangle Model.

Figure 1 The Sanitation Triangle Model.

Sanitation has three components: health and wellbeing, materials (technology and economy), and socio-culture. Inadequate sanitation is harmful to physical and mental health, and sanitation is based on technology that promotes an appropriate material cycle. Sanitation technologies entail costs of introduction and maintenance, but they can create benefits by turning human waste into compost or other useful materials. Sanitation is also based on cultural assessments of what is “clean” or “dirty”, so the operation of a sanitation system requires a social framework. As a complex of health and wellbeing, materials, and socio-culture, we propose the Sanitation Triangle as a holistic model (Figure 1).

Based on the Sanitation Triangle, project research will uncover the 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 the Sanitation Value Chain system will improve the health and wellbeing within the community.

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: Field surveys examine cultural values and norms regarding human excreta, and reevaluates the sanitation system in relation to residents’ lives.

  3. Topic–2 
  4. Technology: We identify prerequisites of sanitation technologies and reevaluate the value that sanitation will bring. In addition, based on the sanitation value chain we develop new sanitary technologies relevant to local values and conditions.

  5. Topic–3 
  6. Co-creation: We identify key stakeholders and describe the value structures of people and communities, and analyze the hierarchy and structure of stakeholders’ value chains and evaluate their affi nities. 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 communicate research results to actors and stakeholders. Utilizing resources and institutional collaborations of RIHN, we will develop methods and communicate research outcomes using various media.

Research sites

The project is performing fiel 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.

Achievements in FR studies

Figure 2 E. coli exposure 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.

Figure 2 E. coli exposure 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.

Photo 1 Workshop in Zambia: Collecting samples and processing (photo by KATAOKA Yoshimi)

Photo 1 Workshop in Zambia: Collecting samples and processing (photo by KATAOKA Yoshimi)

  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. Detecting the risk factors relating to WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene). We surveyed handwashing and health of elementary school students in the “slum” area of Bandung, Indonesia. Risk factors of stunting and diarrhea are gender (boy), drinking tap water rather than tank water, using an open storage container of drinking water, low household income, and not using towels aft er hand washing. The risk factors for fecal E.coli attached to children’s hands are gender (boy), inadequate hand-washing and use of soap, and other inhygenic practices.

  7. (4) 
  8. In Zambia, we organized two workshops with local children and youth groups to promote good sanitation and hygiene. Group members measured fecal contamination around their living environments and then created visualizations of this invisible contamination, improving awareness of the problem and facilitating discussion of improvement (Photo 1). Second, participants took pictures of the places thought to be a problem for community sanitation. These images were recomposed into videos that facilitated community communication.

  9. (5) 
  10. Meta-research of our project were conducted. We published a paper describing and analyzing the embarrassment and trial of a cultural anthropologist who entered our inter-disciplinary project. We also recorded and analyzed how interdisciplinary communication is performed at the intersection of the humanities and sciences, such as in our project meeting discussions. We use these recordings to promote interdisciplinary communication in our project.

Notable achievements in FY2020

Figure 3 International academic journal Sanitation Value Chain, 4 (1, 2, 3) and 5 (1).

Figure 3 International academic journal Sanitation Value Chain, 4 (1, 2, 3) and 5 (1).

  1. We edited and published the international journal “Sanitation Value Chain” (ISSN: 2432-5066). We have revised the Aims & Scope of the journal to provide young researchers in developing countries with opportunities to publish their research results, and in FY2020, we published Volume 4, Numbers 1, 2, 3, and the proceedings of an international online symposium (Volume 5, Number 1) (Figure 3).
  2. We held frequent webinars with overseas counterparts and conducted an international online symposium (SVC2020) and remote fiel surveys.
  3. We organized our field practices and methodologies such as visualization and meta-research to theorize interand trans-disciplinary research.