Sanitation Research Fund of BMGF/WRC (SRFA): Knowledge-based Solutions for Onsite Dry Sanitation Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa

2012 - 2016 • WRC (Water Research Commission)


Characterisation of pit contents and developing innovative techniques for pit desludging and subsequent sludge management in low income urban areas.


The SRFA Project was established through a USD 2.5 Million grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The project aims to stimulate local competency and capacity in the sanitation sector in the Eastern and Southern African Regions, and to provide solutions based on good scientific evidence related to up-scaling dry sanitation technologies. Ten research contracts will be issued, on a competitive basis, to research institutes or organisations in the targeted areas. The projects will be executed using the WRC model of research and innovation generation and dissemination.

Countries of activity

Location of main activity


Two key research areas have been identified for the project. They are:
• Characterisation of pit contents and developing a scientific understanding of processes occurring in onsite dry pit latrines systems in low income urban areas
• Developing innovative techniques for pit desludging and subsequent sludge management in low income urban settlements

Further information

Four institutions/organisations have been selected for developing innovative techniques for pit desludging and subsequent management:
ATL-HYDRO (South Africa - Dr. Wade Edwards)
Water for People (Uganda - Mz Cate Nimanya)
Mzuzu University (Malawi - Dr. Rochelle Holm)
Chinhoyi University of Technology (Zimbabwe - Dr. Courage Bangira).
Different technologies will be used by each of these groups. ATL-Hydro intends on testing a mobile pyrolysis and biochar unit. Water for People intends using various technologies (modified gulpers, etc.) to remove the sludge and treat it accordingly. Mzuzu plans on testing a pressure washer and pump system. Chinhoyi University of Technology plans on using an anaerobic digester to treat faecal sludge. The specifics of each of these projects and technologies will be available at a later stage.

Six applicants were offered contracts to analyse various physico-chemical properties of pit sludge:
University of Botswana (Botswana - Dr. P. Odirile)
Jimma University & the Ministry of Water and Energy (Ethiopia - Mikiyas Wolde)
Egerton University (Kenya - Edward Muchiri)
University of Malawi (Dr. Bernard Thole)
Makerere University (Uganda -Ahamada Zziwa)
University of Zambia (Zambia - Professor I. Nyambe)
The pit sludge characteristics in these different countries will be characterised for a number of parameters (chemical, physical and biological).

Filter tags

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Emptying and transport (non sewered) Faecal sludge treatment processes Fundamental research and engineering Operation, maintenance and sustainable services Peri-urban Practitioners Product design and engineering Rural Specific to one or several countries Sub-Saharan Africa Technology comparisons Treatment of faecal sludge University, education or research institution Urban informal settlements (slums)


Water Research Commission
South Africa

The WRC was established in terms of the Water Research Act (Act No 34 of 1971), following a period of serious water shortage. It was deemed to be of national importance to generate new knowledge and to promote the country’s water research purposefully, owing to the view held that water would be one of South Africa’s most limiting factors in the 21st century The strategic direction of the WRC is focused on: - An integrated approach to meeting South Africa's societal and water-sector R&D needs - Provision of integrated solutions to invariably complex, inter-disciplinary problems - Ongoing strategic identification of needs (short, medium and long-term needs, both explicit and implicit) - Investment in knowledge creation, transfer and dissemination in a set of 5 Key Strategic Areas (KSAs).

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