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SFD Promotion Initiative

SFDs - a new way of visualizing excreta management in cities and towns

The fate of excreta produced by urban populations across the globe is often poorly understood. Particularly in low and middle-income countries with rapidly expanding cities, excreta management represents a growing challenge; generating significant negative public health and environmental risks.

What is an SFD?

An excreta flow diagram (or shit flow diagram, SFD) is a tool to readily understand and communicate how excreta ‘flow’ through a city or town. It shows how all excreta generated in a city is or is not contained as it moves from defecation to disposal or end-use. An accompanying report describes the service delivery context of the city or town. SFDs are a useful tool to inform urban sanitation programming, by visualizing the status of urban sanitation services in terms of the ultimate fate of excreta. They offer an innovative way to engage city stakeholders from political leaders to sanitation experts and civil society organizations in a coordinated dialogue about excreta management.

Example of an SFD (Kochi, India 2016)

Are you interested in creating your own SFD?

The SFD Promotion Initiative has set up a team of experienced SFD authors to provide helpdesk support to the process of creating an SFD: There, you are able to work on an embedded form of the SFD report, to upload the supporting documents and to directly communicate with the SFD Team. This is a protected area and can only be seen by you. Your SFDs will become accessible to the SFD team once you submit it to revision or attach it to a question. To use the helpdesk you simply have to click on the “Login to helpdesk” button on top right of the SFD Portal and log in using your Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) credentials.

Background: Promoting fecal waste flow analysis to inform urban sanitation programming

In 2012-2013 the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank carried out an analysis of excreta management in 12 cities and developed new tools for assessing the context and outcomes relating to the flow of fecal matter through the city. This study aimed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of excreta management throughout the sanitation service chain.

Building on this work, a group of institutions active in the field of excreta management convened in June 2014 to further develop the service delivery assessment tool and Shit Flow Diagrams, or SFDs, developed by WSP which clearly and simply show how excreta is or is not contained as it moves along multiple pathways from defecation to disposal or end-use. This joint initiative, the SFD Promotion Initiative, is managed under the umbrella of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA).

The consortium consists of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank; the Global Sector Program on Sustainable Sanitation of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ GmbH) commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ); the Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries (SANDEC) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG); the water@leeds research group of the University of Leeds (UoL); the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) of Loughborough University, and the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi (CSE). Since November 2014, GIZ has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote this initiative.

In the first phase of this project, the SFD approach was applied in about 40 cities worldwide. A key objective of the next phase of this project is to promote and facilitate the use of SFDs by city authorities worldwide, development partners and utilities as part of the urban sanitation advocacy and planning process, by making SFDs a standard tool for identifying key issues and challenges in cities or towns. The next steps of the SFD Promotion Initiative also include (2015-2018):

  • Technical refinement: phase 1 SFDs reveal several areas where new research could improve SFD credibility
  • Tool refinement: a review of usability of all SFD tools will enable their further refinement and improvement
  • Direct support: design and delivery of a support mechanism (web-based FAQs, tools and helpdesk) for the development of further SFDs in partnership with cities and towns
  • Scaling up: availability and promotion of the refined tools will encourage the use of the SFD approach for advocacy and decision support
  • Quality control: roll-out of a quality assessment process for stakeholders preparing their own SFDs

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