The sanitation MDG in Africa will only be achieved by the strategic and guided execution of national and international plans for large scale implementation of sanitation systems in peri-urban and rural areas, counting on the technical and financial support of industrialised nations and the involvement of local communities for the decision making, planning and future management.
In order to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg related to drinking water and sanitation, the European Union launched a Water Initiative (EUWI) in 2002 to establish an integrated approach to water resources management. Besides this common initiative, an increasing number and variety of European cooperation sanitation projects are currently carried out in Africa, making it difficult to follow recent developments and maintain an overview of current trends and practices across the region. Therefore, there is still a need for positive synergies, aiming at the cross-fertilisation of ideas, which could fortify the different actions and the scope of those local activities through the integration of different key actors and stakeholders in a multidisciplinary and international approach.
In accordance with the objectives of the Cooperation Strategy of the European Community, and aiming for the preparation of the technical and organisational foundation for massive implementation of sanitation facilities in Africa, the general objective of the proposed Coordination Action "Network for the development of Sustainable Approaches for large scale implementation of Sanitation in Africa" NETSSAF was:
To coordinate and integrate the current scientific research, technological innovation and execution activities, creating synergies to support large-scale implementation of sustainable sanitation systems in peri-urban and rural areas, in order to propose feasible solutions for the achievement of the Sanitation Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
As a multidisciplinary network, NETSSAF promoted international cooperation between research organisations, universities, associations, NGOs and social stakeholders (Ministries, Municipalities, Water and Sanitation Authorities) in a Euro-African context, which are devoted to the research, development and implementation of innovative sanitation concepts. It aimed for the coordination of efforts and the exchange of knowledge to promote the development of innovative methods and low-cost technologies that enhance the application of adapted sustainable sanitation on a massive scale, taking into account the different physical and socio-economic conditions prevailing in Africa.
With the goal of having a plausible impact on the development of sustainable solutions for the sanitation crisis on the continent, NETSSAF focuses on proposing sanitation options based on the needs of the West African countries, where the sanitation coverage reaches 58% in the best of the cases (Ghana) and 12% in Niger and Burkina Faso (see Fig 3).
Within the time frame of NETSSAF-CA, the consortium carried out a set of case studies for peri-urban and rural areas in West African countries, proposing feasible and sustainable approaches of sanitation for each case, as well as a set of support tools that could be also applicable in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa with similar climatic, social and economical conditions. Furthermore, by the development of study cases in the West African Region, NETSSAF Coordination Action served as a reference for policy makers, sanitation authorities and end-users to identify local characteristics and behaviours in order to adapt the existing wastewater concepts, and to promote user ownership of services in consultation with the people most directly affected by them. Therefore, it is the link between traditional expertise and local needs, and ongoing international research.
A sustainable sanitation research co-ordination platform and an expertise network were established, in order to define, organise and manage common initiatives. These co-ordinated, assessed and guided suitable research and strategic activities with the aim of providing the foundation for wide-spread implementation of sustainable sanitation installations in West Africa. NETSSAF was the forum for discussion and the joint work of Expert Groups, who were assembled during workshops and seminars to carry out different tasks, and case studies and analysis in the following areas:
- Appropriate low-cost sanitation technologies
- Potential reuse in agriculture
- Community based management in Africa
- Governance and Institution in Sanitation