The event was held to position the theme of innovation as a key and fundamental tool for the transformation of the water and sanitation sector, providing evidence and recommendations on how to activate innovation in the countries of the region. The workshop was organised by CEWAS (Water, Innovation, Entrepreneurship) and the Innovation Fund.
For Switzerland, water and sanitation for all is a priority, and it has been working for the last 25 years in the region on various initiatives to help close the gaps that exist in rural areas. One major issue that the SDC has identified for doing so is to support initiatives and projects in innovation as a key component of cooperation, together with knowledge exchange, capacity-building and the development of public policies.
In line with this, at the VI Latin American Sanitation Conference LatinoSan 2022, the SDC’s SIRWASH Project (Sustainable and Innovative Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in Rural Areas) supported the workshop on Innovation in Water and Sanitation in Latin America, which was held on Tuesday, 11 October. The workshop was an opportunity for participants to exchange experiences, bringing innovators to the fore, analysing the challenges they face when scaling up their initiatives; helping to connect up alternatives and strategies that will be of great value for developing viable innovative initiatives in the sector; and exploring concrete ways to strengthen and establish an environment of innovation in water and sanitation in the region.
The workshop positioned the theme of innovation as a key and fundamental tool for the transformation of the water and sanitation sector, providing evidence and recommendations on how to activate innovation in the countries of the region.
“We are convinced that support for innovators and the creation of an enabling environment for innovation will lead to innovations in technology, management models, processes, services, behavioural changes and other innovations, which will trigger new dynamics for providing answers adapted to the challenges of access to sanitation for all,” said Rosa María Alcayhuamán, SDC National Officer, at the opening of the workshop.
“Who is innovating in the water and sanitation sector in Latin America and the Caribbean? How are we innovating in water and sanitation?”. These were the questions that sparked the discussion in the first session of the workshop, focused on the “innovator” and their “innovations”, both entrepreneurs and start-ups and intra-entrepreneurs (those working for a service provider, a government authority or an NGO). Workshop participants indicated that there are 100+ innovations in water and sanitation in the region, 57 in water and 48 in sanitation, including the ventures and initiatives of providers, government agencies and the private sector, which cover not only products and services, but also technology and behavioural change.
At the end of the first session, participants turned their attention to the “environment” around the innovator (the region’s ecosystem), and the state’s role on facilitating this. They focused on discussing their experience and the innovations applied in the sector by different stakeholders (ministries, service providers and entrepreneurs).
Five innovators shared their experiences in different sectors and across the entire service chain. The following is a brief summary of each of their innovations.
Raluca Anisie, presented the start-up Mosan (Guatemala). This is a service innovation that proposes an inclusive, safe, climate-positive and circular sanitation solution to the sanitation crisis.
Juan Carlos Escobar presented Aquakit, a private company in Bolivia. This innovation focuses on reusing water. The AQUAKIT recycling systems save an average household up to 10,000 litres of water per month by reusing water that normally goes into the sewage system, and recycling it for purposes that do not require drinking water, such as flushing toilets and watering the garden.
Edgard Coronel from Peru presented the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation’s technological innovation in rural sanitation: the Off Line mobile application linked to the Project Tracking System for monitoring works in the field without the need for an Internet connection.
Cristina Knorich Zuffo presented SABESP (Brazil), one of the region’s largest lenders, which presented an initiative for decontaminating the Pinheiros River and using distributed solar technology in Sabesp’s existing treatment plants. The reduction of wastewater in the water and the location of the facilities will clean up streams that run through squatters’ settlements, through implementing five treatment plants to improve the water quality of the streams, by treating the wastewater and catchment from the river.
Finally, Ernerek Durán and Isabelle Viens presented the One Drop Foundation (Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Paraguay). They shared the experience of behavioural change through the Lazos de Agua programme, which uses the social art approach of the ABC Model (access, behavioural change and capital) to effect a change in individuals’ and communities’ behaviour in water, sanitation and hygiene, where community participation is the key.