Research Programs Achievements

Research programs enable MSABI to develop, test and validate new systems and technologies, with potential for global scalability. MSABI partners with both national and international WASH, engineering and health sector organizations. Our main research programs and achievements are presented.

To analyse interactions between the environment, sanitation technologies and water sources, MSABI performed an in-depth monitoring study in one of our target villages. We GPS-mapped households, sanitation  infrastructure and water sources. Field observations characterized WASH related infrastructure and behaviour. Water quality was seasonally sampled at 90 village water sources.

Data indicates that water points with a hand pump installed on a borehole are 3 orders of magnitude less contaminated compared to open wells. No significant difference was found between water points with a rope pump on a borehole and water points with another type of pump. Converted open wells (covered wells with a hand pump) had an intermediate level of contamination.

Despite not finding a significant correlation between water quality data and spatial distribution of pollution sources, the study demonstrates the urgent need of improving coverage with improved water points in the area. It also demonstrates MSABI boreholes and pumps to be one of the most cost-efficient interventions for providing safe water in the area. 

An epidemiological study was conducted in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the Ifakara Health Institute. The goal was to investigate the health outcomes of interventions for safe water in five villages in the Kilombero Valley. The aim was to characterize the distribution of domestic water-points, understand the determinants of childhood diarrhoea, and describe the behaviour of people in relation to domestic water use, sanitation and hygiene.

The basic methodology of the studies consisted of a descriptive assessment, a matched case-control study to investigate the determinants of diarrhoea in children and a qualitative study to provide in-depth cultural understanding and assist in interpretation of findings.

The study concluded that access to safe drinking-water as well as water for other domestic use (cooking, personal and household hygiene) is still a major issue in the Kilombero Valley and urgent measures are needed to improve the household water situation. Health education is essential to strengthen practices such as safe disposal of waste, proper water storage and treatment and to re-enforce knowledge on hygiene and sanitation related behaviours. The MSABI approach, already covering many of the critical needs identified by the study, was adapted accordingly with additional focus on WASH education.

Solar technology has large potential to improve access to energy for rural populations, especially in Africa. Products are becoming affordable and supply chains are more easily accessible through online markets. MSABI tested solar energy powered submersible water pumps to evaluate the suitability of imported low-cost technology for small scale rural irrigation and water supply. 

A total of 5 manufacturers and 12 solar pump systems were imported, tested and evaluated for reliability and performance. Affordable and efficient pumps were identified and a position paper is available on our website. From the study MSABI is of the belief that affordable solar systems are likely to transform rural Africa within the next decade.

Community feedback regarding water quality data is an important and cost efficient factor for improving success of water and sanitation initiatives. Presently, there are limited options to visually demonstrate water quality to the community as conventional water quality tests need special equipment, training and are expensive. MSABI tested the production and deployment in rural areas of affordable H2S water tests.

Our study demonstrates that reagents for H2S tests can be sourced in Dar es Salaam. Cost of reagents of a single test was only $US 0.28. In the laboratory, the test was shown to detect Salmonella enteric concentrations as low as 5 bacteria
in 100 ml at ambient temperature. A small scale field trial demonstrated that tests can be used by community members to test water quality at their sources. All households said that they would be willing to pay for the test, stating that an equivalent of USD 0.6.