Beyond the Finish Line - Faecal Sludge Management in Cambodia

4 Poster Track: Applied Research » 4 Characterisation and quantification at scale

Speaker: Sunetra Lala

Summary – for publication in conference brochure:

The geographical focus for SNV Cambodia’s FSM research was Banteay Meas District. The objectives were to characterise future demand for FSM services, identify appropriate, rational, and safe FSM solutions, and to inform future behaviour change communication initiatives and FSM strategies. The study showed that it is likely that FSM solutions in Banteay Meas will comprise a combination of direct household emptying, household composting using alternating twin pits, and pit emptying service providers.  Demand for FSM services from SMEs is significant, and may continue to increase in the future if costs can be reduced and/or if levels of affordability increase. 

Introduction, methods, results and discussion:

Four data collection activities were conducted for the study administered in Banteay Meas. These included: a latrine pit survey (n=49); a household (HH) survey (n=385); focus groups discussions with groups of HHs that had and had not experienced a full pit; and key informant interviews with small-medium enterprises (SMEs) that provided pit emptying services (n=2).  Data collection activities were executed from June 2018 to January 2019.


Peak HH demand for FSM solutions – as characterised by a modelling of the estimated number of latrines that will become full each year – was predicted to be reached in Banteay Meas by 2021.  After 2021, the model predicted that approximately 12-17% of all toilets (2,000 and 3,000) will become full each year.  Most HHs in the district had their toilet connected to two sequential pits connected in series (82%) and the average pit age was 5 years.  Overflowing pits were extremely rare (1%) - although 10% of respondents indicated that their pit was currently full.  Approximately 90% of HHs reported that they had never emptied their pit in the past.  Emptying was almost always executed by a member of the HH (92%) and performed either manually (47%) or using a suction motor pump (42%).  After emptying, faecal waste was typically emptied to a water body or field (73%) and less commonly stored somewhere around the compound for composting (19%).


Respondents indicated that they would be able to detect when their pit had become full by noticing bad smells (85%) or no longer being able to flush the toilet (79%).  Most respondents planned to empty their pit once it became full (90%), most suggested they planned to pay someone to do it (84%), and many stated that they would dispose of it in a nearby water body or field (48%).  Most respondents were uncomfortable with someone from their HH emptying the pit themselves (61%). Only 15% of respondents knew of an existing FSM service provider within their commune.


Most respondents indicated that ‘pump and take away’ pit emptying services was their first choice FSM solution (65%).  However, the average willingness to pay for such services was only $USD 25 while the actual cost reported by SMEs was $USD 50-60 per latrine. These SMEs reported that raw faecal waste was disposed of above ground, and often at farms or rice paddies to serve as a fertiliser.  SMEs reportedly have minimal capacity to invest in scaling up their business or to take risks to meet future increases or changes to FSM-related demand. HH interest was also high towards alternating twin pits (ATPs), with 21% identifying it as their most preferred FSM option and 73% indicating at least some interest in the concept.  However, the average willingness to pay for an ATP upgrade was $USD 42 while the actual cost is $USD 75.


The design of FSM solutions in Banteay Meas should account for the fact that maximum demand has not yet been reached, but demand is anticipated to increase rapidly over the next years. 

Conclusions and implications:

Given current costs and estimated willingness-to-pay, it is expected that pit emptying by the household will continue to be the most common FSM practice in the short/mid-term future. Therefore, to increase levels of safe FSM and minimise environmental and health risks, efforts will have to be made to promote and regulate how HHs (and to a lesser extent, small and medium enterprises - SMEs) dispose of the faecal waste that they extract from pits.  On the household side, behaviour change communication programmes and local regulations may help to increase the proportion of households that safely empty their pit (meaning burying their faecal waste rather than disposing directly into fields or water bodies).  On the SME side, training and inspections by local authorities could be an appropriate interim solution in the absence of a formal licensing programme. Latrine producers in Banteay Meas have been trained on alternating twin pit (ATP) construction methods, and pilot ATP upgrade demonstrations have been deployed in all 88 villages to promote this as a safe and sustainable solution. Significant efficiencies can be achieved by promoting ATPs at the beginning of any sanitation initiative, rather than future upgrades after single or twin-series pits are initially installed.

Relevant references:

2019. Faecal Sludge Management Research Report: Beyond the Finish Line in Cambodia - SSH4A Phase III. Phnom Penh.
Learning Brief: What can be done when latrines become full? An exploration of faecal sludge management challenges and solutions in Banteay Meas

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