Urban sanitation and solid waste management are among the most significant factors that affect the poor in developing countries and contribute to their sustained poverty. It is the poorest people, particularly children, who suffer most from weak or non-existent services, through illness, distress and many early and preventable deaths. This intolerable state of affairs is caused by a combination of political, socio-economic, cultural, and technological aspects. In recent years, sanitation and solid waste management have received increasing attention as shown in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim at halving the proportion of the population without access to sustainable basic sanitation by 2015 and at achieving significant improvements in the lives of slum-dwellers by 2020 (MDG Goal 7). Today, with less than five and ten years to fulfill these targets,when compared to other developing continents, Africa is lagging behind and there is need for effective action to address this challenge.
This research is placed within this debate and tries to contribute to achieving the aim of universal access to sanitation and solid waste management services. The focus is on the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) in urban slums of East Africa because these organizations are considered key players in the provision of sanitary and solid waste disposal services in such areas and yet their work has not been critically assessed. Two main questions were addressed; (i) In what ways are NGOs/CBOs participating in the development and implementation of sanitation and solid waste management and what are the key factors influencing their participation? (ii) How and to what extent are the sanitation and solid waste management activities of NGOs/CBOs sustainable; accessible to the poor; and flexible and resilient under changing socio-political, institutional and economic conditions? The conceptual framework developed for answering these research questions was based on the Modernized Mixtures Approach and several other theories (such as partnership paradigm, social network theory and institutional pluralism) that serve to explain key factors influencing the role of NGOs/CBOs in such activities.
The research confirmed that NGOs/CBOs are fully involved in the provision of the two services and the idea of environmental partnership is widely shared and supported. Empirical evidence gathered showed a modernized mixture model emerging, where the conventional advocates of large-scale, privatized, and high-technological sanitation and solid waste services partner with NGOs/CBOs. This research also found that access to sanitation and solid waste services is driven by both NGOs/CBOs and the urban poor in collaboration. Social proximity is important, next to the conventional factors of spatial proximity, socio-economic characteristics and perception of the perceived competence of NGOs/CBOs. User acceptance of innovative technologies was found to be a key factor when trying to improve sanitary facilities for the urban poor.
Keywords: Sanitation, Solid Waste Management, East Africa, NGOs, CBOs, Modernized Mixtures Approach