WaSHUp: Innovating Water Sanitation and Hygiene Upgrading in Langrug

WaSH team after final presentation in Franschhoek


Problem Statement

Urbanization has led to the widespread development of informal settlements across the globe. People migrate to urban areas in search of economic opportunity, and find that they cannot afford formal homes. Therefore, they settle on unoccupied, low-quality land. These illegal squatter camps are often densely populated and contain little infrastructure. Because of this, governments struggle to provide basic services to the residents of these settlements. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) provision is particularly challenging, and 2.6 billion people are currently unserviced (Wertz et al. 2011). In Sub-Saharan Africa, this lack of services  leads to 1.2 billion cases of diarrhea annually and 770,000 fatalities to children under age five (Bahri and Akissati 2008). Langrug, the informal settlement in Franschhoek where this project is located, also faces water and sanitation challenges, as the ratio of toilets to people is 1:49 (Informal Settlement Network et al, 2011, p. 11).

Government is currently the primary organization responsible for WaSH provision in South Africa. However, too often, their top-down, subsidized, non-inclusive approach has not been successful. The facilities are typically unclean, smelly, and undignified. In addition, they regularly break. In Cape Town, for example, two thirds of the Cape Town Water Services Dept.’s annual $125 million budget is spent on new equipment and repairs (Jiusto, 2010). A. Mels et al (2008) report that providing conventional sewage solutions to its informal settlements would far exceed the budget of the WSD. The magnitude of this challenge is too great for the government alone to solve. It does not have the personnel, the innovative capacity, or the capital that is required. New, community-engaged, multi-stakeholder approaches are needed, but few successful examples exist.


Before our work in South Africa, we researched the aforementioned challenges to global WaSH provision as well as potential solutions. From this research, we identified three principles that should be included in WaSH upgrading in order to improve service delivery. Further research is required to confirm that these three principles work, and our project was intended to develop the framework for this research to begin.

Principle one: multi-stakeholder involvement

The first principle is that multi-stakeholder involvement is essential to effective WaSH upgrading. Alternative systems, such as Ecotact in Kenya (Murray, 2010), BioCentres in Uganda (Aubrey and Shaw, 2009), and MobiSan in South Africa (Naranjo, 2009) demonstrate the successful involvement of stakeholders other than government. These stakeholders include private business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and communities, all of which contribute different resources that positively influence the system with which they are involved. These non-government stakeholders have the potential to augment government WaSH provision so that all people can have access to adequate WaSH services. These examples illustrate that multi-stakeholder models can be successful..

Principle two: WaSH spaces should be  multipurpose

The second principle is that WaSH spaces need to be multipurpose. In informal settlements, WaSH spaces are not valued. As a result, they are commonly misused and vandalized. If these spaces were to simultaneously address needs such as unemployment, education, and communal space, residents would be more likely to care for them (Bell et al., 2010). From this, we developed the idea of WaSHUp spaces, or WaSH upgraded spaces. WaSHUp spaces “upgrade” WaSH spaces so that they meet water and sanitation needs in a holistic, high quality manner. They would incorporate many non-toilet features that would encourage residents to gather around the space such as laundry stations, clotheslines, and picnic tables for adults as well as educational games, toys, and other activities for children. The amenities and programs included in the WaSHUp facilities would depend on the needs of the community where they are located.

Principle three: WaSH upgrading should be community-driven

The third and final principle we identified is that efforts to improve WaSH must be community-driven. Even if the government had the resources to supply WaSH services to all, they would not be successful if they continued to provide subsidized, barebones toilets without adequate community consultation. This top-down method is one of the reasons Trouba (2010) estimates that about half of government-built toilets are used for something other than their intended purpose. Manikutty (1998) supports this in his analysis of two sanitation projects in India: One that involved the community and had 80% of residents use the toilets, and another that did not initially involve the community and only had 50% of residents use the toilets. Similar to this, when the Stellenbosch Municipality put chemical toilets in Langrug without consulting the community, residents rejected them and tipped them over.

The goal of our project was to begin to test these three principles in the community of Langrug. Langrug is an ideal location for this project because it is already progressive in its multi-stakeholder partnerships, our first principle. One of these partners, the Stellenbosch Municipality has developed a Department of Integrated Human Settlements which focuses directly on providing innovative ways to improve informal settlements. Their approach has led to a unique partnership with two NGOs: Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and its subsidiary Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). These organisations work in a partnership that is outlined by a formal agreement. Langrug is one of the first communities in South Africa where such an agreement exists between a government and NGOs. Together, these partners have begun a process of sustainable, incremental upgrading.

Langrug is also an ideal community to begin our work in WaSH provision because one of their key upgrading strategies is community engagement, our third principle. In this settlement, the Stellenbosch Municipality no longer simply builds a tap or toilet but instead works closely with the community to find a sustainable solution. A, “nothing for us, without us,” mentality has been adopted where no upgrading is done unless the community is directly involved in the process.

WPI brings this partnership four years of experience working with WaSH issues in Monwabisi Park, an informal settlement located outside of Cape Town. In addition to this expertise, it brings a grant from the General Electric Foundation for innovations in WaSH provision. It is in this multi-partner, community driven context that this project began.

Mission Statement and Objectives

The goal of this project was to establish the framework for a community-based, multi-stakeholder WaSHUp program to meet community needs and create a learning environment to test our three principles. To achieve this goal, we identified five key objectives.

  1. Develop a partnership with the Langrug community, Stellenbosch Municipality and other stakeholders
  2. Understand and assess the current WaSH situation in Langrug
  3. Develop an approach to incrementally transform existing sanitation facilities into valued  WaSHUp spaces
  4. Capacitate our co-researchers to continue incrementally upgrading sanitation facilities
  5. Design a WaSHUp facility for inclusion in a new multipurpose community centre


Below is a list of pages that tell the story of how we accomplished these objectives. If you would like to read this story, visit each page in the order they appear below. If you are only interested in certain aspects of our project, click on the theme or themes that you find most relevant.


Meet the Team

Meet us and our co-researchers


This section provides a brief background on Langrug, the informal settlement where our project is located. Also, it introduces the context in which current informal settlement upgrading efforts are taking place in Langrug.

Water and Sanitation in Langrug

This section discusses current WaSH services in Langrug. It contains a chart with details on each facility as well as an interactive map that shows information, pictures, location for each facility. Lastly, it details common problems afflicting WaSH services in the community.

Partnerships in Langrug: A Model for the Future

This section has information on the value that different stakeholders can bring to WaSH provision and links to a page with examples of alternative facilities that have successfully involved multiple partners. It also contains background on the innovative partnership that exists in Langrug.

Community-Driven Development

This section contains three sections: the first discusses the importance of community participation, the second describes our co-researcher model for research, and the third explains the co-researcher capacitation process. In addition, it links to a page with tips on working with co-researchers based on our experiences in Langrug.

Community WaSHUp Spaces

This section discusses the motivations behind community WaSH spaces. In addition, it shows our WaSHUp process for the incremental upgrading of these spaces as well as details on our implementations in D term.

Multi-Purpose WaSHUp Facility

This section contains details on our designs for the future WaSHUp facility in Langrug. These designs are intended to stimulate ideas about different possibilities for this facility. This facility is likely to be constructed within the coming years with the support of a grant from the GE Foundation.


This section offers recommendations for research and work in WaSH provision in Langrug. Ideally, these recommendations will continue the process of establishing Langrug as a centre for research in the WaSH sector.

Supplemental Material

WaSHUp Executive Summary

Multipurpose Centre Design Booklet [PDF, 1106 KB]

WaSHUp Process Guide [PDF, 2.92 MB]