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An Emerging Fecal Sludge Management System in a Post-Conflict Situation: The Case of Juba

By Barbara Kazimbaya Senkwe (PhD)


Three years after independence South Sudan is building its municipal services, especially urban sanitation. However coverage remains low, even by African standards, at 19% in 2009 (WSP, 2010). In the capital Juba, sanitation and other services lag behind the city’s rapid growth. Piped sewerage is available to just about 2% of Juba’s population and is mostly provided to ministers’ homes and government offices. The majority of Juba residents use pit latrines and pourflush toilets which are emptied by mechanized exhausters that dispose the fecal waste at the Roton wastewater lagoon. Juba therefore has an emerging Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) system comprising the three key components of Containment, Collection and Transportation, and treatment and disposal of fecal waste. With development of citywide sewer network not anticipated for a while yet, this FSM system is crucial in the safe handling and disposal of fecal matter.

This paper therefore looks at how Juba’s fecal sludge management system is organized, identifying key challenges and opportunities. It particularly focuses on highlighting characteristics of each of the three components of the FSM chain and providing suggestions on how the municipality and its partners can further strengthen this system. The paper is based on primary research by SUWASA, between September 2013 and July 20142. The lessons learned from this study are applicable in other post-conflict countries.


Map 1 Typology of Settlements in JubaMap 1 Typology of Settlements in JubaJuba City’s population is estimated to have grown from 163,000 in 2005 to 500,000 in 2013, with an average household size of 9.36 (NBS 2012:13). Geographically, Juba’s footprint has more than tripled in size from 2002 to 2012.

The population is distributed across three payams of Juba, Kator and Munuki in five settlement types: established formal areas, transitional formal areas, new formal areas, recent informal areas, and enclosedopen or official spaces designated for uses including United Nations compounds and government ministries. New informal areas make up the largest of the settlement types (Map 1).


A Growing Market for Fecal Sludge Management

According to a 2013 baseline survey by SUWASA at least 55% of households have access to personal toilets, mostly pit latrines or pourflush toilets that require emptying and fecal sludge management. Continued use of onsite sanitation facilities is expected as the piped water supply network serves only 20% of the city’s growing population. It is estimated that Juba generates more than 45 million liters of fecal sludge annually according to a baseline survey of fecal sludge generation in Africa by Chowdhry and Kone (2012) (Table 1).


1. SUWASA is a regional program funded by the United State Agency for International Development (USAID)

2. Five studies were conducted namely, A household sanitation and mapping survey; A Survey of Exhauster Tanker businesses and a count of tankers; Study of Roton lagoon; Survey of Public Toilets and an Institutional Mapping involving interviews and a Study of legislation and policy documents.

A Growing Market for Fecal Sludge Management

According to a 2013 household sanitation survey by SUWASA, 55% of respondents reported having access to a toilet, 40.7% share a toilet, 2.7% practice open defecation whilst the remainder use public toilets. Of those who had toilets, 2% had access to a sewer connection, and the remainder had access to pit latrines or pour-flush toilets. 40% of these onsite toilets can be emptied by mechanized exhausters. Given that the piped water supply network serves only 20% of the city’s population, continued use of onsite sanitation facilities is expected. . Based on fecal sludge generation in Africa by Chowdhry and Kone (2012), it is estimated that Juba generates more than 45 million liters of fecal sludge annually (Table 1).

 table 1 fecal sludge

However, SUWASA’s 2013 survey of exhauster tankers revealed that Roton lagoon received at least 2.5 million liters of sludge a day. This equates to a very high generation rate of 11.6 liters per person per day. Possible explanations include the prevalent use of water for anal cleansing, use of toilets as bathing facilities as well as possibility of toilets receiving high volumes of rain runoff.

An Active Fecal Sludge Transportation Industry.

Figure 1 Exhausters emptying at Roton wastewater lagoonFigure 1: Exhausters emptying at Roton wastewater lagoonJuba has a very active mechanized exhauster service, accounting for over 96% of fecal sludge handled. A SUWASA survey of exhauster businesses revealed over 150 exhauster tankers operating in Juba, with over 97% owned by private companies and individuals. Nine (9) exhauster trucks are owned by four public sector agencies The 150 trucks equates to a ratio of households to exhauster truck of over 350:1, very high in comparison to other African cities (14500:1 according to Chowdry and Kone 2012)

Most tankers are large and purchased secondhand with private capital. Very few owners borrow from commercial banks
to buy tankers. The secondhand tankers have a short life span and require greater regulation to ensure that they comply
with environmental standards. Juba’s exhauster tanker business can be divided into three categories:

(a) Private exhauster businesses operating under the name and license of another business. Some only serve the
businesses operating them, others also service external clients.

(b) Private for-profit businesses serving government premises, schools, hospitals, commercial and residential clients,
operating in Juba, Kator and Munuki sub-counties, or payams.

(c) Exhausters operated by public institutions including the University of Juba, Juba Teaching Hospital, the City
Prison and the Payams. These exhausters often cannot meet the demand - for example private contractors were
brought in during the cholera outbreak of May 2014.

The SUWASA survey of exhauster tankers showed the majority, i.e. 60% are operated by private for-profit businesses
(category b), with just 2% publicly operated (category c).

Profitability of Exhauster Tanker Business

Financial figures provided by the tanker owners and drivers, but unverified, show a profitable exhauster business in juba, with average operating costs per trip of approximately US$96.

table 3 typical daily cost

Tankers make an average of 2.5 trips per day, with daily operating costs of US$231 or US$57,371 annually. Average annual income of US$ US$269,177 equates to a profit of US$174,720/year, compared to average profits of US$12,000/ year in most cities in Africa and US$5,600/year in Asia (Chowdhry and Kone, 2012). The strong profitability stems from high emptying fees charged by tanker owners in Juba, at US$122 to US$83, compared to an average fee of US$60 in other African cities (Ibid.). It is worth noting that the high charges may discourage use of mechanical emptying services in favor of manual emptying or other unsanitary and environmentally unsafe practices, particularly amongst poor households.

Regulatory Arrangements for the Exhauster Tankers

Although there are currently no sanitation policies or laws, a rudimentary regulatory system exists. Exhauster tankers must be painted red, registered and issued a sanitary license and sticker by Juba City Council which also carries out inspection and monitoring. The tankers are required to pay two types of fees to access the lagoon: a toll to enter Northern Bari Payam and an emptying charge at the lagoon of between US$1.35 and US$6.76. Although these regulations are a good start, there is room for improvement. As sanitary licenses are issued by the payams, there is no central body enforcing uniform regulations on tankers’ condition or how owners’ operate. There is also no enforcement of public and occupational health standards, with none of the operators using protective clothing and no controls on the effluent entering and leaving the lagoon. There is also no requirement for tankers to be parked in a specific place and they are therefore parked anywhere including in residential areas posing unnecessary public health risks to the population.

Revenue Potential for the Public Sector from the Exhauster Tankers

The exhauster business offers a potentially reliable income stream for the public sector. Table 4 shows revenue collected by government agencies which should be sufficient to operate the lagoon and invest in limited infrastructure improvements. However, this revenue is shared amongst the three agencies without any arrangements for ring-fencing for reinvestment into the lagoon. There is also a risk of loss at the lagoon as deposits into the county’s sanitation account can take over a week.

table 4 Revenue collection

Treatment of Fecal Sludge

Fecal sludge treatment in Juba takes place at the Roton Wastewater Lagoon, which was funded by the World Bank’s Multi-donor Trust Fund and completed in 2010. The lagoon was designed with five ponds, but only two were constructed. Current lagoon capacity is 3,300 cubic meters a day and analysis suggests the lagoon operates at about 70 percent of this capacity in the rainy season.

Presently the lagoon has no maturation pond or alternative anaerobic pond to allow for desludging and cleaning. The lagoon lacks a proper maintenance plan so the single anaerobic pond has been overloaded with solids including plastics, bottles and other debris. It is also likely that accumulation of grit and sand in the anaerobic basin is reducing treatment capacity. The lagoon produces foul smells and poor quality effluent is released into the environment (Figure 2). Incomplete construction explains some of the problems, but poor operation, maintenance and staff training is mostly to blame. Despite its weaknesses, the lagoon is an improvement over the previous situation where fecal sludge was dumped in the open on the outskirts of Juba.

Improving Fecal Sludge Management in Juba

It is clear from the foregoing that though a new capital, Juba has strong elements of the framework required for effective fecal sludge management. However each of the three components of the fecal sludge management chain namely containment, collection and transportation, and treatment and disposal of sludge, could benefit from further improvements (Figure 3).

Improving Sludge Containment

Improving fecal sludge management in Juba must start with the way fecal waste is collected and contained in households. Latrines should be constructed to allow for mechanical emptying with adequate sub-structures such as lined pits or septic tanks which will help reduce emptying frequencies and therefore lower costs. Given general practice in Juba and across Africa where toilet construction is a responsibility of the property owner and also given current limited government spending in the sanitation sector, a demand-driven approach to fecal waste containment is recommended as more cost effective and sustainable. However this requires building codes to be developed and enforced by Juba City Council.

Improving Sludge Transportation

Private exhauster businesses in Juba have created a potentially viable private-public partnership, and have contributed to safe disposal of at least 40% of fecal sludge. This should be preserved and enhanced as long as the market remains viable. Regulation should however be strengthened focusing on overseeing tanker routes through the city, proper parking, penalties for pollution and stipulating measures for worker safety. The sector could also benefit from streamlined institutional arrangements within the County and the Council.

Improving Sludge Treatment

Operation and maintenance of the Roton lagoon could be improved through greater technical expertise which could be provided by a government agency such as the South Sudan Urban Water Corporation (SSUWC). . Alternatively, its operation could be transferred to SSUWC or the private sector. To ensure sustainability, a formalized plan is needed for ring-fencing the emptying fees for reinvestment in operation and maintenance of the lagoon, and where possible to undertake small expansion works. Treatment capacities must also be increased to ensure levels of treatment do not drop below current ones but rather increase with the related increases in population. There are also opportunities to explore use of the sludge for biogas or agricultural purposes.

figure 3 Fecal Sludge

Conclusions and Lessons Learned

Juba is a new and fast growing city which like other older capital cities, has sanitation challenges but also the basic building blocks for an effective fecal sludge management system that need further strengthening. Households are containing fecal sludge, but more could be done to increase access to individual toilets that can be mechanically emptied; the private sector has stepped in to collect and transport fecal sludge, but their activities could be better regulated; and the public sector has begun to provide primary infrastructure for treatment of fecal sludge, but more needs to be done to expand these infrastructure and most importantly to improve operation and maintenance.

The FSM in Juba provides three key lessons. Firstly, just because a city is emerging out of conflict does not mean its sanitation situation is any worse than that in more stable countries. As Figure 3 shows, the combination of the private sector and public sector provision of the Roton lagoon has led to at least 40% of fecal waste in the city being properly disposed of. Juba therefore compares rather favorably with other more stable cities. Secondly, the overwhelming response of the private exhauster businesses in filling the fecal sludge collection and transportation gap, seems to suggest that even in this post-conflict situation, the conditions were right and in fact may have been better than in more stable countries. Further analyses and understanding of exactly these conditions would therefore be beneficial to the sector.

Finally, ring fencing of revenues collected by the public sector for operation and maintenance may not be a priority for the public sector and must therefore not be taken for granted. Deliberate policy measures need to be put in place at the time of commencing operation of public infrastructure.


1. Chowdhry, Sangeeta and Kone, Doulaye (2012) “Business Analysis of Fecal Sludge Management: Emptying and Transportation Services in Africa and Asia: Draft final report”. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012.

2. GOSS (National Bureau of Statistics) (2012) “National Baseline Household Survey 2009”. Report for South Sudan, 2012.

3. Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA) (2014) “Juba Sanitation Mapping and Household Survey Final Report” U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), February 2014.

4. Water and Sanitation Program, World Bank (2010) “Country Status Overview: Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene in Southern Sudan: Draft” World Bank, 2010.

About the author

Barbara Kazimbaya Senkwe (PhD), is an Urban Sanitation Development Specialist working with Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA ) in Juba, South Sudan.

Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa (SUWASA) is a regional initiative of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by Tetra Tech, with a mission of fostering the transformation of water and sanitation delivery services in Africa to achieve long-term financial sustainability through the application of marketbased principles. SUWASA is designed to spread effective models of reform at the water utility and sector levels, and to facilitate innovative financing approaches for African water providers.

The program aims to improve and expand the delivery of water and sanitation services in urban and peri-urban settings, with a focus on meeting the needs of the poor. In carrying out its mandate, SUWASA partners with utilities and small service providers, governments and donors, and communities to demonstrate and promote best practices both for water service reform and governance, as well as innovative financing strategies. SUWASA support includes technical assistance and capacity building, supplemented with limited financial support for infrastructure improvements and commodity procurements as required.





Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene March-April 2017 Vol.12 No.2