Data connects the dots

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Learning with data

In the Safi Sana world, organic waste provides a starting point for tackling sanitation problems, the increasing lack of food security, unemployment and the ever-increasing demand for energy in peri-urban slums. A cyclical model enforces itself and provides strong incentives for participants to engage.

However, if one link in the chain is weak, it could jeopardize the entire model. That’s why Safi Sana has developed a sound data monitoring system, using the CommCare App. We believe it’s one of the keys to success and a prerequisite for successful replication of our model.

Adjusting and learning

Data monitoring along all the elements of the value chain allows us to step in, adjust and learn. It further enables us to support operations remotely and satisfy the demand from investors and stakeholders for on-going status updates.

Mapping factory input

As you probably know, our first full-scale waste-to-energy factory is located in Ashaiman, a peri-urban, low-income settlement at the outskirts of Accra, Ghana with approximately 280,000 inhabitants. The local Safi Sana team works with local market vendors to collect solid organic waste, with the abattoir to pick up organic leftovers, and with the public toilet operators to collect faecal sludge.

At the inception of the project we used the CommCare App for ad-hoc surveys to measure hygiene levels and knowledge, and map waste sources and contact names. This helped us to organize logistics and prepare hygiene training. Now, during the transition from project to operations, the team collects data on a daily basis on volume and quality of incoming waste, and the correct use of equipment.

Output quality largely depends on input quality

Organic waste, which contains a lot of water, does not contain much energy and therefore contributes very little to bio-gas production. We add solid digestible waste from the markets and abattoir with a higher dry-matter content than faecal waste to increase bio-gas production. The different organic waste streams (up to 25tons/day) are fed into a large 27 x 27m square anaerobic digester with a capacity of roughly 1800m3. Here, the operations team takes over and maps daily measures related to optimal and safe production of biogas, irrigation water and fertilizer. These are: PH values, oxygen levels, methane, temperature, solid content, and nitrate content. To help staff collect accurate data, we have set logical parameters in the CommCare app. For instance, noting a pH of 50 is not valid and would warn the data collector to correct the input.

Making data useful

Tracking data from our value chain helps us tune operations and allows us to support teams remotely. We have defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the various teams and are now working with CGI, a global IT service provider, on the configuration of the CommCare database to feed Power BI for flexible data visualisation. This enables us to configure dashboards suitable for different audiences: operational teams, management, investors, or stakeholders and allow access on any device with a browser.

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