Water and sanitation professionals work tirelessly to improve health, promote food security, and boost livelihoods. To further USAID’s knowledge sharing goals, the Water Office holds learning events that present solutions and challenges common to water programs. In Currents, we share the solutions discussed at the events and other venues. Email us at if you would like your project to be considered for Global Waters.

Bear Valley Ventures and DIV Pilot Tiger Toilet in India, Uganda, and Myanmar

Child at water faucet
Heather Arney,

Approximately 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. Traditional sewered systems are out of reach for many people living in the developing world, so USAID and its partners are investigating sanitation solutions that are affordable and do not require piping waste off-site.

USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) has awarded Bear Valley Ventures $170,000 to conduct a six-month trial of the Tiger Toilet latrine system in India, Uganda, and Myanmar. The project seeks to change sanitation’s stripes by providing a simple, low-cost, eco-friendly sanitation system.

The Tiger Toilet works by capitalizing on the composting abilities of tiger worms, a species of earthworm, that help break down solids in a compact manner. It consists of a compact tank containing a bed of tiger worms, which dispose of the waste in a sustainable way. The sanitation system is poised to become an effective, affordable alternative to pit latrines and septic tanks.

The Tiger Toilet will be tested in actual households and piloted in three different contexts: rural communities, peri-urban areas, and a displaced persons camp. USAID and partners will install 10 Tiger Toilets in each country. The system’s effectiveness will be monitored over a six-month trial to determine its performance and user acceptance.

To learn more, visit the DIV website and USAID’s website.

Powering Africa

Over two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Increasing access to electricity there would boost food security and incomes by enabling Africans to use electric pumps to irrigate crops, boost health by enabling drinking water pumps, and improve education by enabling students to study after dark. But according to the International Energy Agency, it will cost over $30 billion to achieve universal electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

On June 30, 2013, in Cape Town, South Africa, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. Government would be launching Power Africa, an initiative that aims to double the amount of people in sub-Saharan Africa with access to electricity by exploring the potential of regional wind, solar, hydropower, natural gas, and geothermal resources to generate energy. “This is America’s vision: A partnership with Africa that unleashes growth, and the potential of every citizen,” said President Obama.

For the first five-year phase of the Initiative, the U.S. Government has committed more than $7 billion in funds and has leveraged over $14 billion from the private sector. Private sector partners include General Electric, Heirs Holdings, and Symbion Power. Power Africa is also partnering with the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Currently, it is working to add 10,000 megawatts of clean, efficient electricity to the grid in focus countries Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia.

To learn more, visit the Power Africa website.

ECO Consult Brings Hydroponic Green Farming to Jordan

Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water availability per capita in the world. But despite its water scarcity, the country still uses 65 percent of its water for farming, as many farmers there grow crops using inefficient methods. Hydroponic farming, a practice that involves growing crops in nutrient-rich water without soil, can help farmers boost productivity by reducing water loss, providing a controlled environment to manage pests, and enabling farmers to shift to higher value crops. However, hydroponic systems require more energy for lighting, temperature control, and water pumping and circulation. In the past, high energy costs have limited its spread.

But now, ECO Consult, a leading Jordanian development firm, is introducing a solar-powered hydroponic system through the Jordan Hydroponic Green Farming Initiative. This project was a winner of the inaugural round of USAID’s Powering Agriculture Grand Challenge, which sought innovative ideas to harness clean energy in agriculture. The project will receive funding and support from USAID to test and scale the solution.

The project will begin by introducing an integrated hydroponic and photo-voltaic system in both large on-farm multi-span greenhouses and smaller rural household greenhouses. ECO Consult hopes that the technology spreads as farmers begin to see improvements in their incomes. The technology will be particularly transformative for rural women and youths, as it will provide a socially acceptable and profitable means of earning a livelihood.

To learn more, visit the Powering Agriculture website.