Sameh Seif Ghaly

Together Association for Development and Environment
Year founded: 

The Together Association designs and implements low-cost village sanitation systems and value-added community development services for those living in the isolated areas of Upper Egypt.

Focus: Water & Sanitation, Rural Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Egypt
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 37,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 2,662,000 (2010)
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, MENA, 2011

The UNDP estimates that more than 90% of rural villages in Egypt are not connected to any sort of sewage system. This infrastructure gap has led to widespread contamination of groundwater, polluting crops, fish, and drinking water. With the contamination of so many major food and water sources, rural Egyptians face a costly disease burden (diarrhoea, schistosomiasis, parasites, typhoid). They incur a financial cost as well; households are compelled to pay US$ 10 per month for sweeping vehicles to clean streets and water sources. Considering the widespread poverty that plagues much of Upper Egypt and the prohibitive cost of current remedies, the Together Association seeks to improve health, sanitation, and economic conditions through more efficient and locally-managed sewage systems and development services.

Innovation and Activities
The Together Association designs and installs low-cost community sewage and water treatment systems, providing potable water in homes and water for irrigation. The village-wide sewage system connects household septic tanks by gravity-fed pipes to a communal filtering facility, where appointed and trained community technicians oversee maintenance and quality control. The Together Association sewage system model is built and maintained with locally available materials and labour, making it 70–75% cheaper than government-issued systems. The association actively involves the communities in the initial planning stages and turns over maintenance to locally based organizations, which conduct the necessary maintenance and upkeep. While traditional sewage systems often require a US$ 10 per month fee from each family, this model requires only a US$ 2 per monthly fee.

A crucial part of the community ownership and accountability process is the provision of low-interest loans, which enable families to pay the up-front connection fee of US$ 350 to join the sewage grid (including piping, construction, sinks, toilets, etc.). Villagers, in conjunction with association staff, do all of the initial construction work. After the installation process the Together Association continues its work of strengthening local organizations to facilitate the loan repayment and monthly fee collection process.

To date four villages in Upper Egypt have been connected to the Together Association sewage systems, with a total of 37,000 direct beneficiaries who now receive proper in-home sanitation services and who have saved average of US$ 96 per year. Villages have reported dramatic reductions in disease infection rates, especially among children. Together with the EFG Hermes Foundation, a key partner, along with Vodafone, the World Bank and others, the Together Association also provides diverse value-added community development programmes in villages it serves, including employment and handicrafts training.

The Entrepreneur
Born to a middle-class family in rural Egypt, Sameh Seif Ghali has long been fascinated with the role technology could play in Egypt’s development. After his university studies he began a decade of testing stoves, furnaces, solar heaters, and sewage systems, ultimately leading to his design and creation of the new, efficient and cost-effective sanitation system used by the Together Association.