Author: Brenda

Cuban delegates get a Swedish view of nature-based and decentralized solutions

Delegates from Cuba visiting Stockholm Royal Seaport (Norra Djurgården). Photo: Ana Calvo, SEI.

This post was originally published on

As part of a collaboration developed over the past three years between sWASH&grow and the Agency for the Environment in Cuba, the SEI-led team hosted a Cuban delegation in Sweden in August 2022. They visited Swedish sites that mix climate change adaptation with a focus on circular value chains for water and the bioeconomy.

sWASH&grow’s work in Cuba explores the opportunities for testing and deploying gridless solutions in water, sanitation and energy in Cuba by:

  • assessing technology needs and matching them with existing solutions; 
  • exploring potential management and business models to finance, implement and scale gridless solutions; and 
  • making an inventory of required and existing capacities for implementation and maintenance.

Recent field visits to locations in Sweden by the Cuban delegation over the first week of August showed these principles in practice.

“The visit of the Cuban delegation was a perfect opportunity to showcase that the project’s assumptions are not just theory; but a reality in Sweden, and a reality that does not always need to be high-tech.”

Karina Barquet, Senior Research Fellow, SEI.

The director of the Cuban Environmental Agency and experts from other institutes visited the Stockholm Royal Seaport and Trosa’s human-made wetland, two examples of how ecosystem services can be integrated in landscape planning to assist with water management. These sites show how nature-based solutions help city planners manage water flows while promoting wellbeing in urban areas.

While designing the conversion of Stockholm Royal Seaport (Norra Djurgården) from an industrial area into a residential neighbourhood, city planners kept climate change adaptation in mind from the very start. Among the innovative solutions visitors observed during the guided tour were low-lying green areas that catch surface water run-off and stormwater, replacing ditches and pavement to sewers; green spaces for recreation; and “green corridors” that link grass patches and gardens among apartment buildings to help insects to thrive.

Similarly, Trosa, a small coastal town located in the south of the Stockholm region, uses a double treatment system for wastewater: a treatment plant and a human-made wetland. The wetland provides time for sedimentation of small particles and for bacteria to decompose the compounds wastewater contains, thus improving water quality in the river and bay. In addition, the wetland is also used as a recreational area, where town residents can enjoy green spaces close by.

Urban planners can also integrate their cities into the surrounding green spaces and agricultural lands in Sweden by taking into consideration what has been called “brown gold”. Sewage from household toilets contains nitrogen and phosphorous in high amounts, which, when treated and returned to the soil, can help grow agricultural crops.

Wastewater treatment and recycling solutions

Karl-Axel Reimer, the head of unit ecology and water protection for Södertalje municipality, presented Hölö farm to the InnovaCuba visitors. A patented treatment technique allows the farmer to make use of sewage collected from public vacuum toilets in the surrounding areas as a fertilizer.

Sewage from vacuum toilets contains less water than from normal toilets, reducing transport costs. The toilet’s vacuum could be powered by the sun, using solar cells, which was of particular interest in the context of Cuba, where electricity shortages are common. After treatment, the resulting sludge is free from pathogens and can be used on agricultural land safely.

At a smaller scale, Kiholm community in Södertäjle use so-called dry toilets in every bathroom in the allotment association (koloniförening). The toilets separate urine from faeces, which are collected in septic tanks for treatment offsite. A pipe connects the toilet’s urine collector to a container outside. Neighbours can use a water pump that mixes urine from the outside container with water, in a 4:1 ratio, to water their gardens.

A pipe connects the toilet’s urine collector to the outside container.
After mixing with water, it is used to water gardens at Kiholm. Photo: Ana Calvo, SEI.

Both solutions described above facilitate the upcycling of nutrients back into the soil while providing a wastewater treatment solution for areas disconnected from a centralized wastewater management system. A common challenge is that the transport of sewage water can be inefficient because of its high weight, compared to the low concentration of nutrients per volume.

At the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Professor Björn Vinnerås explained his vision on water sanitation and introduced an innovative solution that tries to address the inefficiency linked to transporting treated sewage to recycle its nutrients back into the soil. After using a urine-diverting toilet with an “urine trap”, urine is then processed through an alkaline treatment and dehydrated to a powder containing high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous per volume.

The powder can be used as a long-lasting, dry and easy way to transport fertilizer. In addition to having the potential to reintroduce compounds back into the agricultural system, it could also reduce the costs and dependency on artificial fertilizers in agriculture.

Fly larvae solutions 

Another project InnovaCuba visited at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) showcased larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens). The larvae rapidly increase in mass over three weeks. High in proteins and fat content, they make good food for hens and fish – and they eat organic waste.

Although the expertise required for breeding the larvae is high, this solution could both provide income from selling larvae to feed livestock and assist in returning nutrients into the agricultural system. The waste that makes the black soldier fly larvae fat could be organic waste or food that would otherwise go uneaten.

Observing how larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) consumes organic waste at SLU. Photo: Ana Calvo.

Closing the loops with nature-based solutions – whether with human-made infrastructure or animals as intermediaries – could make good sense for treating water and strengthening the bioeconomy in Cuba, as well as in Sweden. The projects visited still need to be expanded to larger scales to make a difference in climate resilience and more. After exploring how nature-based and off-grid solutions can work in practice, the InnovaCuba project could assist in untapping the potential for the future of bioeconomy in Cuba – and perhaps eventually in Sweden as well.

Written by: Karina Barquet & Anna Calvo, SEI.

TreeWell nature-based solution for wastewater

Carex of Sweden has through the sWASH&grow project developed products for sanitation based on the testbeds in Lebanon, South Africa and Sweden. It is specifically the off-grid features of the products that have been in focus. The products can now be scaled for more emerging markets needing an off-grid sanitation system. 

Carex of Sweden has developed a Nature based Solution for waste water called “TreeWell” which has been tested and validated in Sweden, Lebanon and South Africa as part of sWASH&grow. 

The purpose and objective of Carex involvement in the project is to develop the TreeWell further based on the testbeds in Sweden, Lebanon and South Africa. 

Carex of Sweden also had the product “Green Water Station” as part of its products, which was tested in Rwanda and Uganda. 

Learn more in the report below, written in both English and Swedish.

SISP’s Internationalization Strategy

Swedish Incubators and Science Parks (SISP) has created a systematic strategy for internationalization based on its members’ needs, that will be continually developed over time.


SISP has recently identified the need for a clear plan for their work within internationalization, linking local and regional actors with national and international ones. This strategy has been created to enhance SISP’s work within this area.

Strategic Objectives

  • Support the implementation of SISP’s operational goals and clearly define SISP’s international work based on the needs of its members.
  • Strengthen SISP and its members’ position at the international level and disseminate information about their work.
  • Provide leadership and guidance on how to achieve strategic and long-term goals together with the members.

Read the full strategy below.

Pure Bio Synergy product development 

Pure Bio Synergy (PBS) performs product development and test beds in Sweden. The technology enables a very effective off-grid disinfection and water purification that is suitable in all climates.

This report details Pure Bio Synergy’s contribution with a purification and disinfection unit that serves as a stand-alone product or can be part of a bigger system. That is, an essential component that greatly enhances the overall function and performance of the system and/or reduces energy and water consumption, maintenance and other costs. Operational reliability, simplicity of commissioning and use have also been taken into consideration when developing the product.

Learn more in the report summary below.

Innovation for resilience and inclusive development

Almedalen and the cathedral of Visby in background.

Date: Tuesday, 5 July, 2022

Time: 12:00 – 12:45 CEST

Venue: Donnersgatan 6, Visby, Gotland, Sweden & online

Reliance on centralized systems for the provision of critical services increases society’s vulnerability to natural hazards, demographic changes, but also conflict. In urban areas, aging infrastructure coupled with lack of infrastructure redundancy leads to shortages in service provision. In areas with conflict, centralized systems often fall under attack, causing a wave of cascading effects on systems and societies, as recently witnessed in Ukraine. In rural and developing areas, centralized infrastructure will never be attainable due to high capital and maintenance costs. Regardless of the context, there is a clear need to diversify systems and attain a certain degree of infrastructure independence.

In this event we delve into how the private sector in Sweden can work closer with development and humanitarian operations to accelerate progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) while fostering Swedish innovation. The event will showcase experiences from a selection of the 28 partners from Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Europe of the quadruple helix Vinnova sponsored project “sWASH&grow”. 


  • Ulrika Modeer, Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP 
  • Josephine Sundqvist, Secretary-General, LM International (Läkarmissionen) 
  • Patrik Stålgren, Head of Unit for Strategic Partnerships, Private sector, Innovation and New methods at Sida 
  • Mårten Björk, innovator and entrepreneur within the network “Urban Tech Sweden” 
  • Jan Furuvald, chairman, SWEACC – Swedish East African Chamber of Commerce 

Presentation: Karina Barquet and Olle Olsson, SEI 

Moderator: Sten Stenbeck, RISE 

Organizers: SEI – Stockholm Environment institute, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and LM International (Läkarmissionen) 

This will be a hybrid event. Join us on-site or online below.

About Almedalen

Almedalen Week is an annual meeting place in Sweden where a range of actors from the public, private and non-profit sector, together with political representatives and media, meet to debate and discuss various societal issues.

Read the full program on the Almedalen website.

Ecobarge – Producing and storing sustainable water and energy

Date: Thursday, 19 May at 1400 – 1500

Venue: Convendum, Biblioteksgatan 29, Stockholm; and online.

Urban Tech Sweden presents ECOBARGE –  a floating platform – modular, scalable and mobile with integrated sustainable technologies. For cities, islands or during crisis.

ECOBARGE invites: 

  • Tech people with innovations who seek orders and testbeds for scaling 
  • Investors who want to explore sustainable, safe investments
  • Communities with a need of solutions for local development and financing

The event is free of charge. You will network with stakeholders from existing projects.

Matchmaking activity for innovation, partnership and finance

Image: The Manta Resort

On 6th October 2021, Urban Tech Sweden (UTS) with its member ElectriCITY Innovation, held a Matchmaking-event where innovations were presented for two projects: Eco-tourism at Manta, Zanzibar and Deep Energy Retrofit in New York.

The event focused on how to produce off-grid water and energy in the sWASH & grow project. Companies presented innovations on: how to store energy, how to clean and wash without detergent, skip chlorine in pools and how to integrate urban farming with buildings energy and ventilation systems. 

The matchmaking event included the following innovations:

Innovations for Eco-tourism at Manta

  • Drupps – Water production from the atmosphere 
  • Stella Futura – Affordable Green Energy 
  • Naturpooler – Pools with biological treatment 
  • Swatab – Cleaning and washing without detergent 
  • Wostman – Low-flushing toilets that saves up to 95% water 
  • Deep Energy Retrofit in New York – Looking for Grid and Building related solutions

Innovations for Deep Energy Retrofit in New York 

  • Soltech – Integrated aesthetic solar cell-solutions for roofs and façades 
  • Ecoclime – Circular thermal energy systems and smart property automation
  • SaltX – Clean and sustainable energy storage in nano coated salts
  • 3eflow – A new way of using water
  • SweGreen – Integrating urban farming with buildings energy and ventilation systems
  • A new tool for a Business-model and financing

Read more about the innovations and event outcomes in the report below.

Cutting through the aid reporting chaos: recommendations for better procurement and reporting for WASH and beyond

A lack of coherent tracking and procurement presents challenges to innovators in the fields of humanitarian aid and development. That leads international organizations to miss out on tools to help them with their work. The authors present an overview of the current situation, based on a literature review of donor organizations and interviews of innovators and aid/development organization actors, and make recommendations to improve the tracking systems to open them to innovation.

This report provides an overview of the approaches and platforms used by donor organizations at the funding, procuring, and reporting stages of humanitarian and development operations. The authors illustrate the barriers to entry for innovators who may have solutions for donation recipients — international aid and development organizations.

They found that no coherent system tracks aid flows throughout development and humanitarian aid processes. Furthermore, little transparency exists in exiting reporting systems, and there is a need to clarify responsibilities and create a coherent, user-friendly format for reporting and verification.

The authors make concrete recommendations for improving the overall situation.

Key recommendations:

  • Clarify responsibilities for the reporting process for all stakeholders;
  • Harmonize and improve reporting formats for efficacy and transparency;
  • Improve the entry of innovations by:
    – improving transparency starting from procurement and moving through execution to reporting and evaluation;
    – providing better guidance and verification for reporting for solution providers; and
    – developing a more user-friendly platform and information flow/guidance for solution providers in the humanitarian procurement system.

Evaluation of the SaniC in Bolivia

SaniC – Bolivia

According to FAO (1998), the Valle Alto region in Cochabamba has a series of problems that limit agricultural production, most notably water deficit and low land productivity. The report notes that the low productivity of the land is due to the low natural fertility of the soils and their salinity and sodicity.

Cliza’s faecal sludge pilot plant seeks to sanitize sludge from septic tanks and sludge from wastewater treatment, taking advantage of resources and promoting a circular economy. As a result of the process, a liquid product is obtained that can serve as a complementary fertilizer and soil improver.

This study seeks to generate technical and economic information to promote the use of a liquid ecofertilizer (ECF). For this purpose, two trials (on potato and corn) were established in two pilot sites for the evaluation of the product in the Valle Alto. Soil sampling was carried out before planting and during harvest. The definition of the treatments or volumes of ECF to be applied in the trials was determined based on a review of the literature on the use of wastewater and sludge in agriculture.

The objective of this report is to contribute to the validation of the SaniC pilot plant from Advanced Aerobic of Sweden AB (A2T) placed in the Municipality of Cliza in Bolivia. 

Read the report summary below.

The original report (in Spanish) can be downloaded below.