Source: African Development Bank Group
The sandy, brittle soil of western Zambia is not suitable for traditional pit latrines, which tend to collapse after only a few weeks of use. Project organizers adapted a biodegradable, two-meter-long stick and twine -woven basket that is then inserted into the pit before it is covered with a slab. The basket’s semi-hard structure keeps the unstable walls of the pit from collapsing. This type of toilet typically lasts a couple of years, depending on frequency of usage, before it is closed and a new one built. This is in contrast to the traditional ones that sometimes lasted only a couple of weeks.
Improved toilets make for better sanitation with tippy taps, a handwashing device consisting of a plastic can hung on a cross stick that tips over and dispenses soapy water when the user steps on its pulley.
In the village of Koba, near the provincial capital, Mongu, Village Chief Samson Mandweni wants to take visitors to every household toilet so that each household has an improved latrine. “We have defeated dysentery, we have killed diarrhea, we have no cholera,” he says.
Figures from the project’s Provincial Support Team show that there has been a sharp drop in the incidence of these water-borne diseases in the 16 districts where the program is implemented. Bank Chinokoro says that the improved toilets save the villagers the cost of treatment for these diseases, which leads to more children attending school because they are less ill, and adults doing more work because they are healthier, leading to improved harvests and better incomes.
“It is a low cost project, but its impact is really transformational,” he says. He says the behavior change that the program has brought to these rural communities is likely to last for their lifetimes.
Tumba Mupango, the government Community Development Expert in the Provincial Support Team, worries that people are still building toilets too far away from their houses. “The aspect of safety, especially at night time, and the idea that they can build a toilet right inside their enclosures has not quite caught on yet,” she says.
Matomola says the champions, the majority of whom are women volunteers, are working to get the toilets built closer to homes. For Chinokoro, the champions are his not-so-secret weapon for the success of the sanitation program, which is ahead of schedule.
The project provided the champions with cell phones to send their weekly data on compliance to the provincial team on the open defecation-free status of the villages in real time. Before the rainy season gets going in earnest, on the hills above the floodplain of the great Zambezi River, Chinokoro says that the project intends to supply the champions with gumboots, raincoats, protective wear, flashlights and, to Matomola’s delight, a badge.