A do-it-yourself store for latrines

Chris Simoens
23 May 2019
With the support of Join For Water (formerly known as Protos), inhabitants of the Beninese cities of Dogbo and Athiémé can now go to a 'Sanimarché', a place where they receive advice on hygiene and sanitary facilities and can buy latrines and all kinds of materials.

Hygienic sanitation is crucial for public health. Although access to sanitary facilities is improving, 2.3 billion people still do not have a toilet or a decently clean latrine. Some 892 million people are forced to relieve themselves in public (behind bushes, in rivers, on the roadside...), making it easier for diseases such as diarrhoea, hepatitis A, cholera and polio to spread.

Every year, 280,000 people die from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation. It should therefore not come as a surprise that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG6.2) aim to achieve access to adequate sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation by 2030.

 

Some 892 million people are forced to relieve themselves in public (behind bushes, in rivers, on the roadside...).

Sanimarché

The NGO Join For Water tries to achieve this goal in the Beninese regions of Mono and Couffo. To this end, the organisation works together with the inhabitants of a certain village, adopting the so-called ‘Community-led Total Sanitation’ approach. The challenges are numerous: how do we prevent open defecation from resurfacing once it has been eradicated? And how do we deal with urbanised areas where the cohesion between people to work on change may not be as strong?

Join For Water believes the solution lies in social marketing, more specifically in using commercial marketing techniques to bring about social change, in this case with regard to sanitation and hygiene. This is how the NGO came up with the idea of a 'Sanimarché', a place where people can find information about latrines and adequate hygiene, discover and order models of latrines, and buy all kinds of materials. They are also taught how to build their own toilet according to their budget.

 

In the 'Sanimarché' people can find information about latrines and adequate hygiene, discover and order models of latrines, and buy all kinds of materials. They are also taught how to build their own toilet according to their budget.

Top view of the Sanimarché
© Protos

Renewed latrine

It has proved to be an excellent idea, although the very first Sanimarché in Dogbo did not immediately attract many clients. A market study showed, among other things, that half of the families in the urbanised Tota district still relieve themselves in the open air. The latrines that do exist, are usually ordinary pit latrines. Many families, however, said they were willing to install more sophisticated latrines, as long as these would not be too expensive.

This observation inspired Join for Water to design a specific type of latrine with a toilet bowl that is free of odours and insects thanks to a siphon and that can be made with local materials. The cabin around the toilet can be adapted to the user’s budget and comfort requirements: it can be built from bricks or terracotta and covered with steel plates, tiles or palm branches. Behind the cabin is the septic tank with an internal diameter of 1,1 meters and a variable depth, covered by a solid concrete plate.

This latrine was given the name 'Mɛmɛ xᴐ' (= house of hygiene), also the name of the Sanimarché itself. Mɛmɛ xᴐ should become a star product and will be developed as a quality label for all Sanimarchés of Join For Water so that customers can be sure of their quality.

 

A man is looking at a drawing of a latrine.
© Protos

Communication campaign

The market study led to further activities:

  • Making local authorities aware of the risks of open defecation;
  • Appointing young salespeople, who receive the necessary training, to bring in new customers;
  • A broad communication campaign: radio broadcasts, a promotion caravan, promotional actions, gadgets to make the label known;
  • Opening a second Sanimarché in Athiémé.

Thanks to this new approach, both Sanimarchés turned into successes. Sales are running smoothly and both the towns and the inhabitants ask for advice on hygiene and sanitation.

But Join For Water wants to go even further. In the long run, both Sanimarchés should become economically viable and be able to operate independently. The NGO plans to open Sanimarchés in other regions too. The Mɛmɛ xᴐ brand should become thé reference when it comes to advice and innovation with regard to sanitary facilities. A disposal service and additional hygiene training could be provided in the future.

The ultimate goal remains the same: providing hygienic living conditions for everyone in the region in order to improve health and women’s safety and encourage girls to go to school.

 

Benin Sanitation
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