Improving Sanitation in Ghana: A Functional Latrine in One Week

latrineCommunity-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) has drastically improved sanitation and hygiene in Ghana’s Zangu-Vuga community.  Prior to the USAID-funded WASH for Health Project, basic sanitation was a formidable challenge, as there were no household or communal latrines in the area. Community members typically practiced open defecation and disposed of refuse indiscriminately. Stagnant waste water created ‘mini ponds’ behind bath houses, which served as breeding grounds for mosquitos and flies.  This produced a terrible stench and limited community members’ ability to sell food outside their homes.

Azindoo Tongo Yidana, commonly called Chief Tidoro, is a 34-year-old man with five children in a polygamous family of 16 people. He and his two wives were born and raised in Zangu-Vuga. Like other families in the community, Chief Tidoro and his family are peasant farmers and cultivate maize around their house, but he admits that “we are not able to eat roasted maize (Kawan sheira), and harvesting becomes difficult as a result of feces.” Open defecation has also caused significant other problems for his family; as he explained: “The bad smell and awful sights surrounding the house made us feel lazy to harvest or even roast the maize. Health challenges such as cholera, stomach pains, diarrhea and others were common in the family. The elders in the house used to expose themselves to people by defecating in bushes and [other] open places.”

Then, in June 2017, through the WASH for Health Project, Global Communities sent a five- member team of interns from Ghana’s University for Development Studies to the Zangu-Vuga Community. For two weeks, the interns worked with the community to update action plans and develop community maps to help visually identify places where members cook, relax, eat, and practice open defecation. Action plans reinforced efforts for households to construct their own latrines, and taught the importance of Tippy Taps (simple, cost-effective handwashing stations), Soak Away Pits (large pits that accumulate waste water and keep the community clean) and healthy hygiene behaviors.

The interns organized an initial community meeting at the chief palace, where many people, including the Chief Tidoro, elders and other community members were present. Participants were divided into two groups: people who owned a household latrine and people who did not. Though Chief Tidoro was a highly esteemed community member, he was grouped among people who did not own a latrine. He felt ashamed that he advocated against open defecation practices, but did not own a latrine himself. Chief Tidoro was receptive to the sanitation messaged relayed by Global Communities, and was so inspired and motivated that he completed digging a pit for his own household latrine the very next day. And, within one week, he had a beautifully painted improved latrine with a functional Tippy Tap attached.

The Chief happily reported, “My wives no longer complain of flies when selling food outside the house. We now harvest and eat roasted maize without worrying about feces. We don’t deal with bad sanitation and hygiene-related illness in the family anymore. Our image and dignity is now intact as we no longer have to expose ourselves in bushes and open places.”

Chief Tidoro has truly proven that ‘leadership by example’ can change lives. By practicing healthy sanitation behaviors and properly disposing of refuse, Chief Tidoro and his family have served as a positive example for the Zangu-Vuga community.