Published: 24 May 2017
The Uganda based Rural Development Media and Communication (RUDMEC), which is a member of Uganda National Discourse Forum (Uganda-NDF), noted this challenge when it was assigned to replicate the Ecological Sanitation Project in the rural community of Busia fishing village. According to Ms Sarah Kisolo, the RUDMEC coordinator, the organization has been implementing the same project in the urban slum area of Katwe in Kampala District. One of the local residents, Mrs Zaina Aramathan recalls the worst conditions they live in due to scarcity of latrines: "It has never been easy for us to keep going even in the communities we call home, living in shame due to lack of latrines; we need toilets for improved health" Mrs. Zaina explained.
Cultural beliefs are big hindrances towards the sanitation-related campaign because local communities associate the latrine concept with the cause for many misfortunes such as barrenness among the women and impotence for men. The representation and role of women in the community, prompted RUDMEC to make remarkable efforts of wiping out the cultural related beliefs through empowering women to enhance their roles and responsibilities and also to enable them demand for their rights. It was through this initiative that the environmentally friendly ECOSAN toilets were, for the first time, introduced in Busia district for demonstration on use and maintenance.
Women took lead and developed interest to acquire one for their families, through a cost-sharing mechanism. Ecological sanitation is an approach of human excreta disposal that aims at recycling nutrients back into the environment and turning them into more productive systems without destruction. The project, therefore, aimed at empowering local communities to take charge of the sustainable use of the natural resources around Lake Victoria so as to improve on their living conditions.
The objective of the project was to popularize best practices to improve the ecological sanitation and hygiene for good health among the beneficiaries as well as increase the vegetation cover to address the soil erosion occurrences and its accruing problems to enhance soil productivity for food security and energy needs in the targeted areas.
RUDMEC facilitated communities to attain the right attitudes, values and aspirations, to participate in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes of the project and other development programs.
As a result, the Public Health Educator testified that there is a remarkable improvement in sanitation in Busia District. Latrine coverage in Busia has also increased tremendously if compared to the time before RUDMEC intervention; the rate of infections like dysentery, trachoma, bilharzia and cholera has greatly reduced because of the awareness campaign on human waste management that the people living in Busia district have been involved in.
In Busia district, household health standards are measured by hygienic practices of using a pit latrine or eco-san latrine with a door, the latrine cover and a hand washing facility with soap. Other sanitation practices include: washing hands before eating, washing hands before breast feeding and serving food and maintenance of water hygiene from point of collection to point of use and garbage disposal sites.
So far, RUDMEC has facilitated construction of 42 eco san toilets in Busia districts at household and institutional levels which yielded a community response of constructing 10 ECOSAN toilets without assistance from RUDMEC. 80 land lords and their families have been trained in ecological sanitation and the management of ECOSAN toilets.
Village Environment Committees, consisting of nine people have been formed in each parish and have been trained to manage the project as overseers. 20 ECOSAN masons have been trained in the basic skills of construction of ECOSAN toilets.
ECOSAN technology is now being adopted on a wider scale as a better alternative to the traditional pit latrines. 50,000 tree seedlings have been provided to the communities and institutions for planting and the district authority offered seven acres for a woodlot along the lake banks. The by-products of ECOSAN are being used as fertilizers. Information, Educational and Communication (IEC) materials on general conservation and for promotion of ECOSAN technology have also been developed. These include 5 documentaries and posters. Radio drama skits and 340 radio programs in local languages ( Luganda and Samia) have also been broadcast.
Various technological modifications have been incorporated in original ECOSAN design with additional bathroom facilities. The district authority has made a commitment to give a percentage of the development fund towards the continuation of the project work and the youth have taken up the management of the tree nurseries as the women manage the charcoal briquettes for sustainable energy project.