Sanitation projects will go down the toilet unless we ask people what they really want. The Conversation, November 27, 2016.
Countries have a lot of work to do to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. But development projects don’t always go the way you expect.
A resettlement project in Laos provided taps and toilets as a way to improve hygiene and health outcomes for communities.
Three years after resettlement a project team formed to address health issues found that the new brick toilet facilities were being used to store rice. The practice of “open defecation” was continuing in nearby farmland.
The community members explained that keeping rice dry and safe from animals was their highest priority. They also thought it was more hygienic for faeces to be washed away, rather than concentrated in one place such as a toilet.
How did this mismatch occur? There had been limited community participation, no awareness-raising and no sense of community ownership generated during the project planning. Getting these things right will be fundamental to achieving any of the development goals.
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