Villagers’ successful open defecation fight

A GROUP of women sang and gyrated as they celebrated what they consider a major achievement. Some of the lyrics were on the naughty side and are unprintable, but the women were determined to let every visitor know how they successfully fought against open defecation in their area.


This is the story of Maja villagers in Mudzi whose area was recently certified as an open defecation free (ODF) zone, following the establishment of Blair toilets at almost each homestead.

The toilets were constructed under the rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) programme introduced in the district in March last year.

“It is a huge relief that I now have this type of toilet at home. Before, I would go into the bush to relieve myself and that was unhygienic. When the project to end open defecation came, I was not eager to participate in it but learning is a curve.

I learnt that having a Blair toilet will result in the reduction of diseases like diarrhoea and cholera,” Sanisai Ngwaru (62), a beneficiary, said

Maja village in Mudzi district of Mashonaland East has become the first village in the province to attain open defecation free status.

The status is accorded to a community that has all its members using sanitation facilities.

In the province, the Wash programme is also being implemented in Mutoko, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe and Chikomba districts with its main aim being to eradicate open defecation starting with selected and targeted communities.

The project is being funded by United Nations Children’s Fund, while Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe (FCTZ) and Mudzi Rural District council are implementing it.

Chipo Mapuranga (40), a sanitation action group committee member, said only a few homesteads had toilets, with the rest of the villagers opting for the bush.

“When the programme started, only 20% of the people had Blair toilets, but today, we are happy that we have reached 100%, hence, we are now an ODF zone. It is a major achievement for the whole community and we urge the local villagers to emulate such efforts. The project saw a number of villagers being trained on how to construct this special type of Blair toilet, hence, it won’t be hard for many,” she said.

According to the local authority, 13 more villages are set to attain ODF status by the end of this year. A total of 50 villages selected from five wards are targeted for the sanitation project. The five wards are Bangauya, Suswe, Makaha, Masahwa and Nyamukoho.

Mudzi Rural District Council chairman, Alois Kambambaira said the project came at an opportune time, when a number of areas in the district were lagging behind as far as sanitation and hygiene is concerned.

“As a district, we had a meeting and agreed that there are some area that are too backward as far as health issues are concerned. Fortunately, we found a partner and the results are pleasing. We have gone a milestone in ensuring that the environment is healthy for the community. We are happy that we are experiencing a reduction of dirt-related diseases. We thank villagers from Maja for the hard work and their commitment to embrace the programme and its benefits,” he said.

According to a report by Unicef in 2015, 40% of rural folk practice open defecation. Open defecation is a perennial problem and in 2010, a World Bank expert on water and sanitation, Piers Cross declared Zimbabwe, the worst country at this practice. A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch stated that poor sanitation practices like open defecation, lack of water for hand washing led to outbreaks of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid.

In a ministerial statement in Parliament, Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri last October said: “The bad practice of open defecation is also generally on the rise and human waste has been found on illegal dumps and bushy areas. As the rains come, this has greatly exposed the general public to disease outbreaks and epidemics recorded in recent years.”

FCTZ Wash manager, Barnabas Muhoma said they came up with a model of the toilet termed the Blair ventilated improved pit latrine (BVIP) that requires only one bag of cement.

“The problem is that the villagers were reluctant to construct Blair toilets due to poverty. We then devised a way of coming up with an improved structure that is affordable to the community and at the same time beneficial.

This type of toilet is built with only one bag of cement and not five as before. We are happy that the community welcomed the idea and we are expecting that a number of other households from the neighbouring villages will copy,” he said.

The BVIP is simply a ventilated pit toilet. The toilet slab is made with two openings, one for the squat hole and one for the ventilation pipe, which is fitted with a corrosion resistant fly screen.

The vent pipe sucks out air from the pit and fresh air is drawn down through the squat hole.

Apart from the toilets, the villages were also taught best waste management practices.

Mudzi West Member of Parliament Magna Mudyiwa said communities deserve improved sanitation and hygiene facilities and urged others to emulate the drive by Maja villagers.
Today, open defecation is now an offence in the area, as every household now boasts of a latrine.

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