Construction and Implementation

Community involvement during the construction phase of the project is beneficial in a number of ways. During the Phelandaba sanitation project, community members actively participated in the digging of the pits for their pit latrines. Once a particular household was ready to dig their own pit, they were provided with the necessary tools and materials to do so (Makhetha 2007). Past WPI projects have also realised the importance of community participation during the construction phases of their projects. The 2011 Greywater management team worked side-by-side with community members to build a greywater channel in the J-section of Langrug, utilising an eight step process that is described in our planning pages, to maximize community participation throughout the entire project. This process was then instilled in the I-section also, where the WPI students worked more as consultants than actual labourers during the project, proving that the community is capable of not only providing physical labour, but also organising the entire project (Harris 2011).

As with any process, challenges have and will arise, regarding community involvement during the construction phase of a sanitation project. During the Kibera Sanitation Project, it was found that a major problem was getting community members to volunteer during the construction phases without being paid. Earlier projects within the community paid members for their services, in a way “spoiling” the community (Schouten 2010). On the contrary, a common problem facing nearly all informal settlements is high unemployment rates. One might argue that if there was any way of paying residents for their efforts, such a system should never be ignored. The 2011 Greywater team incorporated a payment program for people working on one of the greywater channels, organised by the local government, CORC, and the community leadership (Harris 2011).

While it is clear how community participation during the construction phases helps reduce construction costs, the most important outcome of voluntary community labour pertains to the promotion of ownership within the community through their true participation in the project. The lasting success of the Phelandaba sanitation project is believed to be due to the strong sense of ownership. Along with the physical labour which residents voluntarily provided throughout the project, the community was responsible for electing a sanitation steering committee to take care of aspects of the project relating to management and financial decisions. This committee was not only in charge of major decisions during the construction phase of the project, but also in managing their own banking account (Makhetha 2007). By directly including the community within all aspects of the project, such as the physical construction and management issues, a strong sense of ownership will hopefully be found. This sense of ownership in turn helps foster successful care and maintenance by the community.