Designs and Planning Stages

Some of the most important steps toward community involvement during any type of sanitation project arise during the initial planning stages. A major issue that has led to the failure of past sanitation initiatives within informal settlements stems from placing the goals of the provider before the wants of the community (Schouten 2010). It is crucial to work directly with the residents in choosing the correct toilet facility to best suit the community (Schouten 2010). The WaterCan project from 2005 which provided the community of Kampala, Uganda with clean water and improved sanitation realised the importance of this theme, ultimately leading to the success of this project. The project began with meetings between local leaders and residents to discuss the most appropriate water supply and sanitation advances for their specific community, along with the best location for these facilities (Yap 2007). Failure to incorporate community involvement during this stage has proven unfavourable. For example, directly within the community of Langrug, the government installed a number of chemical toilets in an attempt to aid in their lack of proper sanitation. Due to the fact that the government failed to work with the community in choosing these toilets, the residents had little appreciation for the chemical toilets which they found degrading and inadequate, and eventually ended up overturning a few of the facilities (Kenney 2011). This took place during a time when the relationship between the community and the municipality was rather poor. Upon partnering with CORC, the community has opened up to the municipality, allowing them a must stronger sense of trust (Van den Berg 2012).

A study conducted in Pakistan clearly demonstrates how important user preference can be in the success of a facility. It was found that the community refused to accept urine divergent toilets based on their religious principles. However they were more willing to accept facilities incorporating the reuse of waste generated by a sanitation facility (Schouten 2010). Building and integrating a sanitation facility around the specific desires and needs of the community in which it is serving is extremely important towards its long-term sustainability. While there may be a certain design or principle which appears most appropriate for a community, the most important part is ensuring that the community agrees.

Bringing multiple-stakeholders together to formulate one common goal for a sanitation project, or any project, can be a challenge. In the Kibera, Kenya communal sanitation project, the NGOs saw the availability of infrastructure such as water and sewer, along with operation cost, as the most important criteria in choosing the best sanitation technology to implement in a given area. Negating community involvement during this process, these NGOs strongly felt that biogas toilets were the best option for communal sanitation facilities for a number of reasons. On the other hand, another NGO and the majority of the CBOs were strongly opposed to biogas toilets due to the sensitive nature of the biological processes required for continued operation (Schouten 2010).

Complications were also found during a communal toilet construction programme in Pune, India, where thirteen toilet blocks were built with the collaboration of an NGO, Shelter Associates, and the local community. Arriving at a final design for the facilities was a challenge. While a local leader suggested a two-storey block, many women within the community demanded separate toilet blocks for the men and women within the community in order to minimize harassment and increase women’s safety (Hobson 2000). In the end of the design process, every toilet block was different in order to meet the needs of the specific community it served. Despite the number of challenges which may arise, community involvement throughout the planning and design phases of the project was key towards its overall success.