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close this bookGATE - 1/87 - Research and Development (GTZ GATE, 1987, 52 p.)
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Successful Latrine Construction Programme in Zimbabwe
by Hannah Schreckenbach.

Many simple construction methods for low-cost sanitation have been known and used for a long time; and a wealth of literature dealing with this subject - articles, publications etc. (especially as contributions to the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade 1981-1990) has been produced. Even so, widespread application of low-cost solutions to the problem of sanitation in developing countries is only just noticeable.

Most African cities have good sewage disposal systems in the commercial areas, the city centres and in the more affluent residential areas. However, anybody who is familiar with the squatter settlements of Nairobi, Lagos, or Accra (Nima) and has had to use the type of communal latrines in such places, appreciates the problem of sanitation in urban areas. Most of these latrines are health hazards, as is defecating by the roadside, in open areas, on vacant sites or in the bush. This applies to the rural areas as well.

The latrine construction programme
The Government of Zimbabwe, in launching a programme for the supply of drinking water in the Masvingo Province, realized that an improvement in preventive health care can only be achieved if low-cost solutions to disposal problems are implemented at the same time.

Drawing: Hannah Schrecknbach

Fig. 1 Plans of round and square brick structure of the blair vip latrine

In the early 1970s the Blair Research Laboratory of the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe developed a type of latrine which is meanwhile known throughout Africa as the "Blair Latrine". It is known as a VIP - a ventilated improved pit latrine. VlPs represent a safe and reliable method of excrete disposal and are especially suitable for rural areas. When properly built these latrines are odorless and the fly problem is reduced to a minimum. They can be built as single units (best for family use) or in rows (for institutions, schools etc.; Figs. 1 and 2). Blair latrines do not require water to operate. Since they are more dependable and less costly than waterborne sanitary systems they are also valuable in areas where water may be available.

On the initiative of doctors from the Morgenster-Hospital and under the authory of the Ministry of Health pilot projects for the introduction of Blair latrines were started in Zimbabwe in the Serima and Zimutu Communal areas of the Masvingo Province in 1982.

Drawing: Hannah Schreckenbach

Fig.2 Cross section of latrine

The Provincial Medicar Officer of Health, together with the Provincial Health Inspectors and Village Health Workers, provided the ideal structure for widespread implementation of a latrine construction programme.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Bank attached an advisor to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health. Funds from the World Bank for the introduction of low-cost sanitation in rural areas of Zimbabwe were channeled through the GTZ.

It was realized in the early conceptual planning stages of this programme at GATE that successful implementation of such a project could only be guaranteed if it formed part of an integrated rural development project, with active involvement of the people concerned right from the beginning.

So the extended Blair-Vip-Latrine construction programme began in the Masvingo Province in September 1984. It was implemented by the staff of the Provincial Medical Office of Health (MHO), supported by GTZ as a part of the integrated rural development project (CARD) of the Masvingo Province and technically supervised by the TAG advisor.

The aim of the project was to assist residents of communal and resettlement areas in providing adequate excrete disposal facilities for themselves and in promoting their hygienic use in order to improve the health, environmental conditions and quality of life of the people, by constructing about 4000 latrines. In order to achieve this, complementary development of health/hygiene materials was built into the programme from the beginning. A well-building programme was planned and carried out at the same time as the sanitation programme.

The organization of the project was firmly based on community participation and assisted self-help. The Provincial Medical Officer of Health acted as a catalyst in the process by mobilizing the communities, training, and providing a small materials grant and follow-up health/hygiene education. The programme was implemented by the staff of the Provincial MHO as an extension of their duties and activities.

The communities involved built their latrines themselves and provided construction materials such as sand, stones and hand-made bricks. The Ministry of Health provided the necessary cement, reinforcing mesh for concreting the slabs, fly gauze for the ventilation openings and, through the Provincial MHO, assisted in training, mobilization of the community and health/hygiene education.

The successful implementation of this programme can be taken as a model for others, following this simplified plan of operation:

1. After informing the District Administrator and District Council, the MHO staff of the area hold a meeting with the community and their leaders, i.e. the ward counselors and extension workers, political leaders, local Government Promotion Officers etc. The purpose and organization of the project is explained and general approval sought.

2. The Village Health Workers and the health assistants follow up and encourage the community to organize themselves into family construction groups. One or two demonstration latrines are put up for each area.

3. The construction groups excavate the latrine pits, collect raw materials and start making bricks.

4. The health assistants provide cement, reinforcement mesh and a fly screen and assist in the construction of the latrines.

5. Village health workers follow up with health and hygiene education interviews, especially latrine care, hand-washing and encouraging the children to use the latrines etc.

Project ONTAP

The most important point is the motivation and mobilization of the communities involved. The Government of Zimbabwe, in realizing this, coordinated the Project ONTAP ("Our National Technical Awareness Project for Low Cost Water Supply and Sanitation in the Rural Areas of Zimbabwe") through the Ministry of Health.

This project is funded by the University of Zimbabwe's Research Board, Water Aid (UK based) and the GTZ (from the low-cost sanitation project funds and funds from the GTZ/CARD integrated rural development project).

Fundamental to the concept of low-cost sanitation development is the issue of understanding and information. The Blair Research Laboratory has produced a large amount of technical information about the wide range of technologies for sanitation and village water supply developed in Zimbabwe. Since it was found that these technical Bulletins are not easily understood by community level workers, the Blair Research Laboratory has developed and is now testing posters, hand-outs and instruction materials through Project ONTAP. With these materials it will be possible to "bridge the gap" between science and the rural and/or urban communities.

For further information please contact: Mrs. Hannah Schreckenbach GTZ/GATE P.O. Box 5180 6236 Eschorn 1 FRG, or Mrs. Susan Caver Department of Community Medicine Ministry of Health, P.O. Box 8105 Causeway Harare Zimbabwe.

Rural Building

Rural Building is a course book, in tour volumes, designed for people involved in technical vocational training. Although primarily meant for students at vocational training centres, this course is also useful for their teachers because of the extensive and planned way in which the subjects are treated. Technical training information is provided in understandable language and with illustrations suited to the understanding of those involved.

The technical training information is provided in understandable language and with illustrations suited to the understanding of those involved.

The Rural guiding Course consists of four volumes:

1. Reference book: covers the basic tools needed in rural building, how to use and maintain them, and deals with traditional and modern building materials.

2. Basic knowledge: covers the basic techniques of masonry and carpentry and gives the trainee a general idea about basic procedures on a building site.

3. Construction: covers the essential construction techniques; it is built up in the same logical way that a house is constructed: starting with the preliminaries of marking out and ending with the roof construction, hanging the doors, and the finish.

4. Drawing book: covers the making and reading of construction drawings; after an introduction to the techniques of preparing sectional and orthographic drawings, the trainee will find the layout of a whole building from the foundations to the roof.

Rural Building is the result of many years of experiment in Ghana conducted by Dutch and German instructors in simple building techniques required for a rural community. Except for a few corrections and changes in format and binding, this second edition is similar to the first one, published in 1982.

"Rural Building" 2nd edition, 1986, 900 pages. Price: dfl 46.00, postage excluded. ISBN 9070857-11-1. This set of extensively illustrated text books can be obtained from:

TOOL foundation
Entrepotdok 68a
1018 AD Amsterdam
The Netherlands