It all began in 2011 under the hot summer sun, with basketball, chatter, hip hop in the background, as the two sweaty basketball friends had a serious debate about the global sanitary crisis and the acute problems in India.
Now, two and a half years have passed. We have successfully completed a bicycle tour from Berlin to Delhi, have founded an association called Non-Water Sanitation e.V. with the two initiatives ‘Kleingartenkampagne’ and ‘EcoToi’, we also launched Change Architects, Change Film, and Change Travels, we have collected donations of altogether 15,000 €, produced a documentary film, published short films on ARTE Future, won the German Prize for Business Communication and are proud that the Ophrah Magazine, Focus and the Indian Times featured our Guts for Change project – yet this is all void if in the end no functioning dry toilets have been completed in India.
However, in India things go pretty well too…..
“Thomas, I will research, how expensive a shipping container between Hamburg and Mumbai is going to be, so maybe we could ship up to 10 dry toilets by Separett and introduce them at the Dahravi slum in Mumbai.”
That’s how it all started. We were full of ideas and visions and we researched diligently, but were not able to develop any concrete implementation strategies – but we found the German Toilet Organization, the Ecosan Services Foundation and other fervent supporters, who have given our visions a realistic framework. This framework was extremely important and essential for the project implementation, therefore I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a reliable partner on-site. And it was this cooperation that enabled us to receive 14,000 € from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for more dry toilets.
“Thomas, today I visit Darewadi to see whether the 35 dry toilets are finished. Can you please check the business plan for EcoToi once again and can you please ask Roman, whether the designs for the school toilets and accommodation are completed. Oh and please ask Johann how our documentary “Sanitation in India” is going as I am meeting the Shelter Association in Pune tomorrow and they have offered us their help.”
That’s how fast things have developed. We are becoming more professional and we are looking for new projects. We want to build another 35 UDDTs, so how can we expand the current project? How about soap production, menstrual hygiene, or should we set up Tippy-Tapps in slums? Or should we launch new school toilet projects in India, Congo, Ghana, or Pakistan?
Stop! Hold on….Let’s go back to our first project! How does it go? Has it been successfully completed? Can it serve as best practice for other projects in the region, or even for international projects?
The first project phase, the construction of 10 UDDTs, was officially completed in the summer of 2013. The reason for the delay was because the construction process took longer than expected, as we already reported in our last project update. For the new project phase, we therefore engaged a different construction company, otherwise the strict requirements of the BMZ could not be met. That phase was extremely exciting, as the GTO and the ESF then had to report to the BMZ. As the result, we received another 14,000 € for our Darewadi project. The grant encouraged all parties to comply with the objectives and to put them into practice.
As a result, the third project visit was very exciting. But it turned out to be very informative and also successful after all. Within 6 months, another 25 UDDTs were built. Since December 2013, the village Darewadi, consisting of four village areas, has 35 dry toilets. 175 people benefit from the toilets directly and the remaining 100 people benefit from it indirectly.
- Construction of 25 additional UDDTs
- Construction of two Pour-Flush toilets for the school with septic tank
- New rain water collection tanks (2,000 litre) for the school with a new gutter
- 35 x 200 litre water tanks, in order to carry out the hygiene measures
- UDDT construction training for all 25 UDDT owners
- 25 posters explaining the usage of the toilets
- Various trainings and surveys on menstrual hygiene and on using the toilets
- Training with farmers concerning the re-use of faeces and urine
- New mango trees have been planted throughout Darewadi, the school got a garden, and the farmers could increase their output by using urine
- Darewadi is already a best practice case for students in Delhi, Pune and Mumbai > many visitors and scientific experts have already visited the village and interviewed the users of the toilets
- 5 more villages want to have UDDTs as well
Yet to be implemented & areas for improvement:
- 3 UDDTs are not yet used and 2 UDDTs are no longer used
- The school children are not using the Tippy-Tapps routinely
- The training on washing hands needs improvement
- Open defecation is unfortunately still practiced
- The village has a general problem with plastic waste, which makes it difficult to access two UDDTs
Of course it is easier for a project manager to present the positive sides of a project rather than admitting actual problems. However, there are only few minor problems and we have already developed adaptation measures for future school toilet projects.
30 of 35 UDDTs are currently fully used. Two toilets must still be tiled and three other toilets are unfortunately not used. Unfortunately, this includes the double UDDT. One toilet has a broken door and the other toilet is supposedly leaking, as the owner reports. After long and intense discussions with the owner and Ganesh, project manager at the ESF, we found out the real problem: the owner simply has no cordless screwdriver to resolve the issue himself. According to the ESF, each owner had received construction training for the necessary skills. It must be stressed that it is the responsibly of each UDDT owner to keep their UDDT clean and to ensure its operability. Now it is necessary to clarify whether it is the fault of the first construction company or whether it is the laziness of the UDDT owner. As a possible final enforcing measure, we consider to move the double UDDT to two other families in the immediate vicinity. The third toilet has been opened only a month ago and unfortunately it is not used yet. The owner promised us to start using it.
Unfortunately, we have observed that open defecation is still practised in the village. 20 percent of the inhabitants are still without a toilet, and the question is, how quickly the knowledge can be passed on to the children, as it is mostly children between 3-5 years, who still defecate outside. Therefore, the training at the village nursery needs to be strengthened.
Sadly, it has to be said for the Adivasi school project as well as the Darewadi project that the Tippy-Tapps could not help promoting a regular hand wash routine. They have only been used short-term as part of our training sessions. In both projects, using soap has not been successfully integrated yet as there were too many difficulties. We have discussed very intensively with the headmaster and explained how important regular hand wash routine is and that we recommend to use the Tippy-Taps with the normal hand wash fixtures. The children should learn about daily hygiene as soon as possible at the school with a hands-on approach. I have to say that I am quite disappointed that it has been so difficult for us to implement this properly in order to reduce the risk of direct transfer of germs, which is particularly dangerous for small infants.
Unfortunately, the garbage problem is a common problem in developing countries, especially in India. Plastic garbage is everywhere. It pollutes the environment and people burn it and they ruin their lungs. There are two small landfills in Darewadi for plastic waste. Unfortunately, two of our UDDTs are very close to them, so that access for these families is more dangerous. The problem persists for years and the short-term solution is to relocate the garbage outside of the village community. Of course, this is not a desirable condition and at the same time a major environmental problem.
Sometimes a sweet lassi and a deep breath was needed…Johann used to quote this beautiful saying once in a while: Chaltae..
It means as much as “it is what it is.” The project is going very well, and we will correct the remaining issues over the next few months. Altogether, I am extremely satisfied with the course of the project. The issues we are now trying to tackle: How can we mange to establish sustainable soap production in a short time and how can we implement a successful training on washing hands in rural areas, in slums and in schools? When we were young, our mothers slapped our fingers when we touched the mouth with dirty hands. But the required knowledge must first be communicated in order for it to be implemented over generations. Therefore, I see the school as the most important institution to provide knowledge on hygiene. As a result, it is up to us to actually put it into practice this year… The project goes on …
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