Colombia and Ghana Combine Efforts to Improve Sanitary Conditions

March 17, 2019
Challenge Nyapienya and Langma are rural communities in the Osudoku District of the Greater Accra region, about 6 km from Dodowa, Ghana. Despite their proximity to semi-rural and urban areas, the members of the community live in precarious circumstances and their basic needs are not met. Since only 5 per cent of the houses are connected to sewage systems and most drainpipes are not covered, some families defecate in pipes and open areas. Limited access to health services, clean water and sanitation contributes to 70 per cent of diseases among the population and is one of the main causes of mortality. An important solution is the construction of toilets that do not require water or sewage systems and that can, thus, improve national sanitary conditions. Towards a Solution The rational use of water and the state’s capacity to provide sewage systems are highly relevant. Consequently, training in building a prototype composting toilet and building them were identified as key steps to address the environmental and social sanitary challenges in Nyapienya and Langma. This training promotes collective and participatory activities among community members, where traditional knowledge is recognized and promoted, as is proper residual management, and where accessible, new, low-cost technology is introduced that can be replicated for proper management of human waste. As a result, the composting toilets were decorated with symbolic elements of the Nyapienya and Langma communities. In Nyapienya, the communal leaders of each of the churches bring together the community, the group of assembly men who make important community decisions, members of the local government such as the chief of water and sanitary conditions, INDEPTH Network local directors, teachers in nearby communities and 40 women and men of the community. In Langma, the tribal chief of the area is responsible for communal development. There, the main beneficiaries of the project are members of the Jamestown zone and members from distant communities. Th project also engages young volunteers from Rojal NU- the Network of African Youths for Development – in charge of project replication, and 44 women and men who received training to build three prototypes of compost toilets for their communities. All new technologies, whether alternative or intuitive, must be supported by an appropriate study of social context and a high level of awareness regarding the need for and how to use them. A strong educational programme and training are needed to ensure the design, construction and correct use of the composting toilets, which will be used daily, in keeping with local resources. Accordingly, the Organizmo Foundation developed three stages for project implementation: (i) implementation; (ii) awareness; and, iii) follow-up. INDEPTH1 was present during all of the stages. It was responsible for the community’s ongoing training in the technology and enabled direct follow-up. From the very beginning, plans were in place to replicate the experience so that when the training ends, the leaders can become multipliers and move to nearby communities to share their new knowledge. Today, around 120 people use these toilets daily. This contributes to the proper management of sanitary conditions (SDG 6) and to improving the communities’ health and wellbeing conditions (SDG 3). Additionally, the implementation of dry toilets contributes to the end of poverty (SDG 1) and gender equality (SDG 5) because there is a direct link between female school leaving and the precarious conditions that women from these towns faced due to the poor sanitary conditions they faced when menstruating, which can cause urinary or vaginal diseases. The original proposal to implement this project in Ghana was made by the Colombian Embassy in Ghana, under the aegis of its humanitarian cooperation programme. The Embassy received strong support from Colombia’s international cooperation agency, APC Colombia, which established an alliance with the Organizmo Foundation2 based on its experience developing educational models for green building techniques and alternative technologies. Later, the Organizmo Foundation went to Ghana and taught these communities how to build and use the composting toilets properly. INDEPTH Network and Rojal NU provided support during the initial stages of the project and carried out follow-up actions to ensure the project’s impact and sustainability. The Colombian Embassy in Ghana contributed to the construction of an additional two toilet prototypes, thereby guaranteeing the replication of the project. Composting toilets are an appropriate technology in settings where water and sewers are lacking. The composting bath is designed to dehydrate faecal matter in a healthy decomposition process. Initially, the Organizmo Foundation applied this technology and its training programme in Colombian communities located in Amazonas, Sucre, Magdalena, Cundinamarca and Chocó, among others. The composting bath technology can be replicated in any other developing country where the implementation of appropriate or intuitive alternative technologies is needed. It can be used to allow individuals and social groups to assume the responsibility of transforming territories exposed to degenerative processes into sustainable environments. The major challenge in replicating this project is the need for an awareness programme that must accompany construction of the toilets’ technology. This programme is focused on generating a change in the dynamics of the community by developing a different understanding of the environment and the cycles of nature. To achieve comprehensive impacts, these technologies must:
  • be based on traditional knowledge;
  • adapt to the territory;
  • strengthen local exchange with solidarity principles;
  • take into consideration the sociocultural context of the communities that build them;
  • optimize the use and processing of local resources and energy sources in its design;
  • be applied at the local level;
  • be creative in their construction; and
  • be appropriable and scalable by the community.
Sustainable Development Goals Target: 3.8, 3.9, 3.c, 6.2,6.3, 6.b Countries/ territories involved: Colombia, Ghana Supported by: APC-Colombia, Fundación Organizmo, Colombian Embassy in Africa, INDEPTH Network and Royal Nu Implementing Entities: INDEPTH Network, Rojal NU and Nyapienya and Langma communities. Project status: Completed Project period: August 2017-November 2017. URL of practice: Contact: Name: Ms. Ana María Gutierrez, Organizmo Foundation, Director, Colombia Email: