TO HAVE OR NOT TO HAVE

Why low income earners living in low-income communities should own household latrines

1In the Year 2000, eight Development Goals were adopted and christened “the Millennium Development Goals”(MDGs) following a successful Millennium Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

On the 31st December, 2015, the world marked the end of a 15 year journey of implementing the Millennium Development Goals. Ghana missed painfully the sanitation specific target of the Millennium Development Goals.

Ghana committed, alongside other Goals, to achieve 54% coverage on the sanitation-specific target under Millennium Development Goal 7 on environmental sustainability. 15 years later, Ghana’s national sanitation coverage stands at only15%, well below the 54% target.

Faced with this stark reality back in 2011, when the Ghana Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) revealed that one in four households in Ghana lived without a toilet,the Government of Ghana and its Development Partners redoubled efforts to expand sanitation coverage. The aim was simply to connect sanitation and creation efforts to the sanitation supply chain to achieve holistic and sustainable coverage. Although significant progress was made in creating demand, progress was slow in achieving corresponding supply of sanitation services and adoption of household latrines. This was particularly observed in urban and per-urban communities, even when willing and able households were linked to credit services.

Reasons such as poverty, socio-cultural and technical issues continue to be cited forthe inability of households to own latrines. These issues have impacted communities’ acceptance, adoption and use of household latrines and therefore contributed to the woefully low level of sanitation coverage in Ghana.

2To create a shared understanding of each of these broad issues,which affect the quest for the adoption and use of household latrines in Ghana, this article will focus on each of them in turn to generate possible discussion and help find sustainable and acceptable solutions towards improving sanitation coverage in Ghana.

 

 

Poverty as an issue:

It is undoubtedly true that people in low-income communities who do not own or have access to household latrines cannot be easily persuaded to use what little income they have to construct a latrine.
Over the years, SNV Netherlands Development Organization has learned that even when people are persuaded of the benefits of owning a latrine, the apparent high cost of building a household latrine keeps many low-income households from constructing and using such facilities.

A recent behavior change communication study conducted by SNV in eight districts confirmed that many people considered it normal to defecate in the open, as this was the practice they had grown up observing amongst their parents and elders.

The decision not to use a household latrine is even more pronounced amongst people in urban communities,where alternative latrine facilities such as public toilets are available to them. Many people prefer to use these public latrines as they perceive thisto be less expensive.

Indeed, there is an ongoing concern among low-income communities that constructing a household latrine must be costly.To contextualize the cost of constructing a household latrine, it is important to delve deeper into what constitutes high cost in Ghana (or in any other developing country for that matter)this will help both to shape an understanding of what is considered high cost and to avoid falling into the trap of defining the cost of a household latrine in isolation.

This is paramount because the construction of a household latrine is seen by many as a venture that does not immediately yield any tangible monetary results or benefits,despite sanitation demand creation and behavior change communication interventions.

If this is true, what could account for and perpetuate this? Could it be that communities are only sensitize to appreciate the ultimate need for latrines without a corresponding discussion on the cost of owning a latrine? Or there is inadequate discussion on the need for communities to own household latrine as against the cost of paying on daily basis (in both monetary and non-monetary terms) to use an alternative improved latrine, especially in urban communities?

Answers to these questions should be found in the daily delivery of sanitation projects by change agents in developing countries.

The financial cost

To highlight the monetary aspect, this document tries to provide two scenarios, along withsome assumptions for further discussion. The scenarios assume:

persuaded to use what little income they have to construct a latrine.
Over the years, SNV Netherlands Development Organization has learned that even when people are persuaded of the benefits of owning a latrine, the apparent high cost of building a household latrine keeps many low-income households from constructing and using such facilities.

A recent behavior change communication study conducted by SNV in eight districts confirmed that many people considered it normal to defecate in the open, as this was the practice they had grown up observing amongst their parents and elders.

The decision not to use a household latrine is even more pronounced amongst people in urban communities,where alternative latrine facilities such as public toilets are available to them. Many people prefer to use these public latrines as they perceive this to be less expensive.

Indeed, there is an ongoing concern among low-income communities that constructing a household latrine must be costly.To contextualize the cost of constructing a household latrine, it is important to delve deeper into what constitutes high cost in Ghana (or in any other developing country for that matter)this will help both to shape an understanding of what is considered high cost and to avoid falling into the trap of defining the cost of a household latrine in isolation.

This is paramount because the construction of a household latrine is seen by many as a venture that does not immediately yield any tangible monetary results or benefits,despite sanitation demand creation and behaviour change communication interventions.

If this is true, what could account for and perpetuate this? Could it be that communities are only sensitised to appreciate the ultimate need for latrines without a corresponding discussion on the cost of owning a latrine? Or there is inadequate discussion on the need for communities to own household latrine as against the cost of paying on daily basis (in both monetary and non-monetary terms) to use an alternative improved latrine, especially in urban communities?

Answers to these questions should be found in the daily delivery of sanitation projects by change agents in developing countries.

The financial cost

To highlight the monetary aspect, this document tries to provide two scenarios, along with some assumptions for further discussion. The scenarios assume:

An average household size of five (based on national census data 2010)
A dailyand cumulative fee that a household pays for the use of a public latrine is considered as the income that could be used by the household to service a loan

  • Household members visit the public toilet facility twice in a day (once in the morning and once in the evening)
  • That the lifespan of a toilet facility is nine years for a household of five people.
  • There is a household maintenance contribution in the form of man hours spent in cleaning the latrine, as well as cost of toiletries and detergents
  • Man-hours are calculated using an estimate of 20minutes per a day, with a minimum daily rate of Gh¢8.5.
  • The cost of maintenance remains same over the period
  • A financial projection for nine years, divided into:
  • An initial three years of a household with a household latrine financed through a loan;against a household without a household latrine that pays to use a public latrine.
  • An additional three years after the initial three years of the loan period.
  • A final three years, making a cumulative period of nine years

 

Scenario 1: The cost of using a public latrine by a household

A household of five members in a typical community in Greater Accra uses the nearest public toilet facility and pays GH¢1 per person as a usage fee.The household members pay an average GH¢10 per day to visit the public latrine twice per day per person.

 

Cumulatively the household will spend GH¢70 weekly and GH¢280 on a monthly basis, with a projected total annual expenditure of GH¢3,360. In three years the household would have spent a total GH¢10,950of in fees for using public toilets.

 

Scenario 2:The cost of building a latrine using credit facility

A household of five in Greater Accra decides to obtain a loan from a financial institution to construct a latrine. The household decides to select an improved latrine at an average cost of GH¢4,305 and at an interest rate of 40%(3.33% per month). The loan is amortized using a flat rate basis over a period of three years, the household is expected to pay a total of GH¢7,749, with a monthly repayment of GH¢207.11

 

How much to pay and for which option?

If a household decides to opt for scenario one or two, it pays a cumulative amount of GH¢280 or GH¢207.11 on a monthly basis respectively. In addition to the monthly loan repayment, the household is also expected to contribute in-kind and in cash to the maintenance of the household latrine. The cost in kind and cash include the manhours expected to be used in cleaning, purchase of detergents and toilet rolls. It is estimated that a monthly additional cost of GH¢37.33 will be paid, making a total of GH¢1,344 for the three-year period.

Phase Items Household choice of latrine service
Public Ownership
Phase 1- Initial three years Capital cost (loan principal) 4,305.00
Interest payment 3,444.00
Monthly amortised rate 207.11
Maintenance Cost 1,344.00
Utilisation/Service charge 10,950.00
Phase 2- Additional three Capital cost
Interest payment
Maintenance Cost 1,344.00
Utilisation/Service charge 10,950.00
Phase 3-Final three years Capital cost
Interest payment
Maintenance Cost 1,344.00
Utilisation/Service charge 10,950.00
Total 32,850.00 11,781.00
Less salvage value 0 2,152.50
Cost of venture 32,850.00 9,628.50

 

Beyond three years

In putting together the two scenarios and with an additional six years of projections, the household with a latrine will incur a total cost of GH¢9,628.50, whilst the household without the latrine would spend a total of GH¢32,850.

Remarkably, whereas the household with a latrine will incur a maintenance cost of Gh¢2,688 over a six-year period after the initial cost of installation, the household using a pay-as-you use latrine facility will be incurring a cost of Gh¢21,900

In addition, the household has a salvage component with a value of Gh¢2,152.50 after the three-year repayment period for option two, which option one does not have.

 

The non-financial cost

It is no secret that beside the high cumulative cost of adopting pay-as-you use latrines, there are other key non-financial costs incurred. These costs are not normally quantified in monetary terms, but are none the less significant.These include long queues and hours spent waiting to use latrines, snake bites along the path to and from public toilets, absence of privacy even when there are cubicles, and the high probability of one being contaminated by faecal matter – especially in unhygienic public latrines.

 

Yes, the public latrines offer a bit of relief for low-income households in urban areas without latrines; however the social costs associated with this when quantified in monetary terms can be extremely high.

 

Queuing, especially during peak hours, is a common issue-and costs significant time that could be used for other activities. On the other hand those without the patience to wait for their turn in the queue may resort to defecating into plastic bags. The result of this practice is the popular “flying toilets” which continue to block drainage systems in urban communities.

 

According to the Water and Sanitation Platform report‘Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa, 2012’, Ghana loses US$1.5 million each year from productivity losses due to illness or time spent accessing healthcare. This includes time absent from work or school due to diarrhea disease, seeking treatment from health clinics or hospitals, and time spent caring for under-fives suffering from diarrhea or other sanitation-related diseases.

Public latrines

It is important to emphasis that the national sanitation model and strategy clearly defines why and where public latrines should be built and who should use them. Public latrines are built at marketplaces, truck stops and recreational parks for use by travellers or people in transit. Households,on the other hand,are expected to build, own and use household latrines.

 

Remarks and recommendations

Amongst other factors, the decision to build a household latrine is dependent on the availability of funding either by loan or grant.

 

The argument to stop subsidies through grants has been widely accepted and is evident in national policies and strategies. One such national strategy being implemented in Ghana,which clearly frowns on subsidy,is the rural sanitation model. The use of households’ own capital for latrine constructionis being promoted as the best way to ensure ownership and sustainable use of latrines in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. However the initial capital outlay required for the construction of a household toilet is usually a challenge.

Making loan facilities available to pay for the initial cost of constructing a household latrine can go a long way to better positioning and accelerating the adoption of household latrines.

 

The good news is that there are financial institutionsin Ghana ready to give out loans on favourable repayment terms for household latrine construction. There are also micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) providing services within the sanitation service chain.

 

The decision whether or not to invest in a latrineshould generate further discussion amongst many readers of this article. In supporting the implementation of the national sanitation model and policy, it will be important for all development agents to promote the use of public latrines only by travellers and traders in the marketplaces, truck stops and other recreational locations, while households adopt and use their own latrines to help ensure Ghana takes its place on the list of countries with 100% household latrine coverage.

Developed by:

Justina Anglaaere and Enoch Cudjoe, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

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