Existing Sanitation OptionsThere are a range of sanitation options in Kumasi, Ghana, though none are perfect.The following few pages represent most of the existing options as we observed them,in order of their desirability.
Open DefecationWith public toilets costing between 3 and 15 cents per use, it can be asignificant financial burden for an entire family to use them every day.This leads many to resort to open defecation, a practice that spreadsdisease and contaminates water, while also bringing shame upon theperson. We saw this more frequently in peri-urban areas or by childrenin urban areas. There are generally contained areas for open defeca-tion, like cemetaries or areas near the public toilets.
Flying ToiletsTo avoid the shame that comes with open defecation, or to preventan inconvenient trip to the public toilets in the dark of the night, manypeople will use a chamber pot and empty its contents into a plastic bagthe following morning. Known as “flying toilets,” these bags are oftentossed in roadside ditches, garbage piles, or, as in this picture, waterways.
Bucket LatrinesA bucket latrine is a metal or plastic bucket enclosed in a woodenbox/seat, built into a small privacy room in the common area of amulti-family compound. They’re locked to prevent use by outsiders,and are emptied every few days by a night-soil collector from a trap-doorin the back of the privacy room. The cost of the collection servicesis generally shared between the members of the compound. Theselatrines were outlawed in the 1990’s because the night-soil collectorswere often dumping their contents onto the street and encouragingthe spread of disease, but can still be found in parts of Ghana. Wenoticed these were more prevalent in Accra than in Kumasi.
Public ToiletsOriginally built around markets and other publicspaces, public toilets became the norm for themajority of urban Ghanaians with the outlawing ofbucket latrines. They’re generally blocks of 15-20squatting stalls with minimal (if any) privacy, andvarying degrees of cleanliness. They cost between3 and 20 cents each use, with long queues in themornings and evenings, and rarely with water towash your hands. Strips of newspaper are oftenprovided for wiping. For some public toilets, childrenare allowed in for free. When they are not, theyoftentimes do not use the public toilets and resort toopen defecation.
Pit Latrines / Septic TanksAlbeit few, some households have been able to save the $500-$1000necessary to build a basic latrine in their homes. They’re generallynot much more than an underground collection tank with a privacyshelter built overhead and a squatting/sitting toilet inside, but they offersignificant convenience and health benefits to their owners. Every fewyears, though, they must empty the waste with a vacuum truck (a fewhundred dollars per tank), which takes it to the city’s landfill to dump it.Alternative models, like the Kumasi Improved Ventilated Pits, offerimprovements like ventilation and the ability to use two tanks to turnthe waste into compost (eliminating the need for vacuum trucks) butthese require more upfront investment. Additionally, KVIP’s may not,despite their name, be suitable for Kumasi because the soil contentand water tables in the area aren’t well suited for the design.
Municipal Sewer SystemAlthough Kumasi does have a sewer system and three waste-watertreatment plants (one of which is shown here), there are only about athousand homes connected to it in a city of over a million residents.And, unfortunately, maintenance is challenging for the cash-strappedgovernment, so any plans to expand the sewer’s reach would beexpensive and difficult.
Thank you!IDEO, Unilever, and Water and Sanitation for the Urban PoorHousehold Toilet Project for Kumasi, GhanaDecember 15, 2010Twitter: @ghanasanBlog: www.ghanasan.wordpress.comOpenIDEO: www.openideo.com