Embracing move towards an open defecation free village
By Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa
08 November, 2012 – Binga:, An iconic figure has emerged from among the Tonga people of Binga, a community, whose ardent hold onto their cultural and traditional ways has often been viewed as archaic. Within Kasi Village, situated more than 1 000km north west of the capital city, Harare, Gogo Saliya Mumpande is lauded as being one of the first villagers to embrace change and set up a toilet at her homestead.
Since settling in this dry and arid part of the country before 1947, the Mumpande family has never built a toilet, but has instead used the bushes for purposes of defecating. But now in her golden years, Gogo Mumpande has heeded the lessons being chanted under the Zimbabwe Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (ZimCATS) project which UNICEF, together with Government and Civil Society partners is encouraging the creation of Open Defecation Free Villages. AusAid is providing the financial support necessary for the roll out of this project.
“Using the bushes had become our culture and lifestyle….we had become so used to it and we never saw anything wrong with it”, says Gogo Mumpande as she chuckles and points to the limited vegetation around her homestead and declares them as her toilet of the past.
They are not alone, throughout Zimbabwe, more than 69% of rural households have for long failed to have access to improved toilet facilities, and 39% of them practice open defecation. In the district of Binga, sanitation coverage is at only 5.9%. In Kasi village, 15homesteads (consisting of 49 households) did not have toilet facilities the time the ZimCATS project was introduced in January 2012. The ZimCATS project was piloted as a step towards affording every human being the decency and privacy required during defecation, while at the same time reducing the spread of diseases associated with improper fecal disposal.
Today a near completion toilet is being accessed by the eight households who live under Mumpande’s homestead. As subscribed under the ZimCATS project, Gogo Mumpande and her family have used locally available materials in the construction of their super structure, and thus a pole and dagga structure surrounds the pit that has been cement lined and slabbed. The roof of this local version of a uBVIP toilet is thatched and is set to be installed with an air vent to allow proper air circulation.
“A lot of people think that we the Tonga people do not want to develop; we want to be as modern as people in other parts of the country but often we do not have proper information and we are poor”, says Gogo Mumpande.
“Under this project, communities are being empowered to realise that with the materials locally available to them, they can put up a toilet and reduce the incidents of diarrheal diseases which are mostly caused by poor sanitation,” says UNICEF Representative, Dr. Gianni Murzzi.
But it is not easy for a community to achieve 100% ODF status as there remain pockets of resistance among some of the villagers. The Mudhimba family, headed by Austin Mudhimba, remains the only homestead refusing to dig a pit for the setting up of a toilet. This family, which is migrant by nature and recently settled in Kase village, believes that going into the bush, digging a small hole and hiding the feces is just as hygienic a practice as using a toilet. While the female occupants of this homestead would not mind a toilet in their yard, Austin is refusing outrightly.
“What our neighbors do not realise is that our domestic animals are free range and they will eventually unearth and eat on these faeces,” laments Gogo Mumpande. “This means when I eventually eat my chickens, I will likely get diseases from their waste.”
A critical instrument in the roll out of the ZimCATS project has been setting up of Sanitation Action Groups (SAG), a team of dedicated locally based cadres instituted to get community buy-in and to further support community initiatives in the construction of latrines. One of the urgent assignments of the SAG will be to find mechanisms to convince Austin Mudhimba to follow the example of the other 49 households who are working towards making Kase village Open Defecation Free.