Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

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  • Linda2019
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  • Dr Linda East is an Honorary Associate Professor in Health Sciences (Nottingham University, UK) and a Trustee of Dream Big Ghana Foundation (UK).
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Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

I am a trustee of a UK charity that fundraises to support the work of Dream Big Ghana, an NGO in the Volta Region of Ghana.  We have just completed a survey of school toilets in two of the villages we serve, including taking a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed.  Conditions are pretty grim, but the NGO has already started remedial work based on the findings of the survey. Please take a look at our work - all comments welcome!
Dream Big Ghana School Sanitation Survey
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Dear Linda,

I had a read through the survey document. Just to give a small background about the Ecosan for anyone who is new to this type of sanitation option, Ecosan toilets are above ground units that safely store and recycle human excreta, using natural processes to transform that waste into a safe, organic compost and fertilizer.  Once the chamber is emptied of all compost inside, the back slab can be sealed with cement once more and the toilet is ready to use again. The compost can then be used for agriculture purposes.

As stipulated by the research on the criticism of Ecosan which is the high cost of implementation required to build the facilities. The Ecosan toilets that DBG builds in schools cost approximately $15,000. Critics of Ecosan state that high initial costs severely affect the long-term sustainability of any Ecosan projects. It would be great to hear more about how DBG has looked into project sustainability in this regard?

Regardless of its costs, Ecosan’s appropriateness in rural areas lacking sanitation facilities and featuring high levels of agricultural employment make it an attractive technology if the subsidies are available. An improved sanitation facility such as a VIP with a sealed slab or an Ecosan toilet requires regular emptying once full. If it is emptied the correct way, then it can be classed as providing the school with a safely managed sanitation service. However, if it is not emptied appropriately then only basic sanitation service is being provided. From what  I noted in the analysis of research question 1 of the survey, that Dzita Basic School is being provided with a safely managed sanitation
service because the compost is emptied from the chamber once the process is complete. Agbledomi and Philio Basic Schools confirmed that the latrines are emptied once they fill up, therefore, providing the schools with a safely managed sanitation service. On the other hand, Anyanhui Basic School scored 0 for Q18, meaning the school’s sanitation facilities are only providing a basic service. Philip recorded the lowest ratio of students-to-toilets for males and females, However, the male ratio is still half over the recommended ratio, the female
ratio over approximately 100% over the recommended ratio. This I found quite interesting, and echo’s further the need for inclusiveness in respect to MHM needs for girls' facilities.

Overall great study! And thank you for sharing.

Regards,
Chaiwe
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Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
Independent consultant located in Lusaka, Zambia
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  • Linda2019
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Dear Chaiwe
Thank you so much for your comments, and apologies it has taken us so long to respond. We are a volunteer-led charity riaisng funds for sanitation in the UK, and it has been holiday time etc.  Yes, the high cost of installing EcoSan is a barrier to the wider use of this approach and something we are very conscious of.  Dream Big Ghana NGO is dependent on international fundraising to support its programme of work in EcoSan, although they are liaising closely with local government, who would like to see this work extended. On the other hand, our EcoSan toilets are built to last.  Dream Big Ghana NGO operates out of an eco-tourist lodge near Keta, so is in a position to manage the sanitation programme over the long term.  The NGO delivers on-going community education and maintenance of the toilets. We are currently coming to the end of the school toilet rehabilitation we discussed in our report, including converting non-functional pit latrines into fully functional composting units.  We also have a project underway to examine the impact of using the compost on local agricultural yields, and have been testing the safety of the compost.  For more info (and some great photos!), please see Dream Big Ghana NGO's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DreamBigGhana  
Thank you!
Linda (On behalf of Dream Big Ghana Foundation , UK) 
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  • raogk
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Dear Linda
Wonderful work and initiative.

What does it cost? What iabthebO&M cost? What are the front end and back end activities to be performed for its effective functioning?

What are the institutional arrangements for implementation and maintenance?

Does your experience enable scaling up to other schools considering financial and operational viability?

Please enlighten me on these issues.

Warm regards
G Kondala Rao
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Dear Linda,

Thank you for sharing further details.  There are some very nice images of the facilities on your Facebook page. I especially like the inclusive toilets factoring in MHM. :-).

Rao raises some good points. Looking forward to your response.

Regards,
Chaiwe
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Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
Independent consultant located in Lusaka, Zambia
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @ChaiweSanderse

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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Hi Rao, and thank you for your feedback

Like all good EcoSan, the up-front investment is significant - about £15,000 for a new build school block.  I'm afraid I'm not the technical experts, but you can see the design on our web site here: architect's drawings for EcoSan school toilet block . Our masons are very experienced and we are hoping to develop an EcoSan construction training programme from our base in Ghana. 

Aiming to achieve cost-effectiveness and the best environmental solutions, our NGO has recently completed the refurbishment of the toilets at two local schools for around £8,500, with a report from our Programmes Director as follows:

We are delighted to see schools reopening to students in our locality, which means we can officially present and pass over new and upgraded sanitation and hygiene facilities to Agbledomi and Philio Basic Schools. Earlier this year we conducted an evaluation on all local schools which revealed serious short comings in the level of services that was being provided. This resulted in some students and teachers practicing open defecation. Using the World Health Organisation and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme as a guide, we have invested in the facilities at both schools to ensure a safely managed sanitation service is being provided.

The rehabilitation project included:
1) Repurposing KVIP units into Ecological Sanitation composting units. Previously toilets would be abandoned when full due to sandy ground preventing a truck reaching the facilities to empty safely. Now each cubicle composts faecal matter and can be emptied safely every 6-8 months;

2) The floors of all cubicles have been tiled to enable easy cleaning;

3) Custom made toilet seats in line with what local leaders have been requesting;

4) Constructed and updated urinal facilities to take pressure off the cubicles;

5) Created window holes in the cubicles to allow natural light to enter;

6) Ensured all rainwater harvesting facilities are functioning to provide water for handwashing and cleaning;

7) Provided a female menstrual hygiene space to allow for MHM during school, accompanied with an educational course from public health nurse and the Adolescent Girls Advocate @tagaghana Founder, Rosina Ahot-Mensah. Together we have improved all aspects of sanitation for these very happy Kings and Queens!

The full set of 'before and after' photos can be found on the NGO's, Facebook page here:   www.facebook.com/DreamBigGhana 

We are excited about the potential for this rehab refurbishment work, and are consulting with UNICEF and the local government (who built the original, non-functional toilets).  However, costs are an issue, with our EcoSan programme still dependent on international fundraising. Also key to the success of our programmes is the nature of Dream Big Ghana NGO, which provides the long-term support, education and maintenance work to keep the EcoSan running successfully. The NGO works out of a not-for-profit Eco Lodge which, pre-Covid, was able to finance quite a significant part of our programmes and will hopefully get there again (the Lodge has just been recognised as one of the top twelve places to visit in Ghana in a CNN Travel report! ). 

With best wishes

Linda
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Hi Linda,

Great to hear from you here. I think there are many interesting sanitation projects in Ghana so it would be great if more Ghanaians or visitors to Ghana wrote on the forum like you have done. So a warm welcome! 

I like your model of financing the school toilets via a not-for-profit eco lodge for tourists. Nice! Has tourism in Ghana come to a halt or is it still going?

Looking at your pictures ( https://www.facebook.com/DreamBigGhana ) I am wondering:
  1. How did you do the repurposing of KVIP units into Ecological Sanitation composting units? The ecosan /UDDT units are usually raised whereas a pit latrine is not. Also a pit latrine allows no easy access to the fecal matter. How did you therefore convert a pit latrine into a UDDT?
  2. I see some of the facilities have no roof. How come? Do the pupils feel safe and comfortable in toilets without roofs?
  3. Looking at the pictures of the old, grubby toilets I wonder if a lot of the grubby look just comes from the old paint or lack of paint. I assume that the elements are really harsh in that area so a building that is beautifully painted probably has to be repainted after only a few years to keep its beautiful look?
That's a really beautiful colour that you have chosen for the toilet blocks! Copying below two photos from your facebook page:




 

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Thank you so much for your interest and comments, Elisabeth.  I'm going to email the questions over to the team in Ghana, will post again when I have the answers.
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Hi Elisabeth - thank you again for your great questions.  I can confirm Meet Me There Lodge opened again in July and is operating at a reduced capacity with Covid prevention measures in place.  I'm not sure if you ever visit Ghana, but do come see us if you do!  I contacted our Ghana-based Director, Dougal Croudace, who sent the following response to your questions. What we are doing is quite experimental at this stage, but is being watched with interest by colleagues at UNICEF Ghana, who funded the installation of some of the KVIP toilets and by the local government. 

1) Please refer to the image attached. Apologies I'm out of the office so had to google the image. KVIP's have got an access slab at the back. They have two chambers per cubicle similar to that of the EcoSan. When the toilets are full these slabs are cracked open and the sludge is removed either by a fecal sludge tanker or done manually by humans using buckets. In our community the normal process is to just build new toilet facilities once the KVIP units get full up (or not build and revert to open defecation)  because a) the toilets are normally inaccessible for fecal sludge tankers and b) there isn't actually a functioning fecal sludge tanker in our district. So with this in mind we decided to experiment with two local school KVIP facilities which were mainly not being used due to the smell being so unbearable. So we have built/ upgraded the urinals at the schools and have advised students and teachers to use the urinals if all they need is to urinate. This will hopefully take pressure off and reduce the urine and moisture in the repurposed KVIP's as we have not incorporated any urine diversion designs. We have introduced the addition of sawdust like our EcoSan facilities to act as our carbon element to help with composting process and to also reduce the odour. Finally, the part that we have not tried yet. Once the chambers have been closed off for a minimum of 6 months we will experiment by cracking the back slabs open and seeing how best to remove the compost. This shouldn't be too difficult and will be a walk in the park compared to emptying the chambers if they were still being used like a normal KVIP unit. As the chambers are very large we estimate them taking much longer than 6 months to fill up therefore allowing even more time for composting. 2) The facilities you see without roofing are urinals only. This is to allow the sun to reduce the smell of the urine. We have made sure there are no locations where any person from the outside can see in. This kind of urinal is the norm in Ghana. 3) You are correct, the grubbiness is down to lack of paint or budget paint being used in the first place as well as our harsh environment being located close to the sea. So what we have done here was to tile the floors so they can be easily cleaned. Created windows to allow light into the cubicles making the users experience less scary. Painted the facilities using bright and attractive colours using quality paint that can be easily cleaned due to the type of paint we purchased. We are completely aware that in time our newly painted facilities will start to look grubby although this is the same with every building especially one being used by children. We are committed to supporting our community for the long-term so if it needs repainting, we will do our best to help. We have worked with the teachers to establish sanitation teams for the schools who are in charge of keeping the facilities clean and used well. Our teams go to the schools on surprise visits each term to conduct inspections. We have a kind of yellow card system similar to that of football. If a school receives two yellow cards our education starts again. Criteria is marked on soap being accessible, sawdust being available, water being available to wash hands and general cleanliness.Finally, I would also like to add, our vision isn't to provide cheap basic sanitation to the masses our vision is to change the perception of sanitation. Making it sustainable, ecologically friendly and making it an enjoyable experience for the users. I hope I have answered your questions, please do let me know if you have any follow ups.Thank you so much for your interest in our work!

Dougal Joshua Croudace CEO
Meet Me There African Home Lodge and Dream Big Ghana NGO
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  • RosemarieBiC
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

I am impressed, Linda by what you have achieved and also by the selfreflection that you are indulging. Our Foundation Ben-in-Connection, has initiated a simular project in Benin, on a much smaller scale. But what was set up from 2015 onwards has not really landed locally, and we are quite disappointed by the work done by our local partners. We are looking at dirty and broken down toilets and hardly any users.  We fear for a white elephant. Can we look at you for advise?
Rosemarie Merz, Ben-in-Connection
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Re: Report on assessment of school sanitation in two Ghana villages (a look at the EcoSan toilet block we have recently completed)

Thanks you so much, Rosemarie - it's great to hear from you.  I have found your website and, yes, I think our organisations have a lot in common and it would be great to connect.  If you would like to get in touch directly, please email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
With best wishes,
Linda
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