"Our biggest problem is the filling of pits. They produce bad smells that cause conflict with neighbours, transmit diseases such as cholera and produce worms and flies."
Latrine user, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
"A toilet should be a comfortable place where you're not in a hurry to leave."
Latrine user, Arusha, Tanzania
Based on our insights into potential markets, our consumer research examined the problems, needs, habits and aspirations of low-income families with on-site sanitation (primarily latrines of different types).
We explored a range of sanitation technologies in culturally contrasting settings. At urban and rural research sites in Tanzania and Vietnam, we asked people why pit filling is a problem and what they try to do about it. They also told us their ideal sanitation solutions and why they can’t achieve them.
A recurring challenge
Our consumer research found that pit-filling causes real anxiety. Besides the cost and hassle of emptying or replacing a pit, people see and smell its contents, insects breed and percieved health risks rise. It’s unpleasant to use, and causes embarrassment and conflict with neighbours.
Where they can afford it or have the space, people empty or replace full latrine pits. They sometimes use additives to try to reduce the fill rate and control odours and insects. These might be local commercial products (with unproven effect) or DIY additives such as paraffin or ash.
Like all of us, latrine users want sanitation that offers privacy, safety, convenience and protection from contamination (no smell, no visible contents, no insects). They’d also like it to appear modern and confer status. Most people think a septic tank would fulfil their aspiration, but cost is a major barrier.
Users would like a ‘miracle in a box’ that could improve their latrine – but price and performance will be critical. So we’re working to develop technologies and products that help give users the sanitation quality of a septic tank, without the price.
What drives choices?
Our current research is finding out more about what drives people’s sanitation decisions, so we can best meet their needs.
What sort of factors make them empty or replace full latrines – or upgrade to a septic tank? How important are things like price, modernity, space and tenure of their homes? We'll let you know our findings soon.