How latrines became a status symbol in Nepal

The inhabitants of Ghanteshwor in western Nepal are proud of their village, for it has as many toilets as houses. For the villagers this means they can live in dignity and good health; for the latrine-builders, it means a secure income.

The hygienic situation in rural Nepal is precarious. Only about 40% of households have a latrine and roughly half have access to clean drinking water. Every year around 13,000 Nepalese children under five die from gastroenteritis as a result of contaminated drinking water and inadequate hygiene. In order to replicate Ghanteshwor’s experience in other villages, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is building capacity in local authorities, training craftsmen and raising villagers’ awareness about safe water use and better hygiene.

In practice, project work looks something like this. Based on the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation develops a Water-Use Master Plan (WUMP) for the whole municipality in collaboration with the local authorities. As in all HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation water projects, this tackles drinking water and basic sanitation together. The project assists and advises villages on planning and implementation. A users’ committee facilitates the villagers’ participation in the project and is later responsible for running and maintaining the water supply. The community selects some talented craftsmen, who are then trained in latrine-building. Attention is paid to ensuring that these trainees include people from disadvantaged social groups and that the craftsmen are well integrated into village life.

Villages where at least 50% of households already have a latrine can apply for other small projects for farm irrigation, drinking water supply or catchment protection. This is designed to offer villages and communities an added incentive to build latrines. And it’s obviously working, because in Ghanteshwor and other villages latrines are already seen as status symbols.

Meena Bishwokarma
image description I’ve long wanted a latrine. It’s not good to go in the jungle. It’s difficult because of the snakes. And as a woman I’m scared and feel vulnerable when I have to go out in the open to relieve myself. I finally had enough money for the low cost latrine. image description Meena Bishwokarma, a 28-year-old mother of three children from Ganteshwor

project impact

7'154 people received a new access to drinking water in 2015. 8'114 people got access to sanitary facilities in 2015.

HELVETAS Nepal

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