Public Participation to Promote Sustainable Sanitation

Researcher: Lulama Ngobeni

‚ÄčSupervisors: Prof. Ulrike Rivett

Research Title: 'Using effective Public Participation methods to address negative user perceptions on the VIP toilet and promote Sustainable Sanitation'.

About The Research

This research will focus on identifying the differences in knowledge-transfer methods between the VIP sanitation service-delivery methods of municipality-led projects and NGO-led projects. The general user perceptions of the VIP latrine will also be assessed in order to establish how these perceptions are affected by the knowledge-transfer process.

In South Africa, the basic minimum acceptable level of sanitation is a lined Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine. When constructed and maintained properly, the VIP toilet meets the requirements of a basic minimum acceptable level of sanitation, as stated by the White Paper on Basic Household Sanitation (2001). The VIP latrine consists of a top structure with one or two lined pits beneath the top structure. The top structure is ventilated with a fly screen and a ventilation pipe.

 The VIP latrine is ideal in water-scarce areas and has been found to be generally robust. Although the VIP latrine can be an ideal sanitation technology, it has also acquired the stigma of being a “poor man’s solution to the sanitation problem” (Austin and Van Vuuren 2001 in Austin et. al 2005: 1-2). In addition to the stigma that the VIP latrine has acquired, there are various issues, which contribute to the resistance towards on-site sanitation, and hence VIP latrines.

Some sanitation projects utilising VIP latrines have been unsuccessful. The failure of such projects is a result of “poor design and construction practices or social factors such as a lack of community buy-in, or a combination of these. The lack of/poor knowledge-transfer through community engagement in some sanitation projects is arguably one of the reasons for the failure of some sanitation projects.

Despite the resistance that exists towards on-site sanitation and the unsuccessful projects, there are also successful sanitation projects that have been implemented in South Africa, through the use of the VIP latrine. The success of sanitation projects utilizing on-site/dry sanitation can be attributed to the use of effective knowledge-transfer through public participation. Community engagement has proven to result in community development, overall health and hygiene improvement, and an increased sense of ownership, which has resulted in the sustainability of sanitation systems (Eales, 2004).

The aim of this study is therefore to assess user perceptions of the VIP latrine; and how public participation can be used to address the negative perceptions. The study will be a comparative study of two sanitation projects, each with a different provider (i.e. The local municipality and an NGO). The study will provide insight into the various knowledge-transfer methods which can be used to provide sustainable VIP latrines, which are accepted by the users thereof.

About Lulama

Lulama is a Master's student with iCOMMS research group in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Cape Town. Lulama holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Cape Town.