Community Health Workers: Champions of Affordable and Accessible Sanitation Products

Catherine Nyaka, the chairperson of the Ivingoni Community, addresses her group members. Photo credit: Mercy Mgube/KIWASH

This blog originally appeared on KIWASH’s blog.

The Ivingoni Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Makueni County, led by their chairperson Catherine Nyaka, are taking steps to encourage community members in 20 villages to invest in improved and affordable sanitation products for adequate toilets. The 35-member group is among 3,600 CHWs trained and supported by USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project and other partners.

Their goal is to improve sanitation and hygiene and increase the number of communities that are open defecation free, or ODF, by having access to toilets and handwashing facilities. Since 2016, KIWASH has worked across seven counties in Kenya to train CHWs in hygiene behavioral change communication methodologies and messaging. As a result of this work, 992 villages in Kakamega, Kisumu, Kitui, Makueni, Migori, Nyamira, and Siaya counties have been verified as ODF with a monitoring plan in place. The next critical step for KIWASH and partners is to ensure that these communities retain their ODF status.

To address this risk and help communities adopt more hygienic and sustainable latrines, KIWASH market-tested a range of products that can effectively respond to the demand for improved sanitation in communities. Two products in particular, the SATO pan and SAFI latrine, won out as the most feasible in terms of affordability, durability, availability, and suitability for soil conditions. The SATO (short for Safe Toilet) pan has a unique self-sealing trap door that closes quickly, seals tightly, and can be fitted to an existing latrine, and the SAFI (Kiswahili for “clean”) latrine has concrete walls designed to withstand soil pressure and prevent structures from collapsing. 

Within two months, the group sold 90 SATO pans earning a profit of $84. Noting the high demand, the group ordered more, which again sold within a month. “Schools are our biggest customers. The pans allow them to eliminate foul smells and flies from the school compound and maintain a healthy learning environment. Last month, we sold ten in one go to a neighboring school,” reveals Catherine.

The CHWs are passionate about seeing women and their families enjoy better health, and so they went door-to-door to promote safe, hygienic, and low-cost sanitation options for pit latrines. “Our message was, ‘Toka kwa bora choo na utengeneze choo bora,’ which is loosely translated as ‘Let us move from a basic toilet to an improved toilet,’” says Catherine.

KIWASH also introduced a sanitation revolving fund model that enables local entrepreneurs to secure capital investment for SATO retail businesses. Organized community groups, composed largely of project-trained workers and volunteers, raise capital from group savings, interest on small loans, matching grants, or profits from the sale of SATO products. To increase the adoption of these products, KIWASH continues to work simultaneously with county governments, community groups and local artisans trained in the installation of these latrines to substantially develop the sanitation market in Kenya. This approach responds to the needs of users and is providing several small groups like Catherine’s with an extra revenue stream.

By Mercy Mgube and Emily Mutai of KIWASH’s Communications Team