From January 2013 to September 2016, ACTED, a French international NGO that helps vulnerable populations, ran a vast project to open up access to sanitation in three underprivileged neighbourhoods in Abidjan district, with the support of the Fondation SUEZ.
On World Toilet Day, ACTED’s Country Manager in Ivory Coast, Jérémy Lescot, takes stock of the project.
© Jeremy Lescot, ACTED's country manager in Ivory Coast, ACTED
Where did the idea behind ACTED’s project in Ivory Coast come from?
Jérémy Lescot: This project came into being when our teams in the field observed serious problems due to poor sanitation and health in the underprivileged neighbourhoods. At least two million of the five million inhabitants of Abidjan district live in these neighbourhoods, and only 30% of them are connected to the main sewers. Most of them pour their household wastewater into the street, but they also use the streets as toilets, with disastrous effects on hygiene and the environment. In Ivory Coast, the number of deaths due to hydric diseases is more than 400 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 100 to 200 in Ghana, for example.
What does this project consist of?
J.L.: With our local technical partners, the EAA (water and sanitation for Africa) and the DAD (the sanitation and drainage department), we rolled out this project in three underprivileged neighbourhoods in the Abidjan district, with three main themes: sanitation, waste collection and raising the awareness of the population on good hygiene practice. In Abobo and Yopougon, we installed latrines in 150 private courtyards, each inhabited by about 40 people on average. We also installed wash houses so that the wastewater can be collected into the sewer networks, then in decanting pits and treated, instead of being poured out in the street. We also worked very hard with the local authorities and communities to set up an organisation to pre-collect waste, which had all but disappeared due to the political crisis in 2011. Finally, we launched several important campaigns to raise awareness that consisted of visiting inhabitants at home, adverts on the radio and playlets performed directly in the street to illustrate best practices.
What are the objectives?
J.L.: Obviously, we plan to improve the sanitary conditions of these populations, but most of all, to make them self-sufficient, so that they have genuinely durable access to sanitation. To this end, we called on and involved the local and community authorities right from the start of the project. We then set up micro-companies run by inhabitants from the neighbourhoods already involved at some point in sanitation. We trained them in the maintenance of the latrines and the management of a very small company, including the resale of the natural fertilisers from these composting toilets to local market gardeners. For the maintenance of the sewers and the awareness raising among the population, we called on the health and sanitation committees, which we reinforced and supplied with equipment. Today, the system works without any outside help, thanks to the micro-contributions made by the households in the neighbourhoods. We also encourage everyone to become involved by organising “Clean Days”, when all the inhabitants of a neighbourhood get together and clean up the streets.
Local market gardeners using natural fertilisers © ACTED
What are your conclusions ?
J.L.: Despite the difficulties we encountered, and in particular the limited involvement of certain beneficiaries of the project and the scepticism of the market gardeners about the use of fertilisers made from human excrement, the result is very positive. One of the neighbourhoods is perfectly autonomous, and another is in the process of becoming so. Not a 100% success, but a fine success nevertheless.
The Fondation SUEZ supports concrete actions that sustainably combat exclusion by offering access to essential services in developing countries. Find out more about the Fondation SUEZ actions all over the world.