How research exposes Mwanza sanitation challenge and solution

SOME people living on hills in various parts of Mwanza Region used to open up their partially built toilets during the rainy season to empty waste, but with nowhere exactly to dump the same.

The move puts not only their health at risk, but also polluting the largest water source – Lake Victoria, on top of other more negatives.

Having observed such a situation, researchers from the University of London, Ardhi University (ARU), the Centre for Community Initiative (CCI) and Mwanza Urban Water Sup[1]ply and Sanitation Authority (Mwauwasa) teamed up for a research project, to scrutinise specifically the reason behind people’s inability to have qual[1]ity toilets.

Titled ‘Overdue: Tackling the Sanitation Taboo across Africa’ a-three year research (2020-2023) is run at Mabatini, Kirumba and Igogo wards of Mwanza Region.

Releasing the research results last week, Director of the CCI, Dr Tim Ndezi, said that people fail to have quality toilets due to limited financial resources, given the fact that geographically, the land formation on hills is to some extent challenging. It becomes hard to go deep when digging up latrine pits because the land is almost stone surfaced in nature, with installation of waste outlet pipes also becoming a challenge.

The researchers also found no collaboration between stakeholders who run sanitation related projects; as well as the existence of conflicting laws.

“For instance, relevant authorities do issue residential licenses to people living on hills who do not have enough land for sanitation pipelines installation.“At the same time, environmental laws do not recognise latrine pits cleaners, we call them ‘vyura’, under the ground that the guys are polluting the environment,” said Dr Ndezi.

The research results therefore pushed the researchers, in collaboration with other stakeholders, including health officers, to have what is called ‘Mwanza City Sanitation Forum and Fund’ organ, which was also launched during the release of finding results.

The Overdue runners were set to contribute about 20m/- for such a revolving fund, with Dr Ndezi calling up positive response from more stakeholders to make it sustainable.

The fund will be financing the construction of quality toilets to people with poor financial backgrounds, in the form of soft loans.

At the same time, the forum will be coordinating the stakeholders who carry out similar sanitation programmes in a certain area, so as to smooth the implementation and easily achieve the targeted goals.

“But we are also tasked to identify and conduct capacity building training to ‘vyura’ due to their importance in the society,” he said, adding that the project runners will also make available the modern working tools to ‘vyura’, mostly safety and sanitation gears as well as machines for latrine pits emptying. One of the ‘vyura’, Mr Somson Mlimi from Mabatini Ward, supported the motion, saying that their recognition would protect and maintain their dignity in the society.

According to him, apart from low profile due to the nature of their work, some local government leaders arrest the ‘vyura’, confiscating their wages and working tools, under the pretext of environmental pollution.

“They threaten to take us to legal organs, but nothing goes on when we surrender our wag[1]es. This is because environmen[1]tal laws do not recognise us, we beg for a review,” he lamented.

The ‘vyura’ are currently manually performing their du[1]ties with no protective gears, getting in latrine pits with bare legs and using the buckets to fetch out the wastes.

Due to lack of the dumping area, the ‘vyura’ dig up holes around the full latrine pits and shift the wastes. The wage differs according to how far one goes deep, but also how dangerous the work is, given the fact that most latrine pits are traditionally built.

“Some are covered by the debris when emptying the pits, even to death,” he said.

He stressed that ‘vyura’ should be recognised as they are a substitute for the sewage system on hills because due to stone surfaced land, latrine pits never go deep.

The pits therefore get full in a short time and need the ‘vyura’ for temporary sewage services. Otherwise, the wastes come out and get scattered on streets especially during the rainy season.

ARU researcher, Dr Tatu Mtwangi presented that there is a need for an increased mandate for oversight and coordination, enforcement by ward and street leaders on land and housing construction issues, including the proportion of toilets to tenants in rental houses.

There is also a need to have locally sensitive guidelines and by- laws to facilitate, support and regulate sanitation workers and their working environments; gender sensitive, realistic and applicable sanitation guidelines and by laws that all people can comply with, as well as cooperation between infor[1]mal and formal emptiers.

The Principal Investigator at University of London, Professor Adriana Allen, revealed that the same research projects have been simultaneously conducted in seven cities of African countries, to advocate and sustain the sanitation.

The cities are Mwanza of Tanzania, Freetown (Sierra Leone), Beira (Mozambique), Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Saint-Louis (Senegal). Others are Bukavu (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Antananarivo (Madagascar).

She added that revolving funds have been also introduced in the cities, with governments’ utilities and municipalities, as well as private stakeholders in[1]cluding the federations of urban poor communities making posi[1]tive contributions.

“And the funds are doing well. We hope the same here in Mwanza because sanitisation is life, prosperity, health and it promotes gender equality,” she said, calling up on laws reviews to make them friendly and inclusive.

The Tanzania Federation for the Urban Poor-(TFUP) in Mwanza expressed its willingness to support the sanitization activities through the available 37 groups of 906 members. The Federation Secretary, Ms Mary Luberwa, affirmed that TFUP is fully engaging in sanitisation activities, with about 12 members already pur[1]suing modern toilets construc[1]tion short courses.

“The four are females,” affirmed the Secretary while expressing her gratitude to CCI that keeps on impacting the members with capacity build[1]ing training. According to her, the mem[1]bers have constructed a total of 177 community toilets so far on a loan basis and prepaid 500 toilets.

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