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Simple Innovation Helps Rural Communities in Ghana Improve Latrine Construction & Sanitation

Published 12/06/2022 by Global Communities

Ghana_EN-WASH innovation

By Megan Bohan

The Ghana Enhancing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (EN-WASH) Activity aims to increase the use of sustainable, equitable, quality and district-wide WASH services in communities and health care facilities. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Global Communities, EN-WASH also addresses the adoption of sustainable WASH practices in households, communities and health care facilities to increase access to basic sanitation and drinking water services. As part of EN-WASH, an innovative pilot project is being introduced to lower costs and construction time for latrine structures.

In partnership with SKYFOX Limited, Global Communities developed a durable and affordable interlocking soil-cement block to help build household latrine structures for communities involved in EN-WASH projects. Since the blocks are relatively cheap, easy to build and meet masonry standards, the innovation promotes faster and more affordable latrine construction, which will help EN-WASH achieve its continued goal of facilitating community-led total sanitation.

After conducting a pilot build of 250 latrine structures, the EN-WASH team found that, on average, 400 interlocking soil-cement blocks are needed to complete one latrine structure for a household Digni-Loo model. After the interlocking soil-cement blocks are cast, it takes 14 days for them to be ready for use and five hours to complete overall construction. No mortar is needed to bind the blocks together, thus contributing to the shorter build time.

“This innovation provides a more durable, safer and resilient latrine structure to the people of the rural part of Ghana and also creates employment for youth in the communities involved, giving them an opportunity to have their own business,” said Alberto Wilde, Chief of Party for EN-WASH and Country Director for Global Communities Ghana. “Cost reduction in construction also has a positive impact by providing more affordable access to improved sanitation.”

The interlocking soil-cement blocks developed by Global Communities and SKYFOX Limited are impactful in multiple ways. For one, this type of soil block performs better in compressive strength compared to the conventional sancrete (sand/cement) block. The interlocking soil-cement block contains less than 10% cement, while sancrete usually contains 15% or higher. This is a significant cost savings since cement is expensive in rural communities.

Cost of production for the interlocking soil-cement block is roughly 5 cents or .675 Ghana cedis (GHC), while a sancrete block costs 19 cents or 2.56 GHC. These numbers do not factor in the additional cost of transportation, water, cement, sand and labor associated with creating sancrete.

It’s also worth noting that a manually operated, hand-pressed machine is used to construct interlocking soil-cement blocks. The machine produces two blocks at a time and has a design production rate of 1,000 interlocking soil-cement blocks per day. Perhaps more importantly, the machine is mobile and does not require any electricity or maintenance aside from regular cleaning. This means that brickmakers can be employed from within program communities and can move the machine to cast interlocking soil-cement blocks directly on the proposed sites of new latrine structures, reducing the cost of transportation.

While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused the project, the EN-WASH team has begun to reinvest their efforts into expanding use of the innovation among all participating program communities in 30 districts across the Northern Regions of Ghana.