I had the honor of spending some time over the last couple of days with Jack Sim, the founder of the World Toilet Organization. Jack was here in Portland doing a series of visits and public appearances. If you haven’t see the short video “Meet Mr. Toilet”, please click on it now and watch it - it’s only three minutes long. I’ll wait.
Hi - welcome back! Wasn’t that a great video? It premiered at the Sundance Festival to great acclaim!
It was a pleasure to meet Jack and hear about what the WTO is doing (that WTO, not the World Trade Organization), in part because I’ve just been in Burkina Faso and seen some of the great work that Plan Burkina Faso is doing promoting ECOSAN latrines through their savings group program. (ECOSAN latrines separate the urine and feces, and turn them both into products that enrich the soil. This is particularly pertinent in that Sahelian country where population pressure has shortened fallow periods, decreasing soil fertility drastically). Plan has built hundreds of latrines with partial subsidies, which is good; but other people in the villages have seen what the latrines can do, and have built their own with their own funds, which is wonderful.
If you believe that savings groups are a point of entry for other developmental activities, then by all means read up on them, inform your group members about the importance of good sanitation, and introduce them to new approaches to dealing with human waste. If your members are healthier, your groups will be healthier. And - let’s be frank - if they aren’t dealing with human waste appropriately, they probably aren’t very healthy now.
Just to save time, let me try to pre-empt the objection, “What do savings groups have to do with sanitation? After all, they’re financial institutions, not social institutions!” It’s true that Deutsche Bank doesn’t provide information on sanitation, but then, their customers already have clean water and enough to eat. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy, which essentially says, “If people are hungry, the first order of business is always, ‘What’s for lunch’!”
For more information, check out any of the links above, or just search the web for sanitation, composting toilets, ecosan, and so on - there’s tons of stuff.