By Mekdim Hailu, Project Communication Manager, PSI Ethiopia; Heston Jackson, Learning and Communications Manager, Athena Infonomics
Three years ago, the rural community of Baila in eastern Liberia passed a law requiring every household to have an improved toilet. However, implementing the law seemed challenging when the very people responsible for enforcing, including the town chief, did not have access to an improved toilet.
“I used to rely on my neighbors to use their toilets, and there were very few in Baila,” said town chief Oldman Flomo. Like many others in the community, Flomo had little choice but to use the bushes.
With open defecation increasing the prevalence of waterborne and diarrheal diseases, people like Flomo need access to sanitation infrastructure.
The good news? With the support and collaboration of community members and leaders like Flomo, the journey to embracing improved sanitation solutions in Baila is underway.
Recognizing the urgency of addressing open defecation, the USAID-funded Countywide Sanitation Activity (CWSA) aims to increase sanitation access in communities like Baila by introducing an affordable and innovative solution known as the SATO toilet. Short for “Safe Toilet,” SATO pans are designed with mechanical and water seals to close off pit latrines from the open air. Working in partnership with PSI, Concern Worldwide, Athena Infonomics, and Gusceman Incorporated, CWSA implements a countywide approach across several counties, including Lofa, Nimba, Grand Bassa, rural Montserrado and Bong where Baila is located.
Adopting a market-based approach ensures that SATO toilets — offered as both a sitting stool and a squatting pan— are not only affordable but also readily available to communities by leveraging market forces and partnerships with local suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers to create a sustainable supply chain. By engaging local businesses, CWSA supports local entrepreneurship and stimulates economic growth while addressing the sanitation needs of the community.
Since the arrival of SATO products in Baila in 2022, CWSA facilitated the installation of 15 toilets in the community, so far.
A Visit by PSI Liberia to Baila, Bong County. Photo Credit: Alieu A. Swaray (MEL Officer / OIC Bong County)
Today, town chief Flomo encourages Baila residents to prioritize owning their own improved toilets or face fines. His commitment to this cause is echoed by Madam Vivian Paye, a single mother of five.
Madam Paye works tirelessly in her garden to sustain her family and earn not just livelihood, but money to buy her toilet products and install them.
Madam Paye shares her elation: “In the past, I used to struggle a lot due to my knee problem, making it challenging to go to the bushes. Thankfully, with the intervention of CWSA I now have an improved toilet in my household. This has made a significant and positive difference in my life.”
The journey toward ending open defecation in Baila is far from over, but the progress made thus far is a testament to the power of community action. Through initiatives like CWSA’s market-based approach, ordinary people are given the tools and opportunities to transform their own lives and uplift their communities.
About Countywide Sanitation Activity
The Countywide Sanitation Activity is a USAID-funded project implemented from 2022 to 2027. Its primary goal is to permanently end open defecation and achieve sustainable basic sanitation across five counties, Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, and rural Montserrado. This comprehensive five-year initiative focuses on four key result areas including improving sanitation governance at the national and sub-national levels; enhancing adoption of key sanitation behaviors; strengthening sanitation markets; and increasing sanitation financing. By combining the Areawide Planning and Market-Based Sanitation approaches with behavior change communication, the project aims to create lasting impacts and enhance the overall sanitation landscape in Liberia.