Gankanga village in Lwengo is a farming community in southwestern Uganda where Rotary International (RI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are partnering to support residents in improving sanitation and hygiene services. More specifically, the partners are seeking to end the practice of open defecation and the adoption of hand washing by encouraging households to construct latrines.
In March 2021, representatives from the Rotary Clubs (RCs) of Bwebajja, Lukaya, Kalisizo, Masaka and Kyotera and USAID Uganda Sanitation for Health Activity (USHA) had an opportunity to interact with residents of Gakanga village and evaluate the impact of community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion programs in their area.
Rogers Mbabazi is a sanitation mason and at the time of the visit, he was digging a pit for his neighbor’s latrine. Latrine masons such as Mbabazi are an asset to the community. They play an instrumental role in the promotion and provision of sanitation services by ensuring that acceptable standard latrines are constructed for the local community at affordable prices.
“I dig latrine pits for people. I have dug over ten to date,” he said. “I learnt how to dig latrines from my mentor and I dig them according to the demands of my clients. Since it is a rural setting, I charge between UGX 3,000-4,000 (approximately $.85-$1.14) per foot regardless of the terrain,” he added.
Notably, latrine masons require continual training to enable them to improve their craft and technical confidence. USHA provides training to selected masons in the community who in turn are able to train their counterparts thus being positive agents of change within the community. “I have never heard about any opportunities to train masons in the area, but I would love to be trained so that I can improve my skill,” Mbabazi said.
Mbabazi is passionate about his craft. “I do not care what people say. Whether it is a dirty job, it is what feeds me. It is vital that one is proud and passionate about their job.” Latrine masonry is not only a form of livelihood but also a source of diversification of income generating avenues. “I have been able to invest the money in my gardens since I am also a farmer,” Mbabazi added.
The team had an opportunity of visiting Mbabazi’s home and found out that he did not have a latrine for a very long time despite the fact that he was digging latrines for others. Within five days, after a visit from the district’s health team and prior to the evaluation team’s visit, he had dug and erected his own latrine. Mbabazi said his motivation to dig and erect his own latrine was the fear of contracting sanitation related diseases.
Mbabazi is proud to have built a mud and wattle grass thatched latrine. He confessed that there were things still to finish, such as screeding the toilet floor with cement. Still lacking are cleaning materials and a functional handwashing station. RCs and USHA are committed to support Mbabazi and other residents of Gakanga village to fill the gaps to enable the community to attain an open-defecation free status.
Contributed by Joseph Ssuuna of the Rotary Club of Bwebajja, Edited by RI’s Mohamed Keita