How to map open defecation areas

by: March 3rd, 2011 comments: 1

Our teams have started with comprehensive thematic mapping of Water and Sanitation. Most of the things that we set out to map, such as water points and toilets, were pretty straightforward, but there were also some unknowns – like open defecation areas.

What is an open defecation area (ODA)? This is an area which is used by people to relieve themselves where there aren’t enough toilets for all or where people can’t afford to pay to use the toilet (more about it here). These areas are usually also dumping sites for “flying toilets” and other garbage, but mostly for excrement. People use them either early in the morning or late at night so others can’t see them.

Open defecation area

We didn’t realize that this is such a big problem until we saw it with our own eyes. They are a huge health risk because they are usually situated in the middle of a very populated area and it is not an uncommon sight to see children playing near or even on top of them. They are also an indicator that something is terribly wrong with sanitation (especially toilets) in the slum.

So how do we map these areas? The first idea was to stand in the middle of the area and collect a point. We dismissed the idea as soon as we saw the expanse and the state of these areas. Most of our mappers come in flip flops and aren’t well equipped to walk there. So we decided we’re going to take a point near the ODAs, later search for the point with the help of satellite imagery and digitize the area. This way we’ll learn different techniques in mapping, get the exact area (in square meters) of all of the ODAs and therefore the whole area in Mathare which is covered by them.

Below are two examples:

Mapping open defecation areas

Mapping open defecation areas

Thematic mapping – water & sanitation

by: March 3rd, 2011 comments: 0

Thematic mapping in Mathare kicked off yesterday! The past three weeks since the Mathare community forum the team has been concentrating on video training and new media work with the Mathare participants. We’ve had some really exciting discussions about how we can support the spin-off blogging project and integrate with SMS reporting in Mathare. We have also been working to develop data collection forms so that the mappers could begin collecting water and sanitation information.

We separated the data collection forms into three types of objects 1) toilets 2) water points 3) open defecation areas (or athara as they are known in Mathare). We printed out 10 copies of each data collection form with the hope of field testing them with the mappers. We wanted to know “do they make sense?” “What questions and/or responses are we missing?”

Questions for the data collection forms were drawn from the Map Kibera team’s experience mapping water and sanitation points of interest and from Community Cleaning Services and Plan Kenya’s work on urban community total led sanitation in Mathare (view the draft data collection forms here).

A team of 11 Mathare mappers gathered at Community Transformer. We went over each question on each form. In terms of mapping toilets, there was debate about the various types of toilets. “Pit latrine” was straight forward, as well as “hanging toilet” (a toilet that sits over a river or drain and drops directly into the water below – we’ve also been told that in some parts of Asia this is referred to as a helicopter toilet). Other types of toilets “Asian” and “European” and “Trench” weren’t immediately clear to the mappers.

The team broke into 3 separate groups to test out the forms. The main feedback on the forms included breaking the types of government run toilets into those run by the CDF vs LATF. This will be important for different groups that undertake social auditing. The other observation is that water in Mathare is usually purchased by the 20L gallon, so we changed the data collection form to that effect.

water vendor in Mathare

Measuring the number of people of use a toilet per day is difficult. For toilets that sit by the river and do not have a caretaker, this is nearly impossible (without sitting and counting people entering the toilet). Collecting information about toilets that belong to institutions (schools and churches) is quite time consuming. Entering the premises requires a formal introduction to the secretary or other person-in-charge. The school and church we visited were very welcoming and gave us quite a bit of information. We were able to find out that there are about 800 staff and students using just 6 toilets and 1 urinal at the school. The church next door had 5 toilets that were very well maintained. The church has about 100 visitors on week days and 500-1000 on the weekend.

Toilets at the school

Mapping a CCS toilet

Open Defecation areas (or athara) are large areas where people come to shit outside. This is due to lack of access to toilets – for reasons such as ability to pay, proximity to the nearest toilet, security, etc. These areas are used in the early morning and evening due to the issue of privacy. It is very difficult to estimate the number of people who use an athara – the only good option would be to count the piles of shit (not feasible in this case, because the volunteer mappers don’t have the appropriate footwear nor expertise in sanitation issues). More on mapping open defecation areas….

Javin mapping open defecation area

In UCLTS style, shit in an open defecation area

Every organization or a CBO or an NGO is looking for a different set of information when carrying out work on water and sanitation. The Map Mathare team is building a geographic database of different facilities with some basic attribute information. It’s our hope that sanitation specialists, public officials, youth groups, CBOs and others can and will utilize this information. At this point, we are in the process of field testing data collection tools to determine the baseline the mappers will build . In this case, the accuracy of information the mappers collect will decrease with the number of questions on the data collection tool, so we are looking for the balance between accuracy and level of detail. The mappers and the coordination team are learning a lot! By the end of March we hope to have a team of 10-20 dedicated, certified mappers!

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