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How Sokode Became a benchmark City for sanitation in Togo

11 April 2022

« It was two in the morning one night when I needed to go and relieve myself. But the public latrines were a long way from my home," recalls Zalia Zoukoufoulou, who lives in Sokodé, the second-largest city in Togo, located 350 kilometres north. Zalia's anecdote revealed how hard it is for large numbers of the Sokode's residents to have a household toilet. Only 34% of households had their own toilets. Another resident, Lougma Traoré, explained that he used to "dispose of his children's toilet waste in the natural environment." Open defecation and a lack of dedicated toilet facilities are conducive to the spread of various diseases, and these are not minor bugs, but life-threatening diarrhoea and cholera. Sokode was the epicentre of three cholera outbreaks between 2010-2013.

"Most of the sludge trucks to come from Lomé, and this meant that the service was quite expensive for households. So, we used to resort to disposal by hand and households would drop their human waste in the city's watercourses or on the market gardeners' fields," said the city's mayor, Alassane Tchakpedeou. "Our city was known for being ontop of the cholera league. As soon as each year's rains came, Sokodé would have a cholera outbreak; Sokodé suffered faecal risk," he continued.

In 2013, the African Development Bank made a €1.15 million grant to the city through the African Water Facility, to fund the "Toilets for All in Sokodé" project. There have been no outbreaks of cholera in Sokodé since then.

Extended to 30 September 2018, the "Toilets for all in Sokodé through waste treatment of faecal sludge and microcredit" project enabled the construction of 788 latrines for the benefit of those living in seven of the city's neighbourhoods and the neighbouring municipalities of Tchamba, Sotouba, Bassar, Bafilo and Blitta. Neighbourhood Sanitation Committees (CAQs) were set up to ensure the sustainability of the project's achievements and to continue to raise residents' awareness and encourage them to join the list of project beneficiaries and reduce open defecation.

"Having these latrines now is saving many lives," said Zalia Zoukoufoulou. Like other residents of Sokodé, her entire daily life has changed for the better, thanks to the project.

Microcredit and awareness-raising multiplier effect

To enable the largest-possible number of inhabitants to equip their homes with toilets, the budget was carefully planned so that beneficiaries only had to find one quarter of the cost and a microcredit system was set up to help them settle their share. "It costs 400,000 CFA francs (US$800) to build a latrine and the project accounted for 300,000 CFA francs (about US$600) of the cost. Beneficiaries contributed 100,000 CFA francs (about US$200)," said CAQ coordinator Adiétou Katakpaou, adding, "We have a register of repayments that are made gradually. The money collected is banked so that others too may benefit from the project." The CAQs keep account books to record and monitor beneficiaries' instalmental repayments. The money collected in this way is used to fund the construction of new latrines.

"The project has acquired a faecal sludge transport truck for the city of Sokodé," said project coordinator, Tetouehaki Tchonda. "For areas that are relatively hard to access by lorry, a mini-transport system consisting of a tricycle, a power-operated pump and 100-litre sludge containers has been acquired.

Collection, treatment and valorization of faecal sludge

Once it has been collected, the faecal sludge from latrines is conveyed to the new treatment plant – opened in late June 2018 – to reduce the health and environmental risks associated with human waste. With a capacity of 6,400 cubic metres, the plant has three simple drying beds and a scraped sludge drying area. Bio-solid materials from the waste treatment are then made available to market gardeners and farmers. In this way, the project makes helps to fertilise the soil and consequently promotes food security.

Another positive outcome is the seven community-based micro-enterprises in Sokodé – in which women account for more than 45% of the workforce – that have benefited from capacity building.

The city that was once a centre for the spread of cholera in Togo is now a benchmark for sanitation," he said with obvious pleasure. It is the only city in the country endowed with a human waste. 

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