In Tanzania, Reaching the Wider Community Through Improved Sanitation

by James Tayler


By the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation with the support of the Center for Community Initiatives (CCI)

Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania with an estimated population of 4 million people. 80% of its population is estimated to be living in informal settlements where people are living with inadequate access to services such as water, sanitation and poor housing. Due to extensive use of pit latrines associated with inadequate supply of clean and safe water and unhygienic pit emptying practices, informal settlements dwellers largely live in high risk of contracting diseases including cholera and diarrhea.

In their efforts to improve sanitation in Tanzania, particularly in Dar es Salaam city, the Tanzanian Urban Poor Federation initiated sanitation projects by providing micro loans for latrine improvement to its members. In 2011, federation members from Dar- es-Salaam organized an exchange visit to Malawi aimed at acquiring the knowledge from fellow federations on how they are managing loans. While in Malawi federation members learned that the Malawi federation is giving loans to both federation and non-federation members with the aim of making intervention at a wider scale to enable poor communities to improve their sanitation situation. In July 2011 initial loans were given to 10 non-federation members. It was based on an understanding that the majority of federation members are tenants who are not able to apply for toilet loans due to their land tenure status and furthermore sanitation problems affect entire communities regardless of their land tenure status and whether they are federation members or not.

Before issuing the loans to the initial 10 borrowers the process of loan provision started with the training of twelve technicians of whom two were men and ten women and strengthening the relationship with the local administration at Mtaa (settlement) level. The loans given to non-federation members are managed at two levels; the saving scheme (which identified the borrowers) and Mtaa leaders. These two parties are working in collaboration. The Mtaa leaders are the guarantors of loans and make follow-ups with non-federation members while the saving scheme, based at the same locality, ensures that the loan follow-ups are made and the repayment is done according to schedule.

The loan provision to non-federation members started as a pilot project and so far it has been very successful, as all the initial ten borrowers have finished repaying their loans before the agreed time. This success has led to the implementation of a second phase where another loan has been extended to 10 people in August 2012. In total 20 toilets have been constructed which serve 120 households and 250 people respectively.

Amongst the second phase of beneficiaries of the loans was Mr. Khatib Athuman, 60 years old who did not manage to hide his deep appreciation for accessing the loan for improving his toilet. Since 1996 Mr. Khatib who has a family of 7 people has been using a simple pit latrine constructed with lined old car tires and dilapidated iron sheets which did not offer privacy, had bad smell and the pit was overflowing. This exposed him and other family members to high health risks and embarrassment due to poor means of emptying which was done using tins by Mr. Khatib’s son. Because of limited space it was very hard for Mr. Khatib to access a place for digging a big pit for diverting the waste, as an alternative he was digging a small pit for emptying little waste just to make the room available for toilets use for another three to four days. During the rainy season the situation becomes worse and emptying occured more than three times per week. Mr. Khatib’s wife added that the situation of their toilet was very bad to the extent that it has affected the relationship with her grandchildren as they usually wish to come and spend days with them but because of the lack of a proper toilet they could not allow them to come with the fear of risking their health.

“My grand children could not visit us because of a bad latrine, even this coming Eid holiday they asked if they could come but we did not agree with them because of the latrine” -Asha, Mr. Khatib’s wife

Speaking during the handing over of toilet construction materials to 10 non-federation members at Keko Machungwa settlement, the representative of Temeke Municipal Health Officer Mrs. Rehema Sadick said, “lack of adequate sanitation has been one of the major challenge contributing to eruption of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea which leads to a loss of lives as well as income.” She insisted that the community should use this opportunity by accessing loans for improving their toilets and although the Municipal Council has limited financial resources they are ready to work with the federation through provision of technical support and mobilizing communities.


In total the amount of loans given to non-federation members is TZS 8,780,000 Tshs (USD$ 5487.5) in Dar es Salaam. More community members are expected to be reached with the federation through this initiative not only in Dar es Salaam but as well as in other regions where they have already started implementing sanitation initiatives.

The Keko Machungwa settlement has set a good example of community led initiatives in improving water and sanitation services by constructing 1 public toilet at the market, constructing 30 households toilet and drilling one borehole connected to three water points. The federation has also initiated toilet-emptying programmes using Gulper technology and the training of Hygiene promotion teams (PHAST teams) for community mobilization on improving hygiene practices.

The federation has also managed to convince some land lords to adopt eco-san technology in order to get rid of the challenges involved in emptying pit latrines including the issue of space for digging another pit as well as unhealthy manual emptying practices and the lack of road access.

These initiatives focus to bring the government down to the settlement level to provide resources and work with communities to scale up sanitation improvements in informal settlements and improving living conditions in general.