Our journey in Building Local Capacity to Construct Safe, Low Cost Latrines continues, and Nuru’s Water and Sanitation Program team members are having a lot of fun along the way. Who knew that compacting concrete could be so much fun?

Since our friends from the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) left, we have been working hard converting their Low Cost Latrine Training, which is designed for managers and English speakers, into a training suitable for our field officers, who have little formal education and speak Kiswahili and their mother tongue, Kikuria. Thankfully, CAWST left us with excellent lesson plans and a construction manual that we were able to simplify and translate.

Our team is gaining PRACTICAL SKILLS– Our three managers have used the revised lesson plans and construction manual to train 18 field officers on how to build safe, low cost latrines. Half the days were spent in the classroom learning about the sanitation ladder, latrine siting rules, how to build strong slabs, how to size a latrine pit, pit lining rules and latrine maintenance. And the afternoons were spent out in the field building latrine slabs and digging and partially lining pits.

Our team is sold on the slab construction method CAWST taught us- 1 part cement: 2 parts sand: 4 parts gravel measured by volume using buckets + just a bit of water very well compacted.  Each day they get better and better at mixing the concrete just right and adding enough water to make the concrete workable but not so much that you end up with a weak mix. This is tricky when you’re right on the equator where a few minutes of hot sun can quickly dry up your perfect mix.

Our team is ITERATING– Every week during lively debrief sessions, we list out our lessons learned and we apply them the following work day. For example, they forgot to remove the wooden squat hole mold one day and discovered that it had expanded and was nicely lodged within the concrete slab. Whoops! They had to use a hammer to knock it out, and they were all amazed that their slab withstood the impact and suffered no injuries. This was a memorable reminder to always remove the squat hole mold a couple hours after pouring the slab. Of course, this was included in their construction manuals, but learning the hard way is a bit more sticky.

Our team is INNOVATING– Although many of our field officers don’t have much of a formal education, they’re brilliant and resourceful and have discovered several great work-arounds. For example, after compacting concrete for long periods of time with wooden blocks while squatting, they rigged up a simple compacting device (shown in the video) they can use while standing up that covers a lot more area.

Our team is MOTIVATED to SERVE– Our field officers are encouraged by how much they have been able to learn over the past few weeks and accomplish together as a team. They are excited about continuing to practice their new skills and then go out into the community and help their neighbors build safe, low cost latrines their neighbors!

As our field officer Thomas (the man dancing in the video) told me this week:

“I want to become an expert in this…and then build these [partially lined latrine pits and safe latrine slabs] in my community!”

I think it’s a good sign when on a blazing hot, sunny afternoon after a long day a group of 18 men and women are laughing, singing and dancing while compacting concrete (watch the video). And, we’ve already gotten a few interested customers who want to buy latrine slabs from us. It’s great to see the demand for our services in the community!