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Achieving the 'good life': Why some people want latrines in rural Benin

Social Science & Medicine, 2005; 61(11):2446-2459
Nearly half the world's population lacks basic sanitation to protect their environment from human fecal contamination. Building a latrine is the first step on the sanitation ladder in developing countries where a majority of the population defecates in open or public areas. Public health programs to improve sanitation have consistently framed promotional messages in terms of fecal-oral disease prevention and largely fail to motivate changes in sanitation behavior. A qualitative consumer study using in-depth interviews with 40 household heads was carried out to explore the decision to install a pit latrine in rural Benin. The motives for installing a latrine are reported and variations across the interviews are examined. The paper asserts that at least one active drive (desire for change or dissatisfaction) from among 11 found is needed to motivate latrine adoption. Drives involved prestige, well-being, and situational goals. Health considerations played only a minor role, and had little if anything to do with preventing fecal-oral disease transmission. Drives varied with gender, occupation, life stage, travel experience, education, and wealth, and reflected perceptions of the physical and social geography of the village, linked to availability of open defecation sites, social structure, road access, and urban proximity. The results have broad implications for new messages and strategies to promote sanitation in developing countries. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.