Loughborough University
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Developing standards for household latrines in Rwanda

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posted on 2014-10-31, 11:23 authored by Louise S. Medland
The issue of standards for household latrines is complex because discussions related to standards for latrines in literature from the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector tend to focus on the negative aspects of standards and highlights cases where the miss-application of standards in the past has caused problems. However, despite concerns about the constraints that standards can seemingly impose, there is an acknowledgement that standards can play a more positive role in supporting efforts to increase access to household latrines. The World Health Organisation has long established and widely recognised standards for water supply quality and quantity but there are no equivalent standards for sanitation services and there is currently no guidance that deals with the topic of standards for household latrines. Household latrines are a small component of the wider sanitation system in a country and by considering how standards for household latrines operate within this wider sanitation system the aim of this research is to understand what influences standards can have on household latrines and explore how the negative perceptions about standards and latrine building can be overcome. The development of guidance on how to develop well written standards is the core focus of this research. This research explores the factors that can influence the development and use of a standard for household latrines in Rwanda using three data collection methods. Document analysis using 66 documents, including policies and strategies, design manuals and training guides from 17 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa was used in conjunction with the Delphi Method involving an expert panel of 27 from Rwanda and 38 semi-structured interviews. The research concludes that perceptions about standards for household latrines are fragmented and confused with little consensus in Rwanda on what need a standard should meet and what role it should play. The study has found that the need for a standard must be considered in the context of the wider sanitation system otherwise it can lead to duplication of efforts and increased confusion for all stakeholders. The study also found that there is an assumed link between standards and enforcement of standards through regulation and punishments which creates the negative perceptions about standards in Rwanda. However, despite this aversion to standards, there are still intentions to promote the standardisation of latrine technologies and designs, led by national government in Rwanda and in other Sub-Saharan African countries. The contribution to knowledge of this research includes a decision process presented at the end of the study which can be used by decision makers who are interested in developing a standard for household latrines. The decision process acts as a tool for outlining how a standard can operate within the national sanitation system. This understanding provides decision makers with the basis for continuing the debate on what a well written standard looks like in the national context and supports the development of a standard that is fit for purpose and provides a positive contribution to the sector.


Loughborough University Graduate Scholarship



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Louise Susan Medland

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID



  • en