Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Shipwreck beach, Fort Dauphin, Madagascar - Giles Crosse
The beaches in this part of the world are some of the most beautiful around, with breathtaking views to the horizon of the Indian Ocean.

But there is also a stark human lesson to be learned amidst this natural spectacle.

Open air defecation is among one of the many development issues facing Madagascar. A lack of sewerage systems and latrines, plus issues surrounding cultural change and education, mean that many people throughout the island still view open air defecation as the norm.

Of course this societal concept has wide ranging implications in terms of healthcare and disease control, in addition to potentially less obvious impacts on the tourist trade.

Many NGOs have installed latrine systems on the island, all too often used and then left. What is required is a newer type of development mindset, that offers people living here the tools to implement and create their own change.

It is blindingly obvious that with the ingenuity and intelligence they possess, Malagasy people are more than capable of building and maintaining basic latrine systems.

What is needed is an approach that suggests the cultural and mental tools to enable a shift from outdated mindsets, which are so often at the core of development work.

In many ways the reasons beaches become defecation sites are simple, the tide comes in and washes away the problem, neatly, freely and regularly.

But this reality makes beaches unpleasant places to be, spreads disease, and creates a number of additional negative impacts on both the tourist trade and foreigner's perceptions of Madagascar itself.

This might seem like a simple problem to fix, but as is often the case it illustrates the complexities facing development workers and the developing world as a whole.

Giles Crosse

Giles Crosse

It may not seem that attractive, but a long drop latrine is actually a pretty amazing tool viewed in a wider context.

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