A member of the sanitation committee since 2016, Jean-Pierre Harison helped to drive the toilet revolution in Ambatoantrano, motivated by what he saw as a boy.
“There was nowhere to go, so we used to do it in the fields,” he says, remembering the increase in tummy upsets and diarrhoea during the rainy season because the puddles he and the other children played in were contaminated with human waste.
When he became a father in 1998, the situation was no better. (Even four years ago, toilets were a relative rarity in the village; only 5% of families had one.) “All our children would miss a week or so of school during the rainy season because of diarrhoea,” he says. Jean-Pierre and his wife should have been in the fields, growing food, along with the rest of the village. “We had to say home.”
Around 15 years ago, when Jean-Pierre’s son was seven, he became critically ill with diarrhoea. For three days he was weak and listless and the outcome didn’t look good. “We were very worried,” he says. His son recovered, and Jean-Pierre resolved to get things changed. “I needed to protect people’s health.”
Jean-Pierre’s toilet showcases his commitment to hygiene. It has a cement, rather than wooden floor, which is easier to keep clean; a flat wooden board with a handle covers the hole when not in use to keep the flies out; and he replaces the straw roof every harvest time in May.
Most intriguing, however, is the thought that’s gone into its position. Unlike most of the buildings in the village which face west, away from the wind, Jean-Pierre designed his toilet with a door facing east, into the wind. “The air flows through it,” he explains. The wind keeps his toilet ventilated and blows away any odours. “I’m always happy to go and spend time in there,” he says.
1/5 Jean-Pierre Harison’s toilet.
“Unlike most of the buildings in the village which face west, away from the wind, I designed my toilet with the door facing east, into the wind.”
2/5 Jean-Pierre explains how the wind blows away toilet odours.
3/5 Jean-Pierre Harison with his wife Pierrette and their son.
4/5 The church in Ambatoantrano village, Madagascar.