The construction of Marie Lydia Gaston Ravoninjanaharv’s first ever toilet a year ago coincided with a traumatic event.
Marie Lydia and her husband own zebus, a type of humped cattle that are popular in Madagascar because they can withstand extreme heat and insects. Zebus are worth around 1m Ariary (£200) on the black market, and zebu thieves are a growing problem in the village.
One night last July, rustlers broke in and stole a zebu they’d had for six years. It was tied up. “But they cut the rope,” she says. Luckily they have four zebus left, which means they are still relatively wealthy - zebu are like cash in the bank - but it’s not all about the money, she says. “It’s like you’ve lost your parents or your kids.”
As well as the zebus, they have a plough, and they funded their first ever toilet with money earned from ploughing other people’s land, for which her husband charges 6000 Ariary (£1.20) a day.
They decided to finally build their own toilet rather than using a neighbour’s because of a local awareness campaign and because just about everyone else in the village had one.
They have made quite a commitment to their first toilet, investing in expensive materials that are designed to last: stone floor, brick walls (which they bought; most villagers make their own) and a door made from corrugated iron, beaten flat to rub off the sharp edges.
Having their own toilet has transformed her pregnancy, a time when the need to go is more frequent. She still has a chamber pot in her bedroom at night, however. “I won’t go outside at night,” she says. “Zebus rustlers.”
1/5 Marie Lydia Gaston Ravoninjanaharv’s toilet. They used expensive materials to make sure it’s built to last.
“We paid for our first ever toilet by ploughing other people’s land.”
2/5 Marie Lydia’s husband earns £1.20 a day ploughing the land.
3/5 Marie Lydia Gaston Ravoninjanaharv lives with her husband, and her four-year-old daughter, Natcha. She is nine months pregnant.
4/5 Marie Lydia and her husband own zebu - a breed of cattle that is highly prized in Madagascar.