Anamalayanpatti is an agricultural village in the beautiful Cumbam valley of Theni district in Tamilnadu. Surrounded by the Western Ghats and benefitted by the Periyar Dam, Anamalayanpatti is surrounded by rice fields and grape farms.
With a population of about 7000, the open air defecation problem has reached alarming proportions.Separate areas for men and women respectively have been earmarked for defecation. The fields have shrunk and buildings and houses have come up every where. Unlike earlier times, the designated areas have lost the tree shrubs and plants with the result that there is absolutely no privacy. We saw pigs roaming freely and consuming human faeces, the bad smell pervading the air around, lots of used and old cloth strewn around. Close by there are cattle sheds where milking of cows was going on. All in all Public health as well as human dignity were at low levels.
Lokalex offered to help by committing to building 20 toilets for an estimated 700 women beneficiaries. However, Lokalex wanted to encourage local economic activity around this public toilet facility. It was agreed with the Panchayat leaders that the entire complex would be built by the villagers using as far as possible all the locally available material and resources. Thus the contractor approach to build the toilets was rejected so that much of money spent on labour and material remains within the village. Four teams to form four microenterprises were invited to come forward in the meeting that took place with the villagers in the Gram sabha meeting on October 2nd, 2012. One team was to make established mud blocks that would be needed for construction, the other to build the toilets, a third that would operate and maintain the toilets by charging a small fee for use and a fourth that would harvest the manure and sell natural fertilizer out of the excreta.
Lokalex decided on the UDDT type of toilets called the Ecosan which ensures hygiene, does not need water to flush the excreta and prevents contamination of soil as in the case of leachpits or cistern type toilets.
Awareness program was held for the villagers and doubts of the Panchayat leaders were removed by arranging their visit to Musiri where a similar public toilet complex id functional.
The three member women’s micro-enterprise unit was trained in mudblock making and also the nuances of thinking like entrepreneurs rather than wage earners. Hence, instead of employing the three women to make mud blocks required for the construction a deal was struck with them. They would sell the mud blocks to Lokalex the cost of which was negotiated with them so that they can make a reasonable profit. Lokalex has already bought more than 5000 blocks from this enterprise. They have also been approached by merchants from neighbouring villages for supply of mud blocks.
Another team was trained in making a model toilet using the mud blocks that had been bought from the first team. Here too, the first toilet was used as a reference toilet to calculate the costs of building the entire complex including material and labor. The team will construct and supply each of the remaining 19 toilets at a negotiated price for each one.