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Safer Toilets Bring Better Health, New Business to Tajikistan

Usmonali Gafurov

Feed the Future is training Usmonali Gafurov and other locals to build safer toilets in southern Tajikistan. Photo courtesy of Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity.

New ventilated improved pit latrines are creating fresh opportunities for local families.

Nineteen-year-old Usmonali Gafurov built a thriving family business doing something he never expected: building toilets.

It started when his brother Khurshed began working with Feed the Future’s Tajikistan Health & Nutrition Activity, which trained him to build ventilated improved pit latrines in their home district of Yovon in southern Tajikistan.

Only 7% of households in southern Tajikistan have access to improved sanitation facilities.

“After these trainings, we opened a small family business,” Usmonali says, “and I began to help my brother.”

Only 7% of households in southern Tajikistan have access to improved sanitation facilities. Most use traditional toilets—often a hole in the ground with two planks of wood over it, no water, and a horrible stench. Feed the Future is training locals such as Usmonali and Khurshed to build safer toilets that reduce the risks to public health and water supplies and improve sanitation and hygiene in the region.

The project provided the brothers with metallic molds to produce concrete rings, molds for the bottoms and lids of the toilets, technical guidance, and sketches for their products.

Their first order came in mid-February. By the end of May, Usmonali had built and installed 22 safe toilets for his neighbors.

“Often the project provides me with informational brochures on safe toilets and instructions on sanitation and hygiene” Usmonali says. “Through these, I can explain to people how they should have a toilet that meets certain standards and requirements. Next to the toilet should be a washbasin with soap. I always advise my customers to remember to wash their hands with soap after using the toilet. This is an elementary health care standard that protects us."

Feed the Future has trained 18 masons and entrepreneurs in 12 districts of southern Tajikistan as part of its efforts to encourage people to switch from traditional toilets to safe ones.

The Sustainable Development Goals call for all countries to provide access to adequate, equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030, including ending open defecation and paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. Usmonali and his family are helping make this happen in their country, one toilet at a time.

I do not have to ask my parents for financial assistance for my education anymore.

Usmonali used to dream of becoming a lawyer or an economist. But now he’s become a famous mason in his village, and is using the profits and training from his business to put himself through architecture school at the Technical University of Tajikistan in the Department of Architecture and Construction.

"I do not have to ask my parents for financial assistance for my education anymore,” he says. “This business has increased our household income.”

And it’s providing jobs for others in his village, too.

"There are a lot of orders through the end of September,” he says. “I need help, because I also want to reach neighboring villages."

IntraHealth International leads the five-year Feed the Future Tajikistan Health & Nutrition Activity, funded by the US Agency for International Development, to improve health and nutrition in Tajikistan, particularly among women and children in the Khatlon oblast. The activity integrates high-quality maternal, newborn, and child health care at the family, community, clinical, and national levels, with an emphasis on nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene. Rose DeBuysscher, Komilova Khosiyatkhon, and Muhiddin Haitov contributed reporting for this story.