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News and Resources

Affordable Solutions for Healthy Communities in Tanzania

News and Resources

By Marc Mainville, Rooftops Canada Technical Advisor


Growing up in Canada, there are so many things that I have taken for granted. The list includes a decent home, running water and a flush toilet. I have been living in Tanzania for over a year and my perception of the world has changed.


In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital, urbanization has resulted in the huge growth of slums and low-income neighbourhoods. According to the UN, the country’s urban population has increased from 23.7% in 2003 to 29.6% in 2012 and it continues to rise. Rooftops Canada’s partner, WAT Human Settlements Trust (WAT HST), is supporting low-income households in the city to find safe and affordable housing. Through WAT’s support, families are able to secure land tenure and build affordable homes in safe neighbourhoods.


A house alone does not address the many of challenges that low-income families face in Tanzania. In 2012, only 24% of Tanzania’s urban population had access to improved sanitation facilities (UN). The demand on the limited clean water sources and sanitation facilities is increasing. The improper disposal of human waste can also contaminate public water sources, putting communities at risk of illness and disease.


Everyone would like to improve their sanitation options, but most families cannot afford a septic tank and a soak away pit which can cost $2,400-3,000. To address this problem, WAT-HST technicians have developed a pilot project in the Kinondoni Municipality of Dar es Salaam using low-cost, shared septic systems with a single tank. This will bring down the cost of safe sanitation for each household to $600, one quarter of the original financial burden. The shared septic systems approach will also free up more land which can then be used for growing food.


Construction for this pilot project began in July 2014 with Rooftops Canada support to be used by ten households. Most of these households are led by women who run informal businesses such as food vendors, cooks, or small shops selling cell phones. WAT-HST will monitor the progress of the innovative pilot project with the hope of rolling it out to help more families benefit from this safe and cost-effective way of building healthy communities.