GARV Toilets - Research Insights from Accra


We at GARV toilets have been conducting a baseline research across two sites in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. As a part of the research, we have been using multiple qualitative techniques to understand the needs and perceptions of the communities with respect to availability of public toilets, hygiene behaviors, apart from undertsanding the various socio-economic, cultural and demograhic parameters that influence community choices and specific behaviors. Through the research phase our team has been jotting down their experiences, learnings and insights. Here in this post, we are happy to share the insights and videos from Ms. Aparna Divakar, Ms. Kuhelika Ghosh and Ms. Sana Paviwala (Associates, Garv Toilets-Ghana). 

Aparna shares her insights here:

It was quite an experience travelling to Ghana all the way from India. The expectations were many as I packed my bags. But, Ghana proved to be quite different from the perceptions I had of it - it had better roads, bad traffic jams and friendly people. But, of special interest to us during this visit was the state of sanitation in Ghana.

We had been interviewing different community groups in Salaga Market and Zenu (Both in Greater Accra Region), the two sites identified for carrying out the pilot project of GARV Toilets’ in Ghana co-funded by Via Water. For the urban slum dwellers in Salaga Market a toilet in their home is definitely not the norm and access to clean and well-maintained toilets is a luxury. I still remember the sight of dirty floors strewn with soiled toilet papers, broken or non-existent doors, unflushed toilets from the day we visited one of the public toilet facilities in Salaga Market. If the sight was nauseating, the stench was much worse. As for Zenu, it did not have any public toilets at all. People had to make do with polythene bags which they refer to as Flying Toilets.

We quickly learned that toilets in Ghana meant business and there were people who wanted to keep it that way. Talking to the children, many sanitation secrets that the adults would have rather preferred to keep mum about emerged and we could see the link between the poor sanitation facilities, hygiene behaviour and the high rates of water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhea. Clearly there is much room for progress in terms of sanitation for this little country.

A link to the video of a ZMET assessment activity:  (

Here goes Kuhelika:

It has been a little over three weeks of my stint with GARV toilets in Ghana and so far, the journey has been quite overwhelming. Coming from the chaotic harmony that is India, as one drives past the neatly lined up houses in the newer parts of Accra, one can’t help but notice the impersonal and clinical exterior of these places. But, as one enters Salaga Market, the first thing that catches our attention is that the entire place seems to have a life of its own. In one corner you can hear the loud chatter of the vegetable sellers and fishmongers, in another part the radio at a hairdresser’s shop can be heard blaring the latest hits, in the middle there is the taxi stand announcing the destinations “Chorkor-Chemuena-Shiabu” like an old record player that is stuck in a loop…the whole place is bustling with so much activity and the energy of this place is infectious!

When we interact with the community, explaining to them the concept of GARV toilets and its offerings, their reception of our ideas convey the feeling of “Akwaba”…the local word for “welcome”. Their eagerness also makes us realise the gravity of the problems they are facing to access something as basic as a toilet facility. There are public toilets around, but they are not in enough numbers to serve a population of 600 people. The public toilets are maintained by private operators and the community members do not know who these operators are. So in case of any complaints, they have no idea who to talk to. Most of the facilities are very poorly maintained. They are dimly lit and many do not even have doors in the cubicles. They are not cleaned regularly and t-rolls, rags and what not can be seen strewn across the floor. Many of the users do not flush and at times there is no water available for flushing and the users have to fetch water by themselves from outside. The facilities lack ventilation and the smell is unbearable. Some facilities that are better maintained charge somewhere around 0.70-1 GHC, which is not affordable for most of the community members. The ones that charge 0.40-0.50 GHC are hardly usable. As a result, a large section of the people ends up going to the nearby beaches.

On speaking to the children, some of the insights that we have received have been quite shocking. They say that when people go to the beaches for open defecation, many of them use sand, rubble, old rags and even leaves to clean themselves. They also have a public bathing facility, and, to save the cost of using a toilet facility separately, people often defecate in the shower area, hoping the faecal matter will be carried away by the water from the shower. On speaking to the other people in the community also it becomes quite clear that money is their chief constraining factor when it comes to availing the public toilet services. Many people, especially the children and the elderly, use chamber pots or polythene bags for defecation at home, which they then dump in the open drains.

A link to the video of a focused group discussion activity: (

The situation is quite deplorable, but due to the apathy of the private operators, the community does not see any hopes of improvement. They all feel the need for an improved toilet facility with better amenities and timely services. GARV Toilets is aiming to provide that and more through our innovation. We hope to cater to the needs of the people at Salaga Market through our innovative product solution!!

Sana, who loves to put her insights into a short tale shares her part:

Describing the plight of a teenage girl in Zenu: 

"Like my dreams,

They asked me to wrap up


In a polybag"

Describing the story of a young woman in Salaga Market:

"Every sunrise

Brings me relief

For nights are scarier

In the bushes"


Dick Bouman's picture

Great to get these sharings. I am always amazed about the contrast between the very clean clothes that people wear (their dignity) and the horor of the sanitary facilities that they face (indignity). Like living in two worlds.

It must be a big challenge to start these new facilities and to keep them well, whlie people have applied so many tactics to overcome their daily duties. 


Mayank Midha's picture

True. If you look at the revelations made by the children in the youtube video, we were shocked to know about the unsanitary practices which are prevalant in Salaga market area. Surprisingly, these insights were not shared by the older community members during the focused group discussions. The situation is bad and needs good attention!