Life Histories

Participatory Rural Appraisal


Gendered experiences of latrine access and use in Zimbabwe

Data Collection

Journey Mapping

Data Analysis

Sensemaking Workshop

Thematic Analysis



Takunda, a USAID-funded, multisectoral, Resilience and Food Security Activity in Zimbabwe, is using a process of Human-Centered Design (HCD) to strengthen safe and sustainable latrine construction and use in four rural districts of Zimbabwe (Buhera, Chivi, Mutare, and Zaka).

Unique within the region, Zimbabwe has had a standardized latrine design since the 1980sthe Blair Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine (BVIP). The latrine’s purposeful and safe design promotes airflow to remove odors and trap flies.  

Assessment Objective

Using life histories and participatory rapid appraisal, this research aimed to find the motivations and barriers to safe and sustainable latrine construction in rural Zimbabwe.

Data Collection

Between May and June 2022, the Takunda team conducted “Deep Dive” research in five villages with varying sanitation coverage in Buhera (2), Mutare Rural (1), and Zaka (2). 

The research included participatory and unstructured research activities focused on hearing people’s stories. These included focus group discussions using journey mapping, dream latrine, and sanitation laddering activities (4 groups total with separate activities for women and men), village transect walks (5 walks total), supplier interviews (6 interviews), and household interviews (17 interviews).

For the 17 household interviews, Life Histories were conducted using Journey Maps and Difference Mapping  to review how different types of people accessed and used latrines differently. 

For the focus group discussions, sanitation ladder card sorts and visioning activities about a dream latrine were used. 

This information was used to improve sustainable and safe latrine construction and use in Takunda working areas.

Data Analysis

Collaborative analysis was used to help identify the surprises, themes, extremes and recommendations from all aspects of the research.

Insights were generated from the themes and extremes and used in a visual reporting format with pictures, insights and descriptions.



Key Findings

The research identified four motivators for households to construct latrines. 

  • Shame – Households who have been embarrassed to let relatives visit and so construct a solid and reasonable latrine—typically double squat latrines Money comes from the general household budget—often in a rush—before relatives arrive.
  • Replacements – Households who have had a latrine in the past that collapsed or became full. They recognize the value  of latrines and understand how it enhances household safety. They often construct double squat latrines. The money comes from the general household budget but might take time to save.
  • Prestige – Households who wish to have the best of the best. They frequently construct unsafe latrines with windows, doors, and verandas. Money is not a factor. 
  • Community momentum – Households in communities with strong social cohesion, leadership, and successful community mobilisation. They construct a single squat latrine for the first time and save pennies to cover the cost.

Utilising Results

Lastly, the visual report was condensed in a learning brief and presentation to help influence policy around latrine designs in Zimbabwe.