Doing Well by Doing Good: A Mason’s Story

CWS Myanmar | May 26, 2019

U Aung Kyaw Moe at work. Photo: CWS

U Aung Kyaw Moe lives in Yae Le Gyi village, which is in southwest Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady River delta. Like many poor Myanmar citizens, U Moe works several jobs to make ends meets. Sometimes he works as a mason and a carpenter; other times he is a hairdresser! He supports his family of four on an average of 7,000 Myanmar Kyat (MMK), which is $4.50 a day; some days he earns just 3,000 MMK ($2), others as much as 10,000 MMK ($7) depending on the type of work he does.

U Moe is can work as a mason because, in May 2018, he took the opportunity to join a short-term masonry training program to become skilled so he could earn money building latrines designed for challenging environments. After the weeklong “Sanitation in Challenging Environments” workshop, which was organized by CWS staff and led by a technical expert from the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, he knew that his skills had improved considerably, especially for building latrines that are flood resistant. Before joining the workshop, U Moe, like other trainees, was unaware of key latrine design and placement principles such as keeping a distance of at least 10 meters between a latrine and home or school drinking water sources and keeping the floor of the pit at least one meter above underground surface water. Since adding this knowledge and awareness to his basic masonry skills, U Moe has earned money building 26 latrines in two villages. He has used improved design to bring quality sanitation to challenging environments like those he and his delta neighbors live in.

When talking with CWS staff during a recent visit, U Moe said, “The better designed latrines we are now helping communities build are quite good for us since they are built using 5 concrete rings. The old ones only used 3 rings, or bamboo slats around the pit and no concrete. Also, the new latrines’ rings rise higher than the water level during flooding”. These two improvements alone make latrines “more durable than the type we made in the past when we dug the pit, did not line it properly, and built it at ground level”. The way people used to build were, in fact, poor sanitation. When there was flooding, the water inundated the pits which then leaked raw sewage. In cases where no concrete rings were used, flood waters eroded the pits and they collapsed. “Now”, U Moe continued, “Since the new latrine model is designed for areas prone to flooding, our environment is now cleaner and safer, and we have less worry about water-related illnesses.”

In addition to have a new latrine and a cleaner, safer environment at his own house, the additional benefit for U Moe from partnering with CWS to help bring better sanitation to the area where he lives, is the prospect of earning even more money as a specially-skilled mason since there remains a huge need for more flood-proof latrines well beyond the 26 he has helped build already.

(For more information please contact mpannell@cwsglobal.org)

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