Long Read

Best practice: Improving water, sanitation and hygiene in Tanzania

In 2012, only 12% of Tanzanians had access to WASH services. As a result, women and children spend several hours every day fetching water and many people fall ill from diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid and worm and skin diseases.

The Tabora region is one of the poorest regions of Tanzania. There are no proper roads, so local farmers cannot bring their produce to market. There are no permanent water sources, rivers or lakes, so there’s a shortage of water during the dry season. Nevertheless, Tabora is a major producer of tobacco because the dry climate is excellent for growing the crop.

Between 2008 and 2013 Simavi and Tabora Development Foundation Trust (TDFT) worked together on a WASH project in the Tabora region to improve the health, environmental and economic conditions of 30 rural communities by providing safe water, effective sanitation and improved hygiene practices. To assess the impact and sustainability of this project we conducted desk research and a survey in one of the communities, Usimba, where no other NGOs are active.

The WASH project

At the beginning of the project we mobilised community members to establish Water Committees responsible for the management and maintenance of the water supply systems and for hygiene promotion and mobilisation in the community. As well as the Water Committees, we also trained other community representatives, such as the Village Executive Officer (VEO) and schoolteachers. We hired engineers to construct water pumps and boreholes and to train community members in the technical aspects of maintaining these hand pumps. In agreement with the VEO and sub-leaders, the Water Committees organised regular awareness-raising meetings within the community on the importance of WASH and positive hygiene behaviour.


Two years after the project’s completion, all the water points in Usimba are still fully functional. The hand pumps, boreholes and wells, give local people immediate access to clean water – meaning they have more time to work in the fields, sell produce and make bricks to build houses.

Latrine coverage in Usimba, particularly improved latrines, is now higher compared to the rest of the country. Since the start of the project, 52.9% of households in Usimba have built improved latrines, compared to 24% in the rest of Tanzania.

Hygiene behaviour
Open defecation is still socially accepted in many parts of Tanzania. However, in Usimba this has completely changed as a result of the project and the active involvement of the community and officials. According to a project survey in 2008, hand washing in households before eating was 70%, and only 10% after defecation. Today 98% of household members wash their hands with soap before eating and 96% wash their hands with soap after defecation.

Thanks to these changes people enjoy better health, mainly through a decrease in diarrhoea.  The chairperson of Usimba said:

People are in better health because they have access to safe water, they use the latrine and practise other forms of good hygiene. They can now do their business and work without any problems.”


Two years after the end of our invention, all the WASH services in Usimba well-managed, well-maintained and regularly used by the local community. The Water Committee and the VEO in Usimba continue to organise awareness-raising meetings every three months. According to the VEO, around 60% of the Usimba community attend an awareness-raising meeting at least once a year.

People’s health is continuing to improve. Perhaps most encouragingly of all, children are more attentive in school and they generally feel cleaner and better about themselves, offering hope and opportunity for further economic and personal development in the future.

For more information on this project, download our factsheet here.

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