Over the past 20 years, farmers of the Mekong Delta have made use of pond toilets that discharge waste directly into canals and rivers near their farms. Every morning, the local people on their way to the market by boat greet their neighbours in these toilets. That is why they are jokingly called “Hello” toilets.
In recent years, the situation hasn't improved much. In 2014, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 54% of all toilets in the delta are still pond toilets and in Ca Mau Province the rate is 61%.
Ca Mau is home to more than half of Vietnam's mangroves and exports more shrimp than any other province. This is why pond toilets are a problem.
According to WHO, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health, waste from pond toilets pollutes water, land, and food, and cause diseases such as parasites, diarrhoea, eye sores, and skin diseases. And in Ca Mau, water-borne diseases have resulted in large losses of shrimp stocks.
Farmers in these areas depend heavily on shrimp production. But the increasingly strict food safety standards required by global markets make these toilets a threat to their business.
In response, between 2013 and 2015, Mangroves and Markets (MAM), a project financed by BMUB, the German Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Building, and Nuclear Safety and implemented by IUCN and SNV Netherlands Development Organization, co-financed the installation of septic toilets that meet international hygiene standards. To date, 500 toilets have been installed in Nhung Mien and 500 in Dat Mui.
The toilet kits were provided by ROTO, a Vietnamese company. The project paid $80 for the waste water treatment equipment; ROTO contributed the ceramic toilet, pipes and the farmers paid for the installation.
In addition to installing new toilets, the project invited specialists from the Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology in the province to train 2,000 farmers on the principles of waste management, personal hygiene, and how to maintain septic toilets.
The farmers who have installed the new toilets have prompted others to do the same without project financing.
Three years after the project started, you see fewer “hello” toilets and hear fewer friendly greetings.