There is a lot more to designing a pit-emptying device than the technical, engineering-based aspects. In order for a device to be successful it needs to be profitably manufactured, readily available, and actually be purchased by businesses that use it to make a living. The designer is caught between two immovable issues. On the one hand, the more complicated the technology's design the more it will cost, the more difficult it will be to manufacture in the country where it is to be used, and the harder it will be to establish a supply chain. On the other hand, the simpler the device the less power it will have, the less likely it is that it will be capable of removing heavy sludge, and the less successful it will be at providing a pit-emptying solution. The complexity of the problems are compounded by the fragmented, weak, and informal nature of the pit-emptying profession. This paper explores the issues around developing pit-emptying devices that meet both the needs and the constraints of the marketplace.
In more developed areas of the world we have forgotten the horrors of using a disgusting toilet and we now take for granted that toilets are comfortable, well lit, smell free, private, pleasant places to defecate. They are places where we can ‘go in peace’. Latrines provided using donor funds have tended to be designed from a purely functional perspective and based on vague ideas about what poor people want, or what the implementing organization thinks poor people should have. The growing use of professional designers in the sector is making implementing organizations pay attention to the key attributes of the latrine and view its design from the perspective of the user. This paper brings the engineer's and designer's perspectives together and looks at what we mean by ‘beautiful latrine’. It draws on the work of Donald A. Norman, providing a lens through which the visceral, behavioural, and reflective design aspects of a latrine can be viewed. The paper draws heavily on the author's 20-year experience in the sanitation sector in Africa and Asia and thousands of happy hours spent talking and poking his nose into people's most private business.