Combining Sensor Monitoring and Ethnography to Evaluate Household Latrine Usage in Rural India
Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development
Toilets -- India
This paper advances research on methods used to evaluate sanitation usage and behavior. The research used quantitative and qualitative methods to contribute to new understanding of sanitation practices and meanings in rural India. We estimated latrine usage behavior through ethnographic interviews and sensor monitoring, specifically the latest generation of infrared toilet sensors, Portland State University Passive Latrine Use Monitors (PLUMs). Two hundred and fifty-eight rural households in West Bengal (WB) and Himachal Pradesh, India, participated in the study by allowing PLUMs to be installed in their houses for a minimum of 6 days. Six hundred interviews were taken in these households, and in others, where sensors had not been installed. Ethnographic and observational methods were used to capture the different defecation habits and their meanings in the two study sites. Those data framed the analysis of the PLUM raw data for each location. PLUMs provided reliable, quantitative verification. Interviews elicited unique information and proved essential to understanding and maximizing the PLUM data set. The combined methodological approach produced key findings that latrines in rural WB were used only for defecation, and that low cost, pit latrines were being used sustainably in both study areas.
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Unaffiliated researchers can access the work here: http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/washdev.2015.155
O'Reilly, K., Louis, E., Thomas, E., & Sinha, A. (2015). Combining sensor monitoring and ethnography to evaluate household latrine usage in rural India. Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, 5(3), 426-438.