Zaia Mahatafa: An entrepreneur promoting good health in rural Madagascar

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions are an integral to improving health in Madagascar. In Madagascar, JSI has tackled WASH challenges in various ways, one of which included promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices in communities, including the construction and use of latrines in order to eliminate open defecation.

Zaia is a local mason in Miarinarivo, a small village in the northwestern region of Melaky. He specializes in constructing latrine slabs and selling them to members of his community. His income helps provide for his wife and two children.

“Years ago,” Zaia explaines, “I decided to start my own masonry business and soon people started calling me to help them build their houses, furniture, and latrines. My business grew very quickly.”

Zaia’s work soon attracted the MAHEFA program’s attention and Zaia was asked to construct a medical waste pit for his commune’s health center.

The good results led the MAHEFA program to enroll him in a training program for the construction of latrine slabs.

Zaia hopes to invest and expand production of these slabs to a larger scale in his area. “This is something that will significantly improve hygiene at home. People are realizing the importance of having latrines – this, for example, is the first thing a visitor will ask you if you get a home.”

Looking ahead, Zaia is depending on family and friends to grow his business in the village of Miarinarivo. His father-in-law, his brother-in-law and friends all learn from his techniques. “I tell them that this job requires precision and perseverance in order to grow the business.”

Zaia is hopeful for the future of his business and is proud to be promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices in his community through the MAHEFA program.

The USAID-funded Madagascar Community-Based Integrated Health Project, known locally as MAHEFA, was a five-year health program implemented by JSI that provided basic, quality health care to isolated populations in six north and northwestern regions of Madagascar. The program’s overarching goal was to increase the use of proven, community-based interventions and essential products among underserved populations of Madagascar.

The legacy of this program lives on through Mahefa Miaraka.

All photographs by: DDC Madagascar/JSI