Abstract

Finite storage capacities of household pit latrines make safely managing fecal sludge a recurring challenge for 2.7 billion people globally. Frequently without guidance from standards or regulation, rural latrine owners choose how to manage their own fecal sludge. However, their intentions – what behavioral science says are the best predictors of future behaviors – when pits fill are poorly understood, inhibiting the development of safe fecal sludge management (FSM) solutions and deteriorating public and environmental health. Using survey data commonly measured by development practitioners, we analyze response frequencies and their associations with contextual factors, such as location, month that the survey was administered, and poverty level. We also use binomial logistic regression to determine if contextual factors can be used to predict the intentions of rural Cambodian latrine owners when pits fill. We found that four in ten rural latrine owners intend to manage their fecal sludge unsafely (41%), and one in six did not have a plan (16%). Desirable FSM intentions increased markedly after rice harvest and varied markedly across provinces. Many predictors of desirable FSM intentions, such as location and satisfaction with the household's latrine, were also identified. Associations between FSM intentions and contextual factors can be used to help predict FSM behaviors and improve FSM service delivery, behavior change campaigns, and product design. However, future work should seek to characterize the complete decision-making processes of rural latrine owners when pits fill.

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