Year of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage and Applied Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Kimber McKay

Commitee Members

Randall Skelton, Anna Prentiss, Gregory Campbell, Sarah Halvorson


Cultural anthropology


University of Montana


Prompted by the United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal to end open defecation by 2030, the Nepali government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the country have increased efforts to promote latrine usage in the parts of Nepal where open defecation is widely practiced. Stopping open defecation is critical to improving health outcomes in communities suffering from recurrent or chronic gastro-intestinal disease and poor nutritional status. In Humla, a northwestern mountain district of Nepal, villagers have recently been introduced to latrines and even more recently declared open defecation free (ODF) in 2017 by the Nepali government. Being declared ODF is intended to be an acknowledgement that every household in a district has access to an improved sanitation facility in which human waste can be safely separated and disposed of from human contact. Local NGOs working in the upper part of Humla District have provided local assistance for years and actively encouraged villagers to build latrines by providing subsidized materials.

This study provides an in-depth analysis of Buddhist Humli villages to describe and understand villagers’ beliefs pertaining to social norms regarding Nepal’s Open Defecation Free campaign and villagers’ responses toward latrine usage and latrine upkeep post ODF. This project examines whether divergent perspectives exist for toileting and hygiene behavior in those villages. Results from household interviews, latrine visualizations, and village observations showed that the majority of householders built and used pour/flush latrines. However, many of the householders either had broken latrines that needed repairs, some did not have a latrine at all, and a few repurposed their latrines into storage units. Consequently, the villages could not fully be considered ODF despite the district previously being declared ODF.

Villagers that habitually used and maintained a latrine reported that they were motivated by factors that pertained to contextual (access to water), psychosocial (notions of disgust and shame), and technological (satisfaction, ease of use, and convenience). These intersecting factors reflect mutual interaction between the individual, the behavior, and the environment that may influence the spread of new hygiene and toileting habits in parts of the Humla district of Nepal.

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