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Why a better floor indicates a better future

September 6, 2018

A typical decision made by rural families:

Imagine this scenario: You are a parent living in rural Burundi. For years you’ve struggled to earn an income of about 80 cents a day. With five children to feed, things have never been easy.

Lately, however, things have started to look a little bit better. Last year, you started to apply some sustainable agriculture techniques you’ve learned, and the improved soil has allowed you to produce 40 percent more. You joined a savings group with your neighbors, and took out a loan to start a small business. You’ve repaid the loan and are excited for the ways your life can improve.

One of the other members suggests that you replace your dirt floors with better materials. Maybe cement. But cement is still expensive. Why would you make that decision?

Dirt floors increase risk of disease.

Dirt floors increase risk of disease.

A better floor is one of the biggest investments you can make to protect your family’s health.

In Central Africa, most poor families live and sleep on dirt floors, and these unsanitary conditions create numerous health threats. During dry seasons, dust on the floor is easily kicked up, increasing the risk of respiratory ailments. During rainy seasons, dirt floors can quickly accumulate puddles and patches of mud. These turn into breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which frequently spread illnesses like malaria.

By nature, it is impossible to clean a dirt floor. Shoes or bare feet can bring fecal matter or other sources of bacteria indoors. This means that bacteria-borne illnesses can also spread quickly. Parasitic diseases often lead to diarrhea, which can be fatal in the developing world. Children are particularly vulnerable.

A study of floor materials in Mexico revealed improved materials significantly increase resistance against illnesses

A study of floor materials in Mexico revealed improved materials significantly increase resistance against illnesses

But just how effective would it be to switch to a better flooring material?

When the Mexican government rolled out a program in 2007 to replace dirt floors with cement, a World Bank study revealed that children’s health was significantly improved. Diarrhea was nearly cut in half. Parasitic infestations had decreased by almost 80 percent.

Quality floors create a thick barrier between harmful bacteria on the ground and children who live above. This layer of protection helps to eliminate risks of parasitic infections, diarrhea, and asthma.

Plant With Purpose partners are more likely to make improvements to their home's floors

Plant With Purpose partners are more likely to make improvements to their home's floors

Plant With Purpose helps families improve floors.

This significant improvement in quality of life led Plant With Purpose to include dirt floors as a measure of poverty in its multi-dimensional poverty index. This method of measurement goes beyond looking at poverty solely through the lens of income, but through a variety of indicators that show resilience, opportunity, and quality of life.

The most recent study revealed that across all of Plant With Purpose’s programs, participating households were significantly less likely to have dirt floors. 57 percent of participants’ homes had a floor made from cement or other improved materials. The same study also saw a significant increase in the amount of rooms among participating households, indicating that one of the most common changes for people overcoming poverty is an improved home.

Arfanio, a Plant With Purpose participant in the Dominican Republic testifies that saving money and growing out of poverty has led to these improvements. “I saved my money, paid my debts, and then started managing houses… now I help install floors in my community. Solving the problems that they face."

Improved floors is just one result of Plant With Purpose's program in rural, developing areas. Purpose Partners help make this change possible! To learn about how to become a Purpose Partner for $22 a month, just follow this link!

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