CLTS Sharing and Learning workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal: sustainability, M&E and sanitation marketing

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On the 20th October 2013, a one-day CLTS Sharing and Learning workshop was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the run-up to the 5th South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN V). We were 45 participants, coming from different countries –with Nepal leading in terms of numbers of participants and India second– and with various degrees and kinds of experience in CLTS.

We first shared the situation and achievements of CLTS in the country or region we were working in. Especially impressive were the reports from the different organisations from Nepal, where around 25% of the Village Development Committees (administrative unit covering several villages) have become Open Defecation Free. Along with the efforts of the many organisations working in the country, the development of a national policy, the Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan, has provided a  very supportive environment. I will go into detail on this in my next blog!

The second part of the workshop consisted of short presentations on recent innovations and research, followed by group discussions about the issues the participants were keen on addressing. Sustainability (how to remain ODF once the status is achieved) generated so much interest that we had to make two groups. Another group discussed monitoring, evaluation and verification, and the last one  the incorporation of sanitation marketing.

All the contributions were very interesting, so have a look at the workshop report.  Here I just summarise some of the solutions the different groups proposed for the problems they were dealing with. However, in future posts about SACOSAN I will pick up other issues discussed in the workshop.

The key message highlighted by the sustainability groups was that institutional sustainability is the cornerstone of the behaviour change process. Governments and donors should recognise that ODF is not the end and encourage and keep funding post ODF activities. These should aim on the one hand at sustaining the new behaviour, for instance with continuous monitoring, reinforcing hygiene messages through media and sectoral workers –targeting specifically more reluctant groups, like the elderly–  and awarding communities that have good hygiene practices (beyond ODF). On the other hand, they should ensure the maintenance and cleansing of toilets in public buildings (school, health centre, etc.) and address sanitation related issues such as shortage of water supply through inter-sector collaboration. Moreover there should be a good coordination between the different NGOs, donors and the government.

The monitoring, evaluation and verification group made a call to recognise the importance of these issues, plan them strategically and fund them sufficiently. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) should be framed systemically and understood as an ongoing learning process based on the community. It can shed light on what’s working where and why. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to include qualitative research in the package. The importance of ODF verification for sustainability was highlighted. Accordingly, the verification process should be standardised and have a common set of indicators at least at the country level. Especially when there are strict targets or strong incentives, there is a risk of lax verification and over-reporting. It is important to bear these dynamics in mind and set up a verification procedure with the necessary degree of independence. This will in most cases imply the engagement of a 3rd party in verification and/or cross checks from different departments or areas.

Three main ideas were proposed by the sanitation marketing group. First, the overall aim would be to ensure the availability of different technological options that suit the aspirations of communities and thus enable moving up the sanitation ladder. Secondly, regarding the suppliers, it is important to identify those who are less profit oriented, to create mechanisms that assure the payback of investments and to provide them with micro-financing opportunities. Finally, the involvement of the government in sanitation marketing is needed in order to create and enabling environment.

Heated debates arose in relation to sanitation marketing. Some argued that there is an a priori assumption of the need for sanitation marketing to complement demand generation. Others defended its importance based on different studies –eg in Cambodia and Nepal– showing that when there is successful demand generation at scale, supply becomes a bottleneck. Others questioned whether sanitation marketing was at all effective in providing adequate technological alternatives to the poorest. In the end, it depends on how we frame sanitation marketing; the ‘how’ and ‘when’ are crucial in order to avoid derailing the demand-led character of CLTS. Moreover, it is also important to consider less market-based alternatives to address supply. For instance, there is the very interesting and innovative experience of participatory latrine design in Malawi.

Finally I would also recommend you have a look at the Lukenya Notes, which touch on similar issues to those discussed in the groups.

Date: 25 October 2013