First day at the Pan Africa annual review meeting: learning and reflections

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This was my first, but unfortunately, probably the last annual review meeting of the CLTS Pan Africa Programme. We started the day with introductions and ice-breakers followed by updates from the different countries that a part of the project. It was great to hear how the different country officers have been implementing CLTS as well as changes they have made following the Plan ODF Sustainability Study. From the different presentations two things really stood out:

Re-Verification Celebrations in Ethiopia
The first was re-verification celebrations being used in one district in Ethiopia. To tackle the problem of communities not sustaining ODF status Plan Ethiopia have been holding annual celebrations. Like people celebrate their birthday’s communities come together and hold an annual event to celebrate when they become ODF. This could really help make sure that communities continue to use toilets and wash hands and make sure momentum and commitment is maintained.

Ghana’s 5 step ODF Verification Protocol
Secondly was the ODF verification protocol used in Ghana. At first the community self-verify which is followed by certification by the district and then by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. To complete these three steps of verification communities are required to be ODF however what is different in the Ghana case is that only a minimum of 80% of households have had to have constructed latrines. Sharing of latrines between families is also accepted. After communities are declared ODF then they aim to become sanitised communities, where everyone has a toilet, and then a sustainably sanitised community. Reflecting on this I think it may strengthen the CLTS process. Staggering targets makes the process more manageable and less daunting and hopefully more likely to create sustainable ODF communities.

Urban CLTS
In the afternoon we had a really interesting session on Urban CLTS (UCLTS). There is a clear demand for understanding and people are interesting in designing and implementing UCLTS projects. The discussion touched on a number of important points. One of these points was the need to create a common understanding of what sanitation is. In the urban context it is not always about tackling open defecation but also looking at the other ways faeces enters the environment, such as ‘flying toilets’. Consequently, generating an agreement on what is being tackled is important. Other problems for conducting UCLTS brought up included the problem of absentee landlords, by-laws outlawing the use of pit latrines, the need to include Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) and the transient nature of many urban communities.

The more I learn about UCLTS the more I begin to believe that some of the problems faced at the beginning of the UCLTS process could help overcome the second and third generation problems facing CLTS in rural settings. Here are some examples:

  1. Faecal sludge management: a subject needed to be faced by UCLTS from the beginning, although rural programmes have been able to ignore FSM up to now. However, what to do once the pits are full is an issue that can effect sustainability.
  2. Post-ODF government involvement: UCLTS involves local governments from the beginning, learning best practices for engaging with government and getting them involved could inform government contribution to post-ODF activities in rural programmes. 
  3. Dealing in heterogeneous communities: ways to bring diverse communities together could help in the designing of activities in rural communities with a history of conflict.
  4. Starting on the middle rung: due to by-laws pit latrines are not always legally acceptable consequently the latrines constructed must be on the middle of the sanitation ladder. Rural projects have also seen a number of problems of pit latrines these include collapsing latrines and the contamination of groundwater. Therefore understanding the systems needed to build more durable and high standard latrines has the potential to have a really positive effect on rural communities either starting on a middle rung or climbing the sanitation ladder.

These indicate the importance of documenting and learning from current UCLTS projects. Not just to inform those wishing to implement UCLTS but those grappling with some of the problems of rural CLTS.

There are still many problems associated with CLTS in both rural and urban environments. Meetings like this provides the opportunity to draw on different experiences and reflect on my own opinion. It also gives a platform for the sharing and harvesting of innovations not just being currently implemented but those that are developing and have yet to take shape.

Jamie Myers is a Research Officer at the CLTS Knowledge Hub at IDS.

Date: 13 March 2015
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Pan Africa