An opportunity to make a difference: Plan's role in scaling up CLTS in Africa

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Let me share something that struck me strongly during the annual review workshop of the Pan African programme Empowering self-help sanitation of rural and peri-urban communities and schools in Africa which took place in Accra between the 27th February and 1st March 2012.

When on the first day we had a gallery walk and presentations concerning Plan and CLTS in each of the eight countries – Sierra Leone, Ghana, Niger, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia – it was clear that the situation and pattern were very different in the different countries and that things change really fast. In Zambia, for instance, a bit over a year ago Plan was working largely on its own. Now it has been contracted by the Government to do the verifications for the national CLTS programme for the whole country with its 72 districts. In most countries, Plan is a member of a National Task Force for sanitation, sometimes with a leading role. Relationships in support of Government programmes of going to scale are now critical and in most countries offer huge opportunities for influence and positive contributions. In my view the good impacts on children and others of these activities in support of government are likely to far exceed the immediate and direct work of Plan and Plan’s partners in the field.

The same goes, for Plan and other NGOs, with training for actions outside Plan areas and in other countries. The potential long-term impact of Plan staff going to another country where CLTS is requested, just starting, or stalled, are enormous. You only have to think through the potential trajectories of adoption and spread. And a big lesson in doing this is from Kamal Kar’s work – CLTS has taken root and spread best where he has made one or more follow-up visits to a country to mentor, support and reinforce commitment, confidence and good practice.

So a big question is whether Plan staff have the numbers, support, freedom and flexibility to make the most of this. The numbers of staff engaged full time varies a lot between countries – Ethiopia has most. This is a critical time now. In the early stages of CLTS, Plan was often the main actor. Now there are many, with Government in the lead as it should be and has to be. Working with and in support of Government for going to scale with quality and sustainability – what a challenge! What an opportunity! Having done so much to sow the seeds, can Plan now do its bit and its best as one of many actors? And do different things in different places? Being alert, nimble and positive? I hope so. This is one way Plan can make a mega difference to children. I just hope that all country programmes see this and make the most of it. And this goes for other NGOs as well…

Robert Chambers, Research Associate, IDS

Date: 13 March 2012
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