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New dawn for urban CLTS in Nairobi

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These last few weeks have been exciting and really busy for me. I have found myself doing a lot of juggling – our WASH Advisor and our CLTS Trainer have moved on from Plan, so I have had to step in and ensure that all the balls remain in the air. This week is the climax for me. Finally the urban CLTS training for the City Council of Nairobi (CCN) kicked off on Monday 14th May. The venue is next to Kasarani Stadium (the largest in Kenya) which was also the venue for the World Social Forum 2007. We had 37 participants, the majority of whom are from different departments of the CCN: Community Development, Housing, City Planning and Education. The rest of the participants were drawn from NGOs working in the 5 wards ( Embakasi, Kasarani, Kamukunji, Makadara and Starehe) where the City Council will be scaling up urban CLTS to. The key NGOs are Kenya Water and Health Organization (KWAHO), Practical Action, Community Transformers and Spatial Collective.

Come rain or shine
The weather in Nairobi has not been very favourable for outdoor work. It has been raining and flooding since April and raining even more in May. In Mathare 10, where we have been doing the urban CLTS, some of the toilets have been swept away as Nairobi river burst its banks. The media reported cases of drowning just a few days ago. I had even wondered if we should go ahead with the hands-on training given the circumstances on the ground, but nothing would stop our partners Community Cleaning Services (CCS) and the CCN champions who had requested the training. Through their hopes and prayers for the last 2 days the weather has changed drastically. Today (17th May) as the teams go out to trigger the sun is shining and the clouds are clear. We can hope for a favourable weather for triggering outdoors but just to be sure we have booked social halls to avoid the weather disruptions.

We can do it!
The training itself has been great and the participants have moved from doubt and scepticism to curiosity and beyond to ‘it is possible’ and to ‘we can do it’. Every session was a step towards building the confidence. It helped that we had a few natural and institutional champions such as Susan Kimani, Claris and Rosie Nyawira who was my fellow trainer. We also had other participants who had UCLTS experience. Seeing the Mathare 10 UCLTS documentary inspired them that in fact what we were walking them through had happened in an informal settlement they know and that it was possible to undertake the same in other informal settlements.

Funny dilemma
I also realized that one could buy in to CLTS even before experiencing it. This was the case with the senior officers from the CCN. Based on the results and passion they had seen in Susan Kimani, their colleague, they were convinced UCLTS had something to offer to the rest of the CCN staff and that is why they have been very keen to see what we have been doing this week. Yesterday, as the preparation for the field work went on, there was kind of drama as the CCN staff wondered if they should introduce themselves as from the City Council of Nairobi. This caused laughter and a big dilemma too. The inhabitants of informal settlements have a particular attitude towards the city council staff and the staff know that by identifying themselves as such the dynamics are likely to change. After long debates and confusion they still agreed they can’t fake their identity. They just have to figure out how to win the confidence of the communities. I’m really eager to hear the stories of how they overcame the barrier. Earlier we had agreed a good way would be still to say we are here to learn from you, the community, more about the sanitation situation-making the communities know they are the teachers and the facilitators (including CCN staff) are the learners.

I will tell you more on the experiences soon. UCLTS is now past the pilot stage with the City Council of Nairobi deciding to move it to these new 5 wards. It is a new dawn for UCLTS.

Sammy Musyoki is Programme Support Manager of Plan Kenya

Date: 21 May 2012