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Setting the scene for open defecation free communities in Zambia and beyond

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This week Plan International WASH Advisors, IDS, IRC, Plan Netherlands,Plan UK and Plan USA have converged in Lusaka to deliberate on shit. It has been interesting to see how different countries have progressed over the four years of implementing CLTS. The experiences from the participants reveal that gender is critical in CLTS because we need to engage women, men and children to make decisions on sanitation as well as address their specific needs. Urban CLTS was also an area where we observed the need to adapt the traditional CLTS approach to the context and engage different stakeholders in the process; behavior change is also another element that we need to accentuate in CLTS to enhance ODF sustainability. Furthermore different hygiene and sanitation behaviors need to be promoted in phases so that we don’t overload community members with many messages at the same time.

ODF verification which is one of the CLTS processes is currently implemented by countries in different ways. For some countries it is centralized while for others it’s decentralized. Experience is showing that decentralization is the way to go if we are to verify ODF villages on time to avoid community members from relapsing due to delays.

As part of the meeting we had an opportunity to conduct ODF verification in Zambia together with the district, chiefs, headmen and champions. It was a rewarding experience as we interacted with the community members and saw CLTS in practice in a different country with people from all over the continent. Despite the diversity of the team the community members were confident to show us around their homes and explain how they have been able to end open defecation in their communities.

We divided into several groups and managed to verify over 400 households. I personally visited 11 households in Chipancha village. My journey started at the headman’s household. He was an exemplary leader, his home had a clean latrine with a hand washing facility, no open defecation was observed. I also visited another household where an elderly woman had modified her latrine using local innovation to suit her needs. She actually made a raised platform on the squat hole so that she could comfortably sit instead of having to squat. In another household the run-off water from a tippy tap was channeled to a plant to avoid wastage.  I also observed where a squat hole cover had been made out of recycled material and suspended with a string so the latrine user doesn’t touch it but moves it by swinging.

Generally I observed that all the latrines were made out of local materials, and were of good quality given the economic status and community setting. The floor was smeared with cow dung, mud or ash which made it easier to clean.

Mary Namwebe is CLTS Project Coordinator for Plan Uganda.

Date: 7 March 2014
Pan Africa,