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Visiting CLTS communities in Malawi

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From the 11th to the 15th March 2013, the third annual review meeting of Plan’s Pan African programme Empowering self-help sanitation of rural and peri-urban communities and schools in Africa took place in Lilongwe, Malawi. Participants from 7 of the 8 programme countries as well as representatives of the partner organisations (Plan Netherlands, IRC and IDS) spent the week discussing progress of the 5 year project as well as key emerging issues, questions and next steps. The results of the project’s 2012 mid term review were also presented and gave food for thought for adjustments and priorities for the remaining 2 years of the programme.


Sharon Roose, Program Advisor Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Plan Netherlands

Imagine....you are being told that there are visitors coming to your village in the Netherlands and that they want to talk about your use of the toilet. And not just talk, but walk into your bathroom and take random pictures. Of course you think...why not, and then you welcome them with singing and dancing!

Somehow I cannot see that happening in my home town, not saying that they're not a friendly bunch...But that is exactly what happens a lot of the times I am invited to visit some of the villages during my trips to Africa.

This time it is in Malawi, during the annual review meeting of our Pan African CLTS program. We barge into the village with people from 7 different countries and ask them all sorts of questions about shit, handwashing, flies, latrines.....And the thing is: they give you very interesting answers! 

For instance about the number of different latrines they have built (one guy has built 7!), about the importance of handwashing after toilet use, about hygiene/sanitation related diseases like diarrhoea and cholera, or about the fact that children start singing about shit real loud when someone is defecating in the open.

Nice questions came from the people in the villages. A man asked us what our toilet situation at home was, now that they had shared all their embarrassing stories.  And a lady asked whether these big flush toilets weren't dangerous for our children (how do they climb up and how do they not fall in?). So I, of course, shared in great detail all our Dutch toilet issues. For instance the fact that we have our toilets in our house (why do you want to keep your poo in your house?), or the fact that we flush our toilets with drinking water (how embarrassing is that in a village where water is scarce).

We were allowed to visit some of the latrines and handwashing facilities built by the people in the villages and could see the effort that was made and the effect it had on the people. 

All in all it was a great day and a very good learning visit for all of us I think.

Sifaya Simulekwa, WATSAN Project Coordinator, Plan Zambia

It is day three of the Pan-African CLTS Annual Review meeting in Lilongwe Malawi. The day has been slightly different from the previous two as it involved some field work. I was part of the team that visited two ODF villages namely Chipochongo and Jimu within the Lilongwe Program Unit. We arrived at Chipochongo village, which is about an hour’s drive from SunBird hotel, at 10:35hours and were warmly welcomed by the community members. After meeting formalities that included self-introductions, opening prayer, remarks from the Village Chief, we had a brief presentation from a health center staff on the sanitation profile of the village.

Chipochongo comprises of 57 households and a population of 210 people. It was triggered in 2010 and within 1 week, all households constructed latrines. Quite remarkable!! The speed could have been further triggered by the cholera outbreak that was experienced in the village during the same year.

A walk around the village showed that the village was very clean, and almost every household visited had a latrine with an drophole cover and a handwashing facility filled with water. The community members were very proud of living in a clean environment. The village however, has a challenge of access to clean and safe water. A visit at one of the nearest schools, Nkhunkhu, which has grades 1 to 3, showed that the school has only 3 traditional latrines catering for a population of about 200 children.

In the afternoon, we moved to Jimu village, which is about an hour’s drive from Chipochongo. The village has a total of 34 households and a population of 104 people. All the households have got latrines which have drop hole covers and handwashing facilities filled with water. The village is very clean. One of the interesting learning for me was an innovation where fruit tree production was linked to sanitation. Water from the hand washing is used to water fruit trees that are placed right under the washing station. Plan Malawi supported the village with a borehole that is giving access community members in the village access to clean and safe drinking water. The village was, however, advised to work on the protection of the borehole through fencing to prevent children from playing with the pump.

The field visit was a worthwhile one and was full of learning. I am very grateful to Plan Malawi for organizing such a wonderful field visit.

Date: 16 March 2013
Pan Africa,
Sierra Leone,