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CLTS Week…. Let’s deal with ‘Shit’ in Africa

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I am in Lusaka Zambia participating in the Pan African Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) annual Network meeting. The first day was really exciting for me… first because I got to meet enthusiastic CLTS champions from East and West Africa and secondly, this year’s meeting is UNIQUE  because we have participation of the Zambian government staff, partners, and a traditional leader (Chief) from one of the communities where Plan Zambia is implementing CLTS!

A powerful speech delivered by Paul Mboshya, a senior community development officer in the ministry of Local government and housing, set the ball rolling… On behalf of the minister, Paul said “We in Zambia have accepted CLTS as a national approach, leaders at all levels play a variety of roles in championing CLTS at both local and community level! Chiefs and natural leaders trigger sanitation change in their villages, headsmen follow up to monitor the sanitation change, and the result is that a number of chiefdoms have been triggered, some have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) and more will follow suit.”

Looking at the beaming faces in the room, there is no doubt that the  CLTS champions are keen to sustain the momentum of this project which started in 2010 and which is now in its fourth year of implementation…

After the powerful speech, Prof Robert Chambers and Petra Bongartz from IDS took us through a couple of fun activities to get to know each other. The interactions created a sense of belonging and everyone felt very welcome.

This year, being the final year, we take time to reflect and ask ourselves: as countries, what are we really excited about in this programme? What is the one thing we are proud to have achieved in the last year? What are our key concerns for the remainder of the project?

Divided into four groups countries had an opportunity to share Innovations and insights within the areas of gender, urban sanitation, behavior change and sanitation marketing

Listening to Uganda and Sierra Leone participants present on girls and sanitation, it was clear that child participation is key to success, and inter-school competitions were part of the strategy. Communities were encouraged to construct gender and disability responsive latrines and both countries had a good example to share!

Malawi and Ghana also showcased the variety of affordable products under sanitation marketing and also shared with the team ideas that boost sanitation marketing, including encouraging masons and other community members to join VSLAs inorder to save and access loans so that they can purchase slabs for their latrines. All countries shared their experience in sanitation marketing and it was amazing to just listen to the wealth of knowledge and ideas present in this room! The big question here though is, at what point in CLTS do we introduce sanitation marketing? Or should it run parallel to triggering and ODF verification?

From Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Niger, we learn that treating sanitation as community / village responsibility is strategic. Community members support each other to ensure that each of them regardless of their financial status has a latrine constructed to avoid open defecation. Making ODF an identity works wonders as villages strive to outshine each other in Zambia!

‘Hygiene is a legal issue and everyone has to comply. However, the aim of making it legal is to win compliance not prosecution,” Paul Mboshya explained.

All these experiences were not without challenges, some of which include inadequate data management, collapsing of latrines especially in rainy seasons perhaps due to environmental degradation, lack of local materials for construction of latrines etc

To wrap up the day Robert Chambers presented findings from the ODF sustainability study conducted in four of the Pan Africa countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Countries reflected on the findings….

Next step is to present our work plans with regards to relevant findings from the study, and see what support each country needs……

We will also get to look at documentation of lessons learnt, and the various platforms that we can use for sharing including external websites, social media and of course Plan’s internal website - Planet!


Caroline Nyamamy is the Communications Specialist at Plan RESA (Region of East and Southern Africa).

Date: 4 March 2014
Pan Africa,