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Making Kenya ODF

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How sad I had to miss the Pan Africa Sharing and Learning Workshop (see other blogs to find out more about what went on there) and the ODF sustainability research methodology in Accra Ghana. Good to read all about it and to hear from Philip (my colleague) that it was great there. It is amazing that Africa and Kenya have become a beehive of CLTS activities all with the focus of getting rid of open defecation practice which takes lives of many children every year.

Testing CLTS Scalability
My week (5th – 9th March 2012) was equally interesting and a climax to 2 major CLTS initiatives that I have been an active participant in. The first was a kick-off workshop for a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded research project Testing CLTS Scalability. This is basically a project trying out different ways CLTS can be scaled-up in a cost effective and sustainable manner. As most practitioners will agree the piloting phase when we were just counting ODF villages in Africa is over and there are many people and institutions asking questions regarding barriers they face on the way when they want to accelerate application of CLTS to reach more communities while maintaining quality.

While in Ghana colleagues are testing how to work with natural leaders to achieve CLTS scale, in Ethiopia they are trying how to work with schools (teachers and pupils) to achieve CLTS in scale and in Kenya we will be trying how to work with district or lower level institutional champions to manage the CLTS process in a way that releases capacity of more actors to work at scale. In Kenya the project will be implemented in Kilifi and Homa Bay districts where CLTS was first tried in Kenya (2007). For learning purposes we will observe and document what happens in the neighbouring districts of Bondo and Kwale.

Equity and inclusion
A new area of interest that emerged during this workshop for me is the link between CLTS and disability. In response to a question raised as to whether the CLTS initiative was to take issues of inclusion/ exclusion into consideration, colleagues from Kilifi shared examples of 3-4 cases of people living with disabilities who had been to triggering sessions and how they had gone ahead and come up with sanitation facilities that addressed their needs. I will be following this up to ensure that we share a one pager on the CLTS website.

Media interest
The media took an interest in our event. Though I never saw what appeared on one TV station that evening, at least I saw a short article in one of the local dailies that captured the core of our workshop. The journey for this 4 year project has just begun and I really look forward to the challenge of being part of a team that is going to contribute to further development of CLTS as an approach as we try ways of going to scale while maintaining quality and ensuring that is cost effective and sustainable

ODF Rural Kenya By 2013 campaign gains momentum
While all this was happening, the stakeholder’s forum on ODF Rural Kenya by 2013 preparations were running on top gear. In fact we had invited colleagues from Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and other agencies involved in the Sanitation Working Group to join in the launch of the Testing CLTS scalability project and stay over lunch so that we could finalize some of the plans. This helped as the forum was going to take place in the same venue.

The forum itself took place on the 8th March 2012. The attendance was great. It attracted over 120 participants drawn from government line ministries mainly Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MOPHS), Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI), Ministry of Education (MOE), local and international NGOs, Faith Based Institutions, UNICEF, Donor community, Research and Academic Institutions and the private sector. The newcomers in this shit business are the financial institutions: Participation of IFC Bank, Kenya Women Finance Trust and Equity and Water Service Trust Fund. Their presentations were quite impressive and you could tell they see not just the business opportunity in providing financing opportunities for sanitation solutions. Three of the banks had actually done some studies across the country which provided basis for their presentations.

John Sibi Okumu, a media personality, who moderated this event, did an amazing job. He has actually warmed up to the CLTS straight shit talk and was able to get people to talk about it without inhibitions. He also understood the key principles of CLTS. He started by taking us through a guided reading exercise. I was really impressed at the choice of the text he made – an excerpt from the 2 page summary we had prepared as a take home for the participants. It went like this:

Recently, there has been a rapid spread of understanding and acceptance that external subsidies to rural households for sanitation hardware (and prescriptive toilet designs) are counterproductive and inhibit collective local action. In some cases it has been found that though the number of toilets in the villages did increase through external subsidy, the practice of open defecation continued. The Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach pioneered in Bangladesh in 1999, takes these lessons into consideration. The approach starts from the premise that, if communities transform their minds through discovery of the dangers and loss of dignity associated with open defecation they will do everything within their means to end the practice. The approach has a zero tolerance stance to external hardware subsidies to households. CLTS focuses on igniting a change in sanitation behaviour rather than constructing toilets. It does this through facilitating a triggering process that evokes emotions such as disgust and shame associated with the practice of open defecation. It concentrates on the whole community rather than on individual behaviours. Collective benefit from stopping open defecation (OD) can encourage a more cooperative approach. People decide together how they will create a clean and hygienic environment that benefits everyone. It is fundamental that CLTS involves no individual household hardware subsidy and does not prescribe latrine models.

This set the tone for our forum. His reading style which put emphasis in the right places reminded me of the storytelling grandfather role he plays in one of the local TV station children’s program. My children love the show. The journey to get media personalities to understand CLTS and articulate it well has not been easy. In addition to the “Vitimbi” comedy show crew now we have John and no doubt we are getting there. John was even able to note where some questions were out of order and taking us back the past sanitation approaches. I still remember his intervention when a question from the plenary seemed to be moving us back to prescribed toilet designed and how he put things in perspective when he said how uncomfortable he felt to hear such a question.

Objectives of the forum
The focus of the forum was to review how far we had come since the launch of ODF Rural Kenya by 2013 in May 2011, share the proposed road map and get firm indications of commitment from the stakeholder. The structure of the event was very simple:

  • Welcome and objectives of the forum,
  • a brief overview of CLTS journey in Kenya (which I passionately did) ,
  • new developments (sanitation marketing and financing opportunities),
  • the roadmap to ODF Rural Kenya by 2013 and
  • ways forward (indicative commitment statements).

Commitments, opportunities and challenges
Of course it is not always easy to make firm commitments in public before digesting the information provided and coming up with firm plans and assessing the resource implication. All the same, at the end there was a clear indication that partners in the forum were energized and interests had been raised to a level that will result in actual commitments. The forum also provided a great opportunity for networking and connections for giving momentum to the ODF Rural Kenya by 2013 campaign. While I am thoroughly energized by the outcomes of this great forum, I am also aware of the challenge that lie ahead:

  • concrete strategies and tactics of implementing CLTS at scale;
  • mobilization of adequate resources (about 15 million US$);
  • galvanizing grassroots based organizations, local and natural leaders and the communities where open defecation is happening to be in the driver’s seat.

What about CLTS in Urban Informal Settlements?
Some participants raised concerns on urban trends and the fact that if Kenya was to meet the MDG on sanitation by 2015 there is a need to consider urban informal settlements. While I am convinced that CLTS has the power to mobilize and galvanize the citizenry to take collective action and engage in processes of demanding for better sanitation service in the informal settlements in Nairobi and other smaller towns, I also heard some scepticism. This did not dampen my spirit because when I look back to 2007 when we started piloting CLTS in Kenya questions as to whether CLTS would really work were being asked by many professionals. Can CLTS really work in Kenya? Do we need to customize it? With the ODF Rural Kenya by 2013 stakeholder’s forum full house I gained strength to press on with UCLTS. Maybe reading the blog I have kept since June 2010 when we started the UCLTS pilot in Mathare 10 would speak to the scepticism that exists. Only yesterday I had a meeting with staff from the Community Development Department of Nairobi City Council who, after seeing what is happening in Mathare, have decided to try Urban CLTS in 4 wards in Nairobi. We have a hands-on training and triggering session scheduled later this month. As I write this blog Rosie Nyawira (Community Cleaning Services) and Susan Kimani (Nairobi City Council) are leaving for Nanded, India to participate and share our experiences in an international workshop on Urban CLTS.

A timely call
The call for the Open Defecation Free Rural Kenya by 2013 is timely not only because it will contribute to the achievement of sanitation related MDGs but also because 2013 is the year Kenya will celebrate her 50th Birthday. For the realization of this roadmap, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation is calling upon all stakeholders to rally behind the campaign and commit their time and resources to see an ODF Kenya where children can grow healthy and realize their full potential. Join us and be part of this great initiative to declare Kenya ODF!

Samuel Musyoki, Programme Support Manager, Plan Kenya

Date: 15 March 2012