By Jamie Myers, Research Officer at the CLTS Knowledge Hub
Last week in the run up to AfricaSan I joined a Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) field trip and learning event in the Matam region, Senegal. Along with GSF programme managers and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) National Coordinators, we visited different villages where local NGOs have been triggering communities. Matam, in the north east of Senegal separated from Mauritania by the Senegal River, has a population of over 550,000 of which 98% are Muslim. In the region, 47.2% practice open defecation.
Following the field trip I also joined a sharing and learning event in Dakar where executing agencies presented the work they had been undertaking in their own countries.
Throughout the week there were a number of interesting points. The ones I found most interesting were use of religious leaders, support mechanisms for the most vulnerable and ways to change and sustain the hygienic management of child faeces. All three are discussed in more detail below.
As mentioned above, in Matam 98% of the population are Muslim. The sub-grantees in Senegal have made sure to not just gain the support from local Imams but make sure they play a central role in the intervention. Imams in some of the villages we visited are involved in post-triggering and post-open-defecation free (ODF) activities through their participation in village sanitation and hygiene communities. The use of religious leaders to promote sanitation and hygiene messages appears to have been very effective for collective behaviour change and hopefully the sustainability of ODF villages.
From country presentations in Dakar I learnt that a similar approach is being used in Togo and Nigeria where messages from the Koran and the Bible are used to promote hygienic messages.
In addition, it was also interesting to hear that in one village in Senegal a demonstration latrine had been set up at the mosque – a place frequented mostly by men who are often harder to convince about the benefits of stopping open defecation.
Improved latrine funding mechanism for the most vulnerable
In some communities solidarity funds have been set up. There is a registration fee along with a fee collected each month when members meet. The fund can be used for the construction of new toilets and maintenance of existing toilets for those who need it. In two villages we visited, the funds had been used to build four toilets for the most vulnerable households in the community. Over the whole project area 60 improved latrines have been built through these funds over the past two years.
I learnt that this idea had been taken from another non-sanitation related development programme that was already underway in the region. It shows that it is worth investing time into thinking more about successful programmes in different sectors and thinking about how community-led total sanitation (CLTS) and those working on sanitation and hygiene could borrow and adapt effective initiatives from others.
It is worth noting that the communities visited had the perfect environment for this kind of activity. They were very tightknit homogenous communities.