Scaling up sanitation project: Achievements and challenges

As I mentioned from the beginning, the focus of my practicum work was scaling up sanitation project from the successful learning center (Ambirte) to neighboring village (Yeshere) using a combination of SEED-SCALE principles and community led-total sanitation (CLTS) approaches. Both the SEED-SCALE and CLTS principles and approaches complement each other and emphasize people centered and empowerment approaches. While SEED-SCALE emphasize in-ward looking for searching locally existing success stories that can be grown using locally existing knowledge and skills; on the other hand, CLTS emphasize the participation of the whole community in assessing local sanitation problems and jointly setting decisions to search local problems. The overall emphasizes of the practicum project was the achievement of total sanitation coverage by triggering community empowerment through facilitating intensive capacity building activities and strengthening three-way partnership that enable to create an enabling environment to support the communities’ effort to moving forward to achieve their objectives of creating open defecation free environment.

   However, due to lack of the proposed grant, capacity building activities for targeted communities and partners were not intensively facilitated. Instead, well experienced community volunteers and extension workers were carefully selected and oriented in order to provide technical support to community committees and households for constructing quality latrines. In these regard, I had used the network that I have established while working at the learning center with district health officials, extension workers and community leaders which helped me to get synergetic support for the success of my practicum project at Yeshere village communities.


  Picture 1: Discussion with community members on triggering community led total sanitation and establishing community committees

After igniting the community triggering processes, community volunteers and community committees were responsible for routine follow-up and monitoring of the community mobilization and implementation processes. Reports were collected on every two weeks period depending on the collected reports, discussion meetings were facilitated to address challenges and energize volunteers and committees to strengthen their mobilization efforts towards achieving 100% latrine coverage at Yeshere village. As I mentioned, lack of incentives for community volunteer and committees were the main challenge in the process of implementation despite strong commitment from all partners and stakeholders for supporting the overall processes. While I incurred some costs for compensating transportation costs of volunteers and committees particularly for experience sharing visits and triggering trainings, it was not sustainable at least at the early stages of triggering and mobilization periods which demands intensive training, monitoring and follow-up.

 Despite having all the aforementioned challenges, Yeshere village communities worked hard to move forward by searching and growing locally existing seeds (sub-standard latrines) and grown properly using locally existing materials and skills. The information that they have heard about the achievements of their neighboring village and the final celebration of the open defecation free environment by gathering several guests coming from different parts of the country impressed and energized them to ask themselves why do we initiate change to achieve such objectives of creating clean environment that benefit their health and living conditions. In this regard, influential community leaders including from Yeshere village were invited to participate on the open defecation free environment celebration ceremonies to take a lesson to their communities. The following pictures reveal some of the achievements of households at Yeshere village.


     Pictures 2: progress of household latrine improvement from the SEED-SCALE lens

The aforementioned pictures show how the existing old latrines are grown and improved into the newly standardized latrines using locally available materials and knowledge. The newly constructed latrines were having the highest standard required by Ethiopian government national standard, UNICEF and WHO; which means the depth of latrines were greater than three meters, floors were built with strong eucalyptus trees, and walling and supper structures were also constructed to assure privacy and protection from rain and sun. Until Sept 0/2017,  more than 90% of households in Yeshere village completed construction of household latrines using locally existing materials and knowledge. The remaining 10% are also working hard to finalize the construction process sooner. With almost no cost injected from external sources, Yeshere village community are moving forward to declare their freedom to live an environment free from open defecation and contamination. I am really proud of their achievements’. 

Personal reflection on my practicum project

I have learnt from the implementation of my practicum project that communities have a latent energy which can address many of the locally existing problems beyond creating open defecation free environment. While I was working at the previous learning centers, communities were motivated to work hard by KOICA(Korean International Cooperation Agency) huge investment on the construction of water supply project that aim to address the water problems in fourteen Kebeles, in Cheha district. This water supply project was used as an entry point for the creation of learning centers that declared open defecation free environment in which all households constructed standard household latrines using locally existed materials and knowledge.

  But when it comes to Yeshere village, no entry point (like water construction project or any other project) was attached or used to trigger households to construct and create open defecation free environment. Communities were energized and impressed by the information they heard about the achievements of their neighboring villages that they declared open defecation free environment. Open defecation free environment is now attached to pride and higher status by the influential cultural leaders. This was purposely done at the learning centers by gathering all influential cultural leaders and oriented them to motivate and appreciate communities that are constructing standard latrines. Cultural leaders also conduct occasional visit to those communities and ask them to show the cultural leaders where they are defecating. If they are showing open space for defection, that becomes “shame for household members and cultural leader of that village.” At that moment, those households give their promise to cultural leaders when to start and complete construction of latrine. Similarly, when communities declare open defecation free environment, cultural leaders recognize those communities as heroes, which is seen as a pride in cultural languages.


             Picture 3: Cultural leaders recognizing community achievements at the learning center.

   What I want to say here is that understanding and knowing how local systems operate can help to energize and trigger community empowerment in order to search local solutions to local problems. This is what exactly happens and helped me to achieve the objectives my practicum project at Yeshere Communities despite lack of the proposed grant to facilitate capacity building activities. My only alternative grant was community energy and resources for the success of my practicum project and worked perfectly.

I am proud of my communities’ achievement!!