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Water and Sanitation

A sanitation overview – the significance of CLTS in India

Images of Open Defecation

India’s population accounts for approximately 1/7th of the world’s population. The Government of India has the immense challenge of governing and providing services for over 1.2 billion people.  As we were touching down in Mumbai last week (14th March 2012), and the infamous smell of the city hit our noses, I was reminded of the enormity of the task of governance and service provision for 1/7th of the world. The fact that Rose, Susan and I were in India to learn about the implementation of CLTS in the urban context of Nanded City, meant that we were acutely aware of the relationship between what we were smelling and sanitation service provision in cities in India.

Striking figures: toilets vs mobile phones

The day before our arrival (March 13, 2012), the Census Commissioner of India released census data that reported that 49.8% of the Indian population (about 600 million people!) practice open defecation. This was in stark contrast with the statistic that an estimated 68% of Indians (about 800 million people) own mobile phones – demonstrating that financial barriers were not the major problem, but rather prioritization of investments at household level. However, as one participant pointed out, these statistics need to be understood in terms of livelihoods. Mobile phones are now not only used for personal communication, but have become essential for conducting business, as well as maintaining professional networks in India (and indeed this is a global trend).  Toilets and sanitation, at first glance, do not have the same significance for livelihood (although sanitation does of course have a direct impact on one’s livelihood in terms of health status and ability to work). Given this situation, any social movement that is geared towards improving sanitation would do well to integrate a mobile component, for communication, coordination, monitoring and advocacy.

CLTS in the urban context

So far, CLTS has been implemented primarily in rural areas. The belief has been – even amongst CLTS practitioners – that urban sanitation is far too complicated and not conducive for the strict zero- subsidy approach.  The first attempt to adapt and implement CLTS methodology in an urban area was in the city of Kalyani in West Bengal (near Kolkata, within the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority) in India in 2008-2009. The second was in Mathare, village number 10 – an informal area of approximately 20,000 people in Nairobi, Kenya. The third is now Nanded City, with a population of 500,000 people located in Maharashtra State. Due to the sheer scale of the problem of open defecation, the CLTS approach is particularly important in India.

We had been invited by the Nanded-Waghala Municipal Corporation to share experience from Mathare at a sharing and learning workshop on urban CLTS. Kalyani was also represented by the ex-mayor of Kalyani, Dr. Shantanu Jha, a visionary leader and pioneer of urban CLTS.  Hearing about

Government housing for the urban poor

the work in Kalyani and Nanded was indeed inspiring. Kalyani was the first city in India to be declared open defecation free in 2008. After receiving word, the State Government of Kolkata took an interest, and in January 2009 also declared it officially ODF. However, the Indian government has not adopted CLTS as an official policy and as such has no framework for assessing ODF status. Instead, the Indian government is implementing mainly subsidy-focused development projects, such as Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) which provides low-cost, upgraded housing options for urban populations in informal settlements.

At the time of the urban CLTS work in Kalyani, the then mayor refused funds to build toilets and when he could not refuse BSUP funds, used them to reward those communities who had adopted CLTS and were working towards becoming ODF, once they had made significant progress. In an external evaluation, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation programme (WSP) pinpointed good governance as a key element in the success of urban CLTS in Kalyani. It is important to note that Kalyani is also a smaller, less densely populated city (approximately 100,000 people) and does not have many of the larger urban informal settlements that we are familiar with in Nairobi. It is a planned city with well laid out infrastructure. These three elements – good governance, relatively sparse population and planning – make it uniquely well-suited for urban CLTS implementation.

The Nanded case is also a story of a charismatic leader, Dr. Nipun Vinayak the Municipal Commissioner for Nanded-Waghala Municipal Corporation. Rather than being an elected official (as in the case of the Kalyani mayor) Nipun is an appointed officer of the local government, allocating and managing the budget for local development. Nipun has long been a champion of CLTS, and brought this with him when he was appointed to the Nanded Corporation about a year and a half ago. As part of his work in facilitating a city sanitation plan – together with the mayor and other local elected leaders (called Corporators – the equivalent of Councillors in Nairobi) – he invited two NGOs with experience in rural CLTS to lead the process of urban CLTS in Nanded who then facilitated urban CLTS pilots in several locations around the city. They had successes and challenges and over several months began to scale up the work in 28 different areas of the city.

Upgraded water treatment facility in Nanded

The urban CLTS work is taking place alongside several large-scale urban development works. Nanded is a holy site for the Sikh community – as the location where the last Sikh Guru made his final ascent. It is a major site for tourism and religious pilgrimage, and funding has been made available to support the development of the area’s tourism, expand roads, upgrade the water treatment facilities and improve sewage treatment in the city. This poses a challenge but also an opportunity for urban CLTS and Nanded would do well to learn from the lessons of Kalyani, where urban CLTS was successfully implemented alongside several large-scale infrastructure projects, such as BSUP.

Monitoring the urban CLTS process

At the workshop I shared my experience as a facilitator for monitoring and evaluation of urban CLTS, using digital technology. I have a keen interest in the CLTS process, the lessons that can be drawn from ‘triggering’ (as applied to different fields), and internal monitoring and external evaluation of CLTS. When integrated with well-established participatory approaches, new technology can be used to evaluate the resources required (eg through baselines surveys), to effectively communicate the sanitation situation and the need for investment in this area and to monitor the progress toward ODF. Work on CLTS has continually highlighted the need for improved monitoring and evaluation – and the proliferation of mobile phones represents an opportunity for citizens to become involved in monitoring the sanitation status of their cities. Of course, the political will also has to be strong to ensure that information is received and acted upon by the relevant authorities.

Sanitation and governance

In light of the scale of the sanitation crisis in India – 600 million open defecators – the approach of government subsidized toilets will fall short. Dr. Shantanu Jha posed the questions: is construction of toilets for 600 million people possible by the government? How? By when? Can the government address this by providing free and subsidized toilets? Despite lessons from elsewhere that have shown this approach to be ineffective, it is still favoured by governments worldwide, including the Government of India.

However change is indeed taking place; CLTS has been implemented in over 51 countries worldwide and as many as 15 governments have adopted CLTS as their national strategy for sanitation. CLTS provides an alternative, relatively low-cost approach but it requires courage and innovation. As Nipun put it: “Like they say, there’s nothing good about democracy except that its alternatives are worse. In the same way, CLTS is not the best approach, but it is better than anything else we know of.” We will look to Nanded over the coming months, to learn how they take this social movement forward and hope the ‘commandos’ and local government take up the call to “leave no one behind” in the improvement of the sanitation situation in the city.

This post was prepared for and originally posted on the CLTS blog.

Harnessing GIS mapping and social media to improve lives

Mapping the sanitation in situation in Mathare has been a process of continual learning. When we began the Map Mathare pilot project in December 2010, we employed a dynamic methodology to engage young people and the community issues in the approximately 20 villages in Mathare. My colleague Primoz and I worked closely with the Plan Kenya team to design a training programme and over the past 8 months, have learned a great deal about working with youth and communities to “make the invisible visible” that is – to document tacit knowledge and turn the experience of communities and young people into information that translates across social and geographic boundaries.

Empowering young people

youth map toilets in Mathare

Young people as “digital natives” – are growing up in an age where mobile phones are viewed as a necessity – even a right – in everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, M-pesa, SMS, Email – all products and services familiar to young people – even the disadvantaged youth in urban areas engage with these products at some level. Harnessing GIS mapping and social media to improve access to sanitation and hygiene may very well be led by these young people.

Yes, the word empowerment is over-used – and has become almost meaningless. Watching the transformation (that can even occur in one day) of a person’s perception of their environment  through the simple act of collecting GPS data about their village – is a very powerful experience and can only be described as empowering.

The team of mappers, videographers and bloggers– now about 15 in number – who have stuck with us since December of last year, can really tell you what empowerment means to them. Not only have they put themselves and their community on the map – a process that evokes a great sense of pride and responsibility. Some of the young people who did not know how to read a map before they engaged with Primoz, Simon, myself and the Kibera mappers. Philip Amukoya, one of the Mathare mappers told me on Tuesday that his soccer coach, who knows his interested in community forums, told him about “this thing called Map Mathare” back in December of last year. Philip decided to come and check it out despite not really know what “Map Mathare” could mean. He is now one of the star mappers and speaks with authority on the importance of “Global Positioning Systems,” Geographic Information Systems and community information.

Putting yourself on the map is the first step toward demanding recognition and everything that comes along with it – including basic human rights (the right to a clean living environment, the right to health) and by extension – the right to access services provided to the rest of Nairobi. Through our programme, young people are given the chance to represent their community through the medium of a map. Standard GIS symbols break down the barriers that separate youth and elders – rich and poor – and allow these young people to express themselves on a level playing field. Looking at the maps,  who would know they were generated by youth from the informal settlements?

Map of toilets, water points and open defecation areas in Mathare

Now that we have started that process of empowerment, and triggered this amazing group of young people to act as “community explorers” – documenting their lives and their community – the larger question is – how can we make an impact? How do we ensure that the process of community engagement, mapping and digital storytelling inform not only the youth about issues in their villages, but also reach duty bearers and decision makers who can then work with the community to take action based on the data collected?

Data in decision making

On Tuesday September 20th, we held a stakeholders forum at Plan Kenya, organized and hosted jointly by the Map Mathare team and Plan Kenya. We invited representatives from the private sector, Government and NGOs – as well as community representatives – to discuss the findings and products of the Map Mathare pilot. More importantly we asked attendees to make commitments to engage with the mappers, videographers and bloggers to “turn information into action.”

The forum was attended by City Council of Nairobi, Athi Water Services Board, MSF, KWAHO, Plan Kenya, Internews, Dignitas Project and several private sector companies.

We presented the trends that drive our work – the “urbanization of poverty”, the growing urban population, the untapped potential of young people, the importance of informal settlements to the economy of Nairobi and the “invisibility” of these areas that contributes to the ability of governments to “ignore” the needs of people living in the informal, marginal areas of the city.

Simon Kokoyo presented some perspectives from Mathare and discussed the research fatigue in Nairobi’s informal areas. He spoke candidly about how his mother has lived in Mathare since 1958 and that NGOs and researchers are constantly doing research and asking questions of Mathare residents. He said “my mother is an expert in filling questionnaires. She is part of a women’s group. And when researchers come to ask questions on water and sanitation they point them to Momma Njeri. Momma Njeri is the one who is an expert in water and sanitation questionnaires.”

But what happens to all this data – how can these “local experts” be the involved in shaping their own narrative – to take on the role of researchers instead of the subjects. That’s why Simon got involved with Map Mathare. He sees the potential in the community members as “experts.”

There was genuine excitement in the room when we spoke about the findings of the community (and youth) experts. Mathare Valley is an area of about 3 square kilometers. The pilot area of 4 villages (Thayu, Mabatini, Mashimoni and Village 10) is covered with 8.5 kms of open drainage. Two percent of the same area is covered with open defecation. These are statistics generated by the people of Mathare Valley.

The statistics, visualizations, stories and presentations inspired the representatives to make commitments to working with the Map Mathare team to turn this information into action. Realizing that not everyone is in a decision-making role, some were personal commitments to take the information presented at the meeting forward to the relevant decision-makers in various offices.

The representatives of City Council of Nairobi were not in a place to make commitments on behalf of the City Council but personally committed to continue to engaging with the community to change or transform social behaviour and to better living and health conditions in their work. The representatives will pass on the information to City Council decision makers so that they are aware of the existence of GIS maps developed by the community.

Athi Water Services Board representatives commit to creating awareness in the community to make better use of the existing WATSAN facilities. They also have some data regarding water services in Mathare and would like to work with Map Mathare to harmonize the information and identify gaps.

The private sector representatives were interested in continuing to innovate around sanitation solutions. They would like to work with the youth from Map Mathare and use the data to make a business case for sanitation service provision. This would include exploring the size of the population, their ability and willingness to pay, what toilet models are most successful and how to take it to scale.

Many of the stakeholders raised the issue of the linkages between sanitation and security – particularly for women. Medicinés Sans Frontier (MSF) work in Mathare on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). The advocacy officer who joined the meeting mentioned the importance of sanitation and the need for mapping security issues – these maps could then be used to complement MSF’s advocacy work to improve lighting and security, particularly around toilets. The private sector representatives were interested in participating in lobbying efforts for improved lighting and security.

The Map Mathare youth have also committed to continuing the mapping work and to represent their community well. They are excited, empowered and will continue mapping and telling their stories!