Archive for June, 2011

Last Friday, while up in Mzuzu, I went to my first CLTS triggering.  CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) is a method of sanitation promotion that shames communities into better understanding the results of poor sanitation practices and tries to get them to become open defecation free (ODF).  CLTS is the main sanitation related program that EWB works on in Malawi, and we currently have a growing team of people working to promote this tool within the government and the national sanitation policy.  Jolly Ann, Tessa, and Chelsey (the CLTS section of our EWB WatSan team) were in Mzuzu last week for a training session funded by Unicef to get District Officers more interested in CLTS and capable of implementing it in their districts.  There were multiple triggerings being done as part of that workshop, so Duncan and I decided to tag along with our other teammates to see the process first hand.


The “triggering” component of CLTS is the first section of a multi-stepped community level process, when facilitators actually go to the community and do an informal workshop with the villagers to increase their understanding of sanitation issues.  They do this while playing off the exercise as a research/learning tool for the practitioners so that the villagers do not get the impression that they are being “taught” something by outsiders.  The triggering usually takes a few hours and involves multiple steps, engaging all members of the community in the learning process (including the children, who play an integral role in identifying locations of open defecation because they are less embarrassed to admit the truth).  The process usually begins by having the community members draw out a map of the village in the dirt, labeling all major landmarks and each of their houses, and then next using maize meal (or some other powder) to identify the areas where people defecate in the village.  Then, the villagers usually walk around to those sites that are named all together (especially those where open defecation is occurring) and a sense of shame occurs within the group.  Afterward, a few other “experiments” are done, including bringing fresh human excrement into the center of the community, placing it next to a plate of fresh cooked food, and having the group watch the way that flies move easily between the two, thereby contaminating the food with fecal matter.  There are a few other similar methods used to disgust the community, but I won’t go into any more detail at the moment.  If you are interested you can read more about the whole process online (http://www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/resource/handbook-community-led-total-sanitation)!  Nonetheless, it is a really interesting and innovative technique for sanitation promotion that has proven to be successful in many countries.  Although I have read a lot about CLTS in the past and heard about it being used in Tanzania, I had never seen a triggering in person–and it worked extremely well.  The community reaction was amazing to watch, and the outcome was nothing less than a total understanding of the need to build better latrines and improve the quality of waste management.  I was very impressed.


After the triggering, Duncan and I had a very exciting Friday night in Mzuzu… consisting of cooking omelets for dinner (thrown together with whatever food was available at his place), drinking boxed wine, and taking a first stab at the new Knowledge Management System for our WatSan team.  Nothing like a weekend evening spent brainstorming database options and writing code in excel!! haha


On Saturday morning, Duncan had a big meeting planned with the District Coordinating Team of Rumphi District to discuss a project  that has been in the works for almost 9 months now, which will focus on mapping all of the functioning and nonfunctioning water points in the whole district.  The project will most likely be funded by two major donors in the water sector–WaterAid and Water For People–however, EWB brings an entirely different service to the table.  EWB is unlike most INGOs (international non-governmental organizations) because we do not have any funding to put directly into projects, we only provide volunteers and consulting on program implementation.  It was especially interesting for me to watch Duncan in his meeting and get a better understanding of the impact we can play as mediators in the WatSan field, rather than people who are able to provide funding.  When funding is not even in the picture, it produces a very different dynamic between the District employees and the consultant/volunteer–one that was apparent in the meeting I attended in Rumphi.  I was not only impressed by Duncan’s understanding of the problem at hand and his ability to advise on what would best suit the needs of the district, but also by the level of trust and respect that the district officers had for Duncan as a part of their team.


After the meeting in Rumphi, Duncan and I rushed back to Mzuzu to meet Devon and Jordan for a fast-paced and highly productive meeting on the next steps for our EWB team with respect to community financing, and then rushed over to Nkhata Bay (an hour or so away from Mzuzu, where Devon lives/works) for the most important item on the day’s itinerary — the UEFA Champions League Final game between Barcelona and Man U!!  We made it there early enough to get first row seats at the bar, got take-out rice and beans delivered right to us at the bar (making most other people there jealous of our foresight), and watched the game with a huge slew of cheering Malawians and ex-pats, who fairly evenly split between the two sides.  It was a beautifully played game–at least for Barcelona!  The game was obviously followed by dancing and other celebrations, which made for a fantastic Saturday night in Nkhata Bay.  And just to make the trip there even better, I got to spend the next day and a half “working” by the lake… and inevitably taking periodic breaks to stare out at the water, go swimming, have meals right on the beach at awesomely sketchy local restaurants, etc. etc.  What a rough life.


I headed back down to Lilongwe on Tuesday, met with Mike (one of our Team Leads) about my upcoming research, and then come over to Salima (which is also conveniently close to the lake!) yesterday afternoon.  I will be spending the next month here traveling to a bunch of villages, completing my research on equitability of water point siting, and hanging out with Genevieve (who is placed in Salima Town).  Right now I am headed over to the District Water Office to start setting up meetings for the next week, so cheers to the official start of my research project!!


Miss you all and hope all is well!  P.S. if there is anything you want me to talk more or less about in my blog, feel free to email me or leave a comment…





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