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Improving Community Sanitation

In Akuuku, Eastern Region, a woman participates in “triggering” activities, where communities recognize how open defecation can negatively affect community health. In this stage, residents map their communities, including problem areas where open defecation is common.

The GWASH approach to improving access to sanitation facilities in communities can best be described as a “hybrid” model. The GWASH Project employs elements of both the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and Target-Driven Partial Sanitation with subsidy (TDPSS). It is therefore significant to note that although GWASH has since October 2011, been implementing “CLTS,” there are notable differences between the GWASH model and traditional CLTS approaches.

Through the CLTS approach, communities are “awakened” to change their sanitation behavior, to develop a demand for improved sanitation, and to invest in improved toilet facilities.

The strategy concentrates on ending open defecation as a first significant step to meaningful behavior change.  In a process of self-examination, community members analyze their open defecation practices and the effects. This process creates feelings of shame and disgust for the community and its members, prompting the desire to stop open defecation and clean up the community’s surroundings. Importantly, the strategy encourages the community to take responsibility and take collective and individual actions, including  for the construction and use of household latrines, with the ultimate aim of ending open defecation and taking up positive hygiene behavior. The GWASH project provides support through material subsidies, community management capacity building and technical expertise.


From “Triggering” to Action

The first element in the process involves introductions and a series of initial meetings with community leaders, so as to build the highly needed rapport for increased community responsiveness.

In the “triggering” stage, the project guides community members to better understand the fecal-oral disease transmission route and its link to poor sanitation. It also helps the community to realize and understand the negative effects of open defecation. This understanding triggers community-wide action to deal with the problem of open defecation.

With community demand for improved sanitation in place, the project introduces its efforts to provide material and technical support to those willing to take charge and contribute to improving their sanitation situation. The project works with communities and individual households in the process of constructing household latrines, and provides low-level subsidies to enable willing households to benefit through affordable solutions.  These actions support households toward the community-wide goal of achieving Open Defecatio-Free (ODF) status.

The project regularly visits and follows up with the community so that they do not relapse in their efforts at reaching ODF status.

The process and approach concentrates on the whole community rather than on individual households. People decide together on how they will create a clean and hygienic environment that benefits everyone. In addition, the collective benefit from stopping open defecation encourages a cooperative, community action.

GWASH places a strong emphasis on assisting households in constructing and completing household latrines. This is a divergence from the traditional CLTS approach, which focuses only on collective community actions to stop open defecation. This is in view of the need to achieve the project’s time-sensitive targets for household latrine construction.  Other aspects of GWASH’s model that vary from CLTS principles are the provision of subsidy and prescribing a series of possible latrine designs, rather than relying on community members to develop their own designs. The latrine built with the support of the project is likely to be of better quality than latrines built by the communities themselves and therefore likely to last a longer period.

The Ghana WASH Project is implementing the hybrid CLTS strategy in 135 communities, within five districts in four administrative regions of Ghana: Awutu Senya and Agona East districts in Central Region, Ho Municipality in Volta Region, East Akim Municipality in Eastern Region and Aowin Suaman District in the Western Region.