By Carolien Van der Voorden, Wouter Coussement and Charles Dickson
WSSCC’s partners and community leaders in Benin showcased the progress of Dutch-supported efforts to end open defecation as a representative of the Government of the Netherlands visited the Zoungué neighbourhood of the community of Glazoué.
Ms Joke Baak, a thematic expert on sanitation and hygiene within the Directorate-General of International Cooperation (DG) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was welcomed and briefed by representatives of PAPHYR, the Programme d’Amelioration d’Assainissement et des Pratiques d’Hygiene au milieu Rural (programme for the improvement of rural sanitation and hygiene practices).
PAPHYR is funded by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), of which the Government of Netherlands is a major and longstanding supporter.
With the support provided by PAPHYR, some 823,000 people across Benin reached open defecation free (ODF) status. This comprises 63 percent of total ODF coverage in the West-African country of approximately 11 million people, indicating the importance of the PAPHYR programme in Benin.
At the heart of the effort is an approach known as Community-Led Total Sanitation, or CLTS, which is designed to inspire local action to end open defecation through the construction and use of latrines.
As part of the CLTS approach, local implementing partners facilitate a so-called “triggering” activity to enable communities to lead to self-awareness and ignite behaviour change through face-to-face, deep-dive discussions.
When triggered, communities and households have the motivation to develop the capacity and acquire the resources to construct their own latrines, and even invest in making incremental improvements to make them more durable and easily cleanable.
Zoungué was declared ODF in February 2017. At that time, some households were still sharing latrines. Since then, the community has worked hard to ensure that each household has its own. As well, the quality of latrines constructed in the village has been steadily improved, with everyone having attained a more permanent status, often with the use of cement in the slab or in the superstructure.
Ezeckiel Dagoue, a community leader and member of the village sanitation committee recounted the community’s journey from the first ‘triggering’ event, which he said “shocked them a bit”, to their resolve to ensure everybody would use good quality latrines.
Improving the well-being of women and girls within a community is crucial to leave no one behind and programmes such as the one supported by the Global Sanitation Fund can have a positive impact on the role and responsibilities of women in communities, as Ms Baak learned on her tour of Zoungué.
The results speak for themselves, as Ms Baak observed. In Zoungué, she saw a high degree of village cleanliness, with animals kept in pens, no signs of solid waste, handwashing stations equipped with soapy water at each latrine and solid latrines in the school.
Ms Baak’s tour also took her to the village of Gbédavo, which had not yet been triggered, and to Sonongon, which had been in May. The contrast between the two spoke volumes.
While Gbédavo was very dirty, with solid waste and signs of open defecation everywhere, Sonongon was much cleaner, with 18 latrines constructed or improved since the triggering just six weeks prior, and some former open defecation sites already transformed into new agricultural plots.
“The atmosphere in Sonogon seemed much more positive and welcoming”, observed WSSCC’s Carolien van der Voorden, who accompanied Ms Baak on the field visit.
“The people were eager to showcase what they had achieved,” she said.
Both Gbédavo and Sonongon are within the community of Dassa, whose mayor Nicaise Fagnon participated in the tour of the two villages. He discussed with the villagers the importance of sanitation and they agreed that the triggering will start soon. While congratulating Sonongon on its progress to date, he pointed out that progress yet to be made.
The visit provided Ms Baak with a good overview of the Global Sanitation Fund’s programmes, the importance of the local government’s leadership and how awareness and behavioral change could create self-financed local solutions.
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