Learning beyond borders in East Africa


As countries grapple with how to practically achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), improving how different development partners learn from each other will become increasingly important. To meet this challenge, the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) is leveraging the immense amount of knowledge across 13 supported national sanitation and hygiene programmes. This is all aimed at helping to end open defecation and achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, as set in SDG 6.2.

In East Africa, practitioners from GSF-supported programmes are supporting each other to enhance how collective behaviour change is facilitated, through approaches such as Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS). In Kenya, CLTS practitioners from the Ministry of Health in Uganda, the Executing Agency of the Uganda Sanitation Fund (USF), visited their neighbors in the Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (K-SHIP), which just began implementation earlier in the year. Meanwhile, just across the border, practitioners from Madagascar’s Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement (FAA) programme joined their peers in Tanzania to support the Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania (UMATA) programme.

These learning exchanges are rooted in a hands-on ‘learning-by-doing’ philosophy, where staff from local governments and NGOs actively learn, practice, and build their skills in new behaviour change approaches. The two principle focus areas for the exchanges in Kenya and Tanzania are Follow-up MANDONA and Institutional Triggering. Follow-up MANDONA is an action-orientated, collective approach for post-Triggering follow-up visits. The approach aims to accelerate the achievement of open defecation free (ODF) status in the shortest time possible, by bringing the entire community together (for more information, see the Follow-up MANDONA handbook). Institutional Triggering is a powerful advocacy approach that targets decision makers and influencers, at all levels, using the same principles as community-level Triggering. The approach ignites immediate action to end open defecation and provide access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. Read more about Institutional Triggering on page 33 of the paper, 'Sanitation and Hygiene Behaviour Change at Scale: Understanding Slippage'.

The growing East African network of peer-to-peer learning began in June 2015, when a team from Madagascar introduced Follow-up MANDONA and Institutional Triggering in Uganda. As Cecilia Adyero, a USF Field Officer helping to facilitate the exchange with Kenya, explains:

“For four years, we were implementing the programme with limited results on the ground. Then, when the team from Madagascar came with new knowledge and approaches, we started to immediately pick up.  We are very proud of our achievements since then, and because it worked well for us, these approaches are something that should spread to other countries like Kenya to build their capacity and pull their programmes up.”

A big part of the success of peer-to-peer learning exchanges lies in their participatory philosophy. Enureta Chebet, a Caritas Project Officer working in Muranga County for K-SHIP, explains why this experience with the Ugandans has been different:

“This exchange is quite different than other formal trainings I’ve attended because instead of just one facilitator, we are all equally involved in the learning. Unlike the other trainings, where you sit in a session the whole day and doze off, these hands-on sessions involved a lot of practical work in the field.”

Now, Chebet and her team feel equipped to apply what they’ve learned back home. “Before, we didn’t really know how to do the follow-ups; we had done so many, but nothing really was done. But now that we’ve practiced and understood Follow-up MANDONA with the Ugandans, we are confident that we will accelerate achieving ODF communities by the end of the year. We will also apply Institutional Triggering to improve access and maintenance of sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools by targeting head teachers, school management committees, and local education authorities. By bringing these decision makers together, they will discover that open defecation affects all of them – especially children’s right to a healthy environment – and that they need to combine resources and take action.”

As much as the Ugandan and Malagasy teams are helping to build new CLTS skills in Kenya and Tanzania, peer-to-peer exchanges also facilitate two-way learning as fresh ideas and emerging best practices are brought back home.  From Tanzania, the team from Madagascar has learned about UMATA’s work on WASH in schools to deepen collective behaviour change. The team has also seen how their Tanzanian colleagues engage local governments and microfinance institutions to enhance the sustainability of their programme.

Cecilia reports that she is taking back several new ideas from Kenya that she will apply in Uganda: “What I’ve seen that I’ve really liked is the ODF verification protocol. It is very clear, and it is being followed by everyone in the country – something Uganda can learn from. What I would also want to see is for the USF to think about what happens after ODF. From the Chuodho Women’s Group [the GSF Sub-grantee in Kuria West sub-county], the idea of supporting income generating activities in ODF communities in order to finance climbing the sanitation ladder is something I want to explore. Finally, I’ve learned about paying special attention to vulnerable people, and the need to go deep down, to ensure that the community is helping those that are least able to access and use quality latrines.”