Published on: 09/09/2016
Two years ago, Kajumiro village in Rwimi Sub County, Kabarole district was among the many villages in Uganda with the lowest latrine coverage. Many of the residents defecated in the open, never washed their hands after visiting the latrine, and had no bathing shelters. The village was a haven for diseases. Many people especially children suffered from diarrhea, intestinal warms and typhoid. However Kajumiro has managed to turn around all the bad figures and is now a sanitation model village in Kabarole district.
The revolution started in 2014 when the Kabarole District Local Government decided to undertake home improvement campaigns in Bukuku and Rwimi sub counties. The campaigns were implemented in the broader framework of the CLTS-Plus programme and were funded by the Ministry of Water and Environment under the District Sanitation Conditional Grant.
The CLTS-Plus approach goes beyond the originally restricted parameters of sanitation and hygiene, which considered triggering of communities, and construction of latrines and handwashing facilities. Under CLTS-Plus the home improvement campaigns incorporate other aspects like nutrition, health education and demonstrations with the goal of ensuring a healthy and productive population. CLTS-Plus entails the following parameters:
Olivia Tumuhairwe, Assistant DWO in charge of sanitation, recalls that the 2013/14 home improvement campaigns started with an objective of reaching 100% sanitation coverage in Rwimi and Bukuku sub counties, using the CLTS-Plus parameters. The campaign also aimed at reducing the prevalence of diarrhoea diseases in the two Sub Counties. The key activities included sensitizing of the community members about the need for better hygiene and sanitation, helping locals construct latrines."We first had meetings at different levels starting with local leaders, VHTs and village groups. We sensitized the community about the need for sanitation and hygiene," Tumuhairwe says.
To inspire and motivate the population, the follow up and monitoring included awarding marks to households, depending on their performance against the parameters. Tumuhairwe explains that they empowered the community and local leaders with knowledge and how to adjudicate. Organized community groups were particularly engaged to undertake continuous monitoring. One of such groups was the Farmer's Revolutionary Group which worked with the Village Health Teams (VHTs).
"The Farmer's Revolution started as a self-help project with sanitation and hygiene as one of its components. It has helped people to build toilets and kitchens," says Amos Kyomuhangi, a member of the group. "We normally award marks to homes. The best homes win prizes like garden implements, while those without toilets and kitchens are given zero so that they can improve," Kyomuhangi adds.
Assistant DWO, Olive Tumuhairwe explains that the voluntary groups did not have enough knowledge to do monitoring and home visits so they got technical guidance from the sub county Health Assistant. "We empowered the local communities and leaders to continue doing the follow up so as to sustain the gains, while at the same time aiming for the 100% sanitation target," Tumuhairwe says.
All villages in the sub county benefited from CLTS-Plus programme, but Kajumiro emerged best. "The Kajumiro community had the will to improve their sanitation. We believe that lessons learnt here can be replicated somewhere else," Tumuhairwe said.
At the start of the programme in 2014, latrine coverage in Kajumiro was at 64 percent while hand washing was below 30 percent. But as of June 2016, latrine coverage was at 90% percent and hand washing is over 90 percent. Additionally, every family has a drying rack for utensils, a bathing shelter, animal shelters, garbage collection points, and kempt compounds. They are also aware of food hygiene and safe stool disposal.
Rose Tusiime a resident of Kajumiro reports that she no longer shares her house with animals since she is now aware of the danger. "I now have a shelter for the goats but thieves are a challenge. My latrine is well maintained and my children are aware that they must wash their hands after visiting the latrine," Tusiime said.
The Rwimi Sub County LC3 chairperson Moses Kangwagye is delighted about the strides made by the residents to get rid of poor hygiene practices. "We used to have open defecation everywhere on roadsides and in banana plantations but this has changed. We are now seeing the fruits of good hygiene. Our children no longer fall sick, visits to health facilities have reduced and people are productive," Kangwagye says.
The initial hurdle was the lack of awareness and knowledge about the dangers of poor sanitation. This was overcome through an effective awareness campaign carried out with the help of a motivated team from the district. There was a lot of community engagement. "The community welcomed the idea of owning latrines and washing hands with soap. The health educators sensitized them on the benefits and were able to change their mindset," Kangwagye, the Sub County Chairperson says.
To succeed, the technical implementers brought on board VHTs, Crime Preventers and local leaders. They also included community voluntary groups like the Revolutionary Farmers' Group. The approach also included an element of enforcement, whereby leaders were forced to penalize those who failed to comply. Residents who failed to comply with the new standards were arrested and given community work as a punishment. The sub county leadership also set up a police post in the area to apprehend defaulters.
Additionally, the sub county carries out compulsory community work every Wednesday. On such a day, people are expected to construct or do maintenance work on their sanitation facilities, or to work in their banana plantations. Idlers are apprehended. The sub county leadership believes that a poor community cannot attain the desired levels of sanitation. The programme also focuses on education whereby all children must be taken to school. Community members have agreed that an uneducated community cannot practice good sanitation and hygiene. A tree-planting campaign has also been initiated in a bid to protect the environment. "You cannot achieve better sanitation and hygiene with people who are hungry, poor or uneducated," Kangwagye says.
Revolutionary groups in Kajumiro continue to visit homesteads on a weekly basis, awarding marks and prizes to the smartest homes. This type of competition encourages families to work hard and improve their sanitation standards. The revolutionary groups submit reports to the sub county leadership who then take appropriate action especially against defaulters.
Sanitation and hygiene have improved, but the residents of Kajumiro are still struggling with safe water. "The biggest problem is lack of a protected water source, the whole village solely depends on Crater Lake and river which is not safe at all," Olive Tumuhairwe says.
"We still encourage people to boil drinking water, which they are getting from crater lakes and work on how to solve the water problem, by doing rain water harvesting," Tumuhairwe adds. The outstanding challenge is for the district leadership to extend safe water to the village.
To this end, Kajumiro village has set an example of good hygiene and sanitation practices which can be replicated to other areas through community participation.
"We are taking Kajumiro as a model village for others to learn and apply best practices in the whole district. We believe that together we can make Kabarole a model district in terms of hygiene and sanitation," Tumuhairwe concludes.