Learning from a Review of one of Southern Africa’s Largest Rural Sanitation Programmes

by | Apr 3, 2018 | Latest, Will Tillett

The Zambia Sanitation & Hygiene Programme (ZSHP) aims to reach 3.6 million people in rural areas with improved sanitation and hygiene practices, and covers 68 districts of the country. The £23 million DFID funded programme is implemented by UNICEF and the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ). It started in 2011, and is due to finish in September this year.

The programme is one of the largest rural sanitation initiatives in Southern Africa, and has made impressive gains to date: over 11,000 communities have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), and over 3.7 million new users of sanitation have been reported. However, like many ODF-focussed programmes, a major focus of the ZSHP to date has been on ‘expanding’ rather than ‘sustaining’ gains made, and as the programme nears a close, there are questions about the post-project continuity of activities, and the real risk of slippage of hygiene and sanitation practices in the communities.

Will Tillett undertook the 2017-18 Annual Review of the ZSHP in February and March this year. This was contracted by DFID through the HEART advisory service[1].

A major focus of the review was on reviewing prospects for post-project sustainability, and providing recommendations on how to strengthen such prospects. The findings, which were presented to DFID, UNICEF, Government, and key sector stakeholders, have helped to advance the debate in the country around the effectiveness and sustainability of CLTS activities. Recommendations focussed around the institutionalisation of ‘mono-functional’ (ODF focussed) community structures and monitoring systems (established in the ZSHP) into wider and permanent processes and institutions; to establish clear protocols for post ODF monitoring and post certification support; and to strengthen inter-ministerial collaboration on rural sanitation and hygiene initiatives.

A number of lessons were learned during the review, which have wider relevance outside of just the ZSHP to many CLTS-focussed projects around the world. These include: being clear whether the target is achieving ODF, or achieving sustained health outcomes. It is all too easy to focus on toilet construction to reach ODF targets, at the possible expense of achieving long-term behaviour change; the need to keep in mind during ODF campaigns that reaching ODF is just the ‘start’ of the rural sanitation journey, rather than the ‘end goal’; that projects of such (large) scale need to have frequent reviews of the effectiveness of their activities, to allow iterative adjustments in real-time.

The Annual Review report is available here, and you can contact Will here.

[1] HEART is a consortia of specialised organisations in WASH, social protection, health, education and nutrition, which has a framework contract with DFID to provide on-demand, rapid advisory services to DFID advisors around the world.

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