September 2018: Moving CLTS to scale: the three ‘Old Guards’ to remember
In this edition…
Ghana decided to adopt CLTS in 2018 and subsequently launched a national scale-up programme in 2012 enshrined in the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy. A nation that does not honour its heroes, it is said, is not worth dying for. This edition of Toilet Agenda celebrates three gallant Ghanaian Civil Servants who worked tirelessly till their last days in active serve service to ensure that the approach works against all odds in their regions.
After a nationwide assessment of various Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) pilot projects in 2009, it was discovered that the approach had a great potential to boost rural basic sanitation promotion in the country. The CLTS approach was subsequently adopted through stakeholder consensus building and it was supposed to be a deviation from the subsidy-driven approach, which had been pursued for close to two decades. Though thousands of households acquired latrines through the subsidy approach, hardly did it help to change behaviours towards open defecation or turn entire communities into open defecation-free status.
CLTS was supposed to focus on behaviour change from open defecation to use of toilets. The approach also was to emphasize the possibility of households to construct their own latrines without expecting subsidies from government or any external sources.
Dealing with any human institution on issues with changing from traditional ways or norms of doing things has never been easy. Introduction of CLTS was in fact not a smooth transition from the traditional ways of promoting rural basic sanitation in Ghana from different fronts. The approach itself was new to many WASH sector stakeholders and there was too little experience to guide the take off. It was also difficult to convince various partners to stop counting the number of toilets provided and shift to sensitization. It was difficult to reject ‘communal toilet donations’ from especially aspiring political representatives in favour of self-provided household toilets. In most communities, people were simply not prepared to hear that ‘government’ no longer provides communal toilets nor subsidized household toilets while their neighbours had already enjoyed it before. Above all, there were virtually no logistical support to the implementation of CLTS in several MMDAs and CLTS implementation staff had to go through hell to make a community open defecation-free.
Against all these odds, even as some entire regions to date have not yet made any inroads into CLTS implementation, some three distinguished personalities managed to make an indelible mark in their little corners to ensure that their respective regions reap some of the benefits of CLTS. If today, thousands of communities in the country, mostly from these their regions, are open defecation-free, Ghana owes the following great sons a debt of gratitude.
The former REHO of Volta Region will be remembered mostly for providing seed money from his personal sources to kick start the implementation of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in his Region. This was after disbursement of expected project funds had delayed for four months after a start-up workshop had been organized. His seed money of 2,800 Ghana Cedis indeed was enough at the time to help 74 rural communities to stop open defecation within four weeks!
Having been triggered into believing in the potency of the CLTS approach to solving Ghana’s basic sanitation problem and building on his background as an Environmental Health professional, Mr Abotsi attached unmeasurable passion to his task to rid the Volta Region of open defecation.
He provided mature leadership, strategic communication and admirable inter-personal relationship with both his subordinates and superiors to catapult the Volta Region into one of the best performing regions in CLTS implementation immediately after the launch of the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy (RSMS).
He lobbied for and provided technical direction in the formation of the Regional and District Inter-Agency Coordinating Committees on Sanitation (RICCS and DICCS). He also developed the capacities of the initial CLTS staff through training and exchange visits to other parts of the country for practical experience. While the CLTS programme started in five districts in the Volta Region in 2012, it had spread to 14 districts by the time he retired from active service in 2015. He was deservingly named the best Regional Environmental Health Officer (REHO) for 2014 by UNICEF (within the context of the implementation of the RSMS by the GoG-UNICEF WASH Programme). Even in retirement, he provides technical support to the RICCS in monitoring and verifying communities to approve their claim of an open defecation-free status. He also shares managerial and technical experiences with the current staff still participates in most CLTS-related forums in the Volta Region.
Rex Jakpa Mumuni
There was hardly any record of an open defecation-free community in the Northern Region by the time Rex Jakpa Mumuni was appointed as the Regional Environmental Health Officer (REHO) for the Northern Region in 2013. At the time he was leaving office in 2017, about 1,200 communities had been declared open defecation-free (ODF).
Rex, had had initial interest in working with communities to solve common problems. This interest started after attending a workshop in the Afram Plains organized by the Afram Plains Development Organization (APDO) in the early 2000s. “After that workshop I developed the belief that communities are able to solve most of their local development problems but that they need external facilitation.” He says.
When Rex was posted to the Upper West Region as the REHO, he started to implement CLTS in a few communities in four districts. At the time, CLTS systems were not adequately developed so attaining ODF communities was quite difficult. Nonetheless, Rex and his team were so much inspired by obtaining one open defecation-free community within a month in the Wa West District.
Back in the Northern Region in 2013 as the REHO, Mr Jakpa decided to take CLTS implementation into full scale. His belief in the approach had been boosted by his participation in a national institutional triggering exercise conducted by the CLTS Foundation, facilitated by the originator of the approach himself.
He advocated for the activation of the Regional Inter-Agency Coordinating Committees on Sanitation (RICCS), which is a recommendation in the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy (RSMS). He successfully ensured that the RICCS became one of the most active in the country by the time he left office. He organized meetings with all the districts in the region and worked till all 26 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) started to implement the CLTS approach.
Mr Jakpa’s effectiveness in CLTS implementation in the Northern Region did not happen by chance; he mapped out all NGOs in the region with interest in basic sanitation and mobilized them to get involved. Through this, majority of the MMDAs were able to get support from NGOs to implement CLTS.
He worked with his team to implement the ODF League concept in the RSMS. The Northern region then became the first to publish the inter-district ODF League Table in 2015. The league table in turn induced more interactions on the CLTS approach afterwards and triggered a sense of positive competition among various districts.
Rex and his team were able to win the interest of every Regional Minister and the entire Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) in the CLTS programme. The seriousness of the regional team in turn yielded appreciable donor support for the programme. He maintained transparency and inclusiveness at all levels and his team also maintained a very cordial relationship with the mass media.
Rex may be resting at the moment and enjoying his retirement but he has left his ears still widely open to great stories from the legacy he left behind after making about 33% of all communities in the Northern Region open defecation-free.
If today more than 50% of all communities in the Upper West Region have officially been verified as open defecation-free, Henry Bagah, the immediate past Regional Environmental Health Officer (REHO) will be fondly remembered by generations for his role as a true leader.
By the time Mr Bagah took over as the REHO for the Upper West Region in 2013, the region had less than 20 ODF communities. By that time the national CLTS scale-up programme had just been launched and his predecessor, Rex Jakpa, had laid a good foundation. Though he was initially naïve about the CLTS approach, he embraced it and accepted the challenge to achieve something good from it for his region. By the time he left office in the middle of 2018, the region had more than 500 verified ODF communities.
As the REHO, Mr Bagah deployed transparency, tact, maturity, good inter-personal relations, selflessness, and firmness to get his team working and to obtain support both from within the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) and from development partners especially in terms of funding for the CLTS programme.
Among the remarkable systems he left behind as REHO in trying to reduce open defecation in his region was a strong and committed Regional Interagency Coordinating Committee on Sanitation (RICCS), which meets once a month and coordinates CLTS activities, and an Inter-District ODF League Table to inject a spirit of positive competition among districts. Mr Bagah also facilitated capacity development programmes for district CLTS facilitators and reinforced staffing capacity at the regional office by recruiting three additional hands.
As Regional Ministers, District Chief Executives, and other senior government staff are changed frequently, Mr Bagah never delayed in organizing briefing sessions for top government officials in the region to keep them abreast with the CLTS programme. Through this, some of the DCEs and Coordinating Directors in the region developed keen interest in the programme and provided the needed support.
According to some of his staff, Mr Bagah was fast at resolving conflicts and confronting emerging challenges from the field. He was able to mobilize support from some of the NGO partners in the region to complement the efforts by major partners like UNICEF and the World Bank. He preached vehemently against monetization of the CLTS approach with the fear that such a practice would not make the gains sustainable.
By Emmanuel Addai