Youth group in Uganda joins in the Packwach District's sanitation drive

Woman standing near hut

In Uganda's Pakwach district (and beyond), the active involvement of the youth group Wang Mpaka Youth Bricklaying Group in the district's sanitation drive is inspiring neighbouring communities. Enabled by government leadership, SNV's rural sanitation strategy, Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All is increasing interest to adopt a similar approach to take sanitation to scale.

Effecting positive changes that support long-term and sustainable hygiene behaviour takes time. Often, people’s behaviours are influenced by their beliefs, cultural norms or practices. In Agu South, one of the 12 villages in Pumit Parish, Wadelai Sub-county in Pakwach district in Uganda, the community hardly practised handwashing with soap after latrine use. Back then, the predominantly Muslim population believed that their religious practice of using water for cleansing, at all times, was sufficient. As a result, latrine coverage was 27% (20 out of 75 households had latrines), and handwashing with soap was 0%. The quality of existing latrines was very poor. Most latrines had temporary structures and were near collapse.

Partnering with the Pakwach District Local Government and Water School Uganda (an indigenous Civil Society Organisation), SNV through its Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All Results Programme (SSH4A RP) trained the community youth group Wang Mpaka Youth Bricklaying Group to participate in the village's sanitation improvement drive. The youth group was selected due to their intimate knowledge of the community and its culture, and its members' willingness to influence positive changes. The group, which consisted of 30 members (21 women), received WASH training and gained some tools to improve the sanitation conditions in their own homes; specifically, their latrines. Members received training on, for example, latrine siting and construction, improvements/  maintenance of existing latrine structures, and tippy tap handwashing facility construction. Knowledge on 'what an ideal homestead should have' - e.g., pit latrine, bath shelter, rubbish pit, chicken/ animal house, rack for utensils, handwashing/ hygiene station - was also imparted.

Upon acquiring new skills, the group adopted a leadership approach in the sanitation drive. The approach commenced with the group members' improvement of the sanitation conditions in their own homes. This was followed by reaching out to eight other households in Agu South, and in the neighbouring villages in the parish. The approach employed by the group is expected to benefit 270 households in the parish. The strategy was complemented by the use of low-cost materials for sanitation facilities, e.g., latrine floors were rammed with clay soil and only the squat holes were plastered with cement/ sand so that they remain washable, and urine easily flows into the pit latrines. To control flies and smell from the latrine, tight fitting covers were designed to cover the squat hole. And, handwashing facilities (in the form of tippy taps) were constructed and installed next to the latrine to promote handwashing with soap.

Some of the group's members standing next to a newly constructed latrine

Some of the group's members standing next to a newly constructed latrine

Group members charged households for labour. Households supported by the project purchased the required materials themselves (e.g., sand, cement, three-litre jerrycan and a rope to make the tippy tap, timber and nails for the squat hole cover, etc.).  Labour fees varied depending on the assignment. These ranged between a low UGX 5,000 (EUR 1) for basic upgrade of the squat hole to UGX 70,000 (EUR 17) for complete latrine construction (including pit sinking).

Because of the leadership approach adopted by the group, its members were able to support the other households in their latrine construction and home improvement. The gentle ‘nudge’ from the youth group proved to be what the communities needed. Within a period of three months (October to December 2018), sanitation and hygiene improved drastically in the Agu South Village. Latrine coverage rose to 67% (from 27%), and handwashing moved from 0% to 67%. Subsequently most of the households were able to construct better quality latrines. Promotion of handwashing after latrine use by fellow community members also led to the easy adoption of positive hygiene behaviour.

The programme was successful in two ways. It brought (basic) improvements in the sanitation and hygiene conditions of the village, and the new skills acquired by members of the predominantly female youth group saw a rise in their incomes. Prior to skills building, the group’s only source of income was from their annual membership fees of UGX 5,000 and weekly savings of UGX 500 shillings per member. During the last three months alone, the group had earned UGX 520,000 (EUR 141) from its members' construction of latrines and tippy taps.

Prepared by John Robert Okello – SNV IWAS Project Manager & Ibrahim Bashir – Water School Uganda

The SSH4A Results Programme is a multi-country programme that is currently being implemented in seven (7) countries across Asia and Africa, including Uganda. Funded by UKAID (of the Government of the United Kingdom), the project -  now on its extension phase - supports in the delivery of area-wide rural sanitation and hygiene services in Uganda.

Read more about SNV Uganda here.

Photo: Household member posing happily in front of her home after acquiring better sanitation facilities (Photo by John Robert Okello).