Evidence shows that community development initiatives involving local people in decision-making lead to improved long-term project management, transfer of professional skills to the local community and positive changes in local development and structure.
Just a Drop aims for a holistic approach to the projects we fund and we adopt what we call the ‘HEHE Principles’ (a HEHE is a Tanzanian three legged stool). The first leg is the provision of safe water, the second ensures there is improved sanitation and the third ensures hygiene education takes place. The seat represents the local community’s involvement. Without these four aspects being in conceptual balance, the project concept can be said to be flawed.
The HEHE Principle:
Leg one: Water
We aim to fund a variety of different water solutions depending on the location’s water availability, culture and local economic conditions, based on the concept of the ‘Multiple Use Approach’. This approach starts from the premise that people actually need water for a multitude of purposes such as drinking water for people and livestock, water for use in sanitation, gardening, food processing, and other small enterprises. Given this reality, we look to fund those water systems that meet the needs of the user with this multiple use in mind. In essence, a multiple use approach involves:
- Assessing the range of water needs in collaboration with end users and our local partner
- Examining and selecting the preferred engineering solution based on the water sources available, from rainwater harvesting, wells, boreholes, springs and sand dams to piped systems
- Matching water supplies to needs based on quantity, quality, reliability and sustainability.
Leg Two: Sanitation
Just a Drop recognises that sanitation, along with clean water and food security, is a primary driver for improving public health. It is a crucial element in breaking the cycle of infection-disease-recovery-infection, resulting from unsafe disposal of human waste containing pathogens. However sanitation facilities are only sustainable when people make their own choices and own contribution towards obtaining and maintaining them. People have to experience the toilet as an improvement in their daily life. Sanitation systems have to be embedded in the local institutional, financial-economic, social-cultural, legal-political, and environmental context. Therefore we believe that sanitation improvement has to be based on cultural preferences, and take account of traditional behaviours and practices.
There is considerable room for flexibility in design and choice in developing an appropriate engineering solution adapted to local conditions. A wide range of practices exist however; flexibility of choice is limited because some combinations do not work.
For example, a dry toilet cannot be combined with a sewer network. It can be said that toilet designs are within the ‘best practice framework’ when hygienic safety is guaranteed, and excreta can be dealt with in a socio-culturally acceptable way. Toilets must be seen by the relevant population as safe and attractive to use, while construction and maintenance costs have to be affordable.
In looking to fund a sanitation technology within the ‘best practice framework’ the project conceptual design has to have been adapted to local conditions and suitable to a changing environment. To fund a ‘best practice framework’ sanitation solution in a local context, the following guidelines are crucial:
- Ownership: proof that the end recipients have been involved in the design and planning of the project
- Demand: the project is responding to actual needs
- Not re-inventing the wheel – the engineering design is built on existing practice, experience and infrastructure
- Culturally sensitive: the design takes into account the values, attitudes and behaviour of the users
- Affordable sustainability: the design is based on affordability and willingness to pay
- Keeping it real: consideration has been given to the availability of existing institutional support – government or local NGO to implement hygiene training.
Leg Three: Hygiene Training
We accept that hygiene promotion is most effective when combined with improved, affordable, and accepted water and sanitation interventions. One reason for this is that although hygiene promotion can also improve health in the absence of improved facilities, it is often the improvements in sanitation and water facilities, such as a pit latrine instead of open defecation, or a tippy-tap for hand washing, which enable the new hygienic behaviour.
THE SEAT: Local Community Participation
It is essential that the local community commits to participate fully in the project. This means commitment at all stages from agreeing to the concept of the project through the appraisal stage or baseline survey and which must include the agreement of the setting of the aims and objectives as well as the monitoring system and performance indicators.
Before any construction begins, consideration must be given to the final ownership; the management of day to day operations, however small; the method of payment for any repairs and maintenance; and the possibility of future extensions when neighbours see the benefits of the project. Unless the scheme is to supply a formal institution such as a school or hospital the final owners should be the community which it serves.
This longevity matters
That’s why the Just a Drop project team monitors all sites on an annual basis, ensuring the support given continues to save lives for years to come.
The Just a Drop Project Cycle