We should adopt a sustainable community sanitation programme

Dear Editor,

As we experience the rainy season and floods, the search is on again for solutions, that is, sustainable solutions. Let me start by stating that there is need for a comprehensive sustainable community sanitation and environment programme to complement other similar initiatives. In 2012, we commenced the development of a framework for a sustainable sanitation programme which requires communities to take the lead in cleaning their environment. The framework is called ‘Cleanliness and Citizenship – Community-Led Total Sanitation’ (C&C-CLTS) and the concept was borrowed from the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) behaviour change approach that was developed by Kamal Kar from India.

C&C-CLTS is a model which presents a programme for communities to progress from clean-up campaigns, to a sustainable environmental programme to motivate, mobilize and organize communities to reduce the practice of ‘Open Garbage Disposal’ (OGD) and clean up communities so they become ‘Open Garbage Disposal Free’ (OGDF) and environmentally friendly; this is done by igniting and sustaining a change in sanitation and environmental behaviour.

It concentrates on the whole community rather than on individual behaviours. The collective benefit from stopping open garbage disposal (OGD) can encourage a more cooperative approach. It allows for people in communities to decide together how they will create a more clean and hygienic environment that benefits everyone.

The Ministry of Communities, Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs), municipalities and relevant authorities cannot sustain a programme at this point that will maintain  a clean environment in communities; there has to be a structured organized collectivist approach which includes community leadership. Many of us have participated in several clean-up campaigns which were not sustained. We have seen the massive clean-up exercise for the 50th Anniversary celebrations, and even that was not sustained; C&C-CLTS offers a short, medium and long term solution.

Over the years the configuration of the family and communities has changed; twenty years ago, families consisted of seven, ten and in some cases fifteen and more persons; hence the family could have carried out sanitation and environmental tasks which current demands and limitations do not allow. Family members are now engaged in employment and many other activities outside the home and its environment, therefore as the society evolves and the institutional construct changes, for instance the family, there is need for other institutional changes.

These challenges relative to the current configuration of families and communities have created numerous employment opportunities. There is now a demand for environmental and sanitation services which were provided previously by families. Hundreds of jobs can be created by communities through the implementation of a C&C-CLTS framework in communities across Guyana.

Additionally, with a key national focus on a green economy, there is need for a framework that will sustain a sanitation and environmental programme in communities.

C&C-CLTS will also fill the gap of the community component in the National Solid Waste Master Plan, since it focuses on mobilizing and organizing communities around keeping their environment clean.

In 2015, with funding from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), we were able to train over forty C&C-CLTS Community Facilitators from the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to facilitate programmes for communities to become OGDF.

We have also developed eleven sanitation and environmental services which can be provided within communities by CSOs or private businesses; the essential objective of these services will be for communities to attain the status of ‘Open Garbage Disposal Free’. There are some specific criteria which were developed to enable communities to attain the OGDF status. The eleven service area are: Tree trimming, tree cutting, tree planting, weeding and cleaning, cleaning gutters, manufacturing garbage bins with covers, cleaning and painting garbage bins, landscaping, gardening, removal of construction and builders waste materials and earth removal.

Ideally, if some aspects of the programme become instutionalized within the Ministry of Communities this will ensure its sustainability, particularly the aspects of monitoring the progress of communities on the C&C-CLTS Open Garbage Disposal Free programme, providing technical and other support to remove solid waste from communities after clean-up exercises, certifying communities  which have achieve the status of  OGDF, developing an incentivised system for communities which have been certified and declared OGDF, and to monitor these communities in order to identify and  prevent slippage.

Some of the recommendations from the training included that C&C-CLTS be used as a solution for solid waste management at the community level; further training be done for a trainer of trainers; more C&C-CLTS facilitators be trained for both the Ministry of Communities and CSOs; the communities from where the representatives from the CSOs were drawn become the pilot areas for support to attain OGDF status; representatives of these CSOs be trained further in organizational strengthening so that they can legally register their organizations; support would be given to persons who are employed by these CSOs to enable communities to attain OGDF status.

Further, training for persons employed by the CSOs could be trained in the eleven business areas mentioned above (such as, tree-cutting, flower gardening, landscaping, making garbage bins and covers); that the CSOs from the pilot communities be supported in setting up their groups and organizations as businesses to provide sanitation and environmental services and create employment for residents in their communities; that the Ministry of Communities adopts the C&C-CLTS programme as a framework for addressing solid waste management problems in communities; and for the international donor community to include the C&C-CLTS framework as a programme area and provide support to CSOs to assist communities to attain OGDF status.

For more information on C&C-CLTS please contact us on email iam_guyana@yahoo.com

Yours faithfully,

Audreyanna Thomas

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