The 216 villages in the Traditional Authority of Chapananga in Chikwawa District in Malawi have been declared open defecation free – a huge milestone for the district, and for Water For People.
“Today is a very big day for our community,” said community member Samuel Ngomondo at the Open Defecation Free celebration that took place in April. “The celebration symbolizes a change of behavior and state of living to the community. We never thought we would reach this far.”
In sustainable water and sanitation projects, building infrastructure is just a first step. People must also recognize the importance of the new services and be motivated to use them. Fostering this type of behavior change takes time and is one of the most difficult parts of water, sanitation, and hygiene sector work.
But change has taken hold, and is spreading through places like Chapananga that are home to tens of thousands of people.
Chapananga’s open defecation free milestone is the result of Water For People’s implementation, along with partners, of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) model, which encourages community members to promote a shift in behavior change among themselves and move toward safer defecation practices. District health staff visit communities and show them how unsafe defecation practices can contaminate food and water, with the goal of prompting families to not only build latrines but to understand the importance of using them.
Samuel Ngomondo says the community used to think latrines were a waste of time and resources, and people would instead go to the river or to the bush to defecate. He says through CLTS, everyone’s mindset shifted.