Community said 'no' to project now first to achieve ODF

The Project Team is convinced ODF is possible even in the most ‘difficult’ communities. Each community responds differently, and some just need a little more attention before embracing the process.

Abamba community is located in Abayong Ward, in the Biase Local Government Area (LGA), Cross River State. In June 2016, project partners engaged the community using the CLTS approach. CLTS uses a facilitation methodology to collectively change the community’s sanitation and hygiene behaviour. This process starts with ‘triggering’; a technique eliciting feelings of shame and disgust about open defecation, thus motivating people to end the practice.

Triggering the Abamba community however, did not have the desired effect. The community declared they would happily receive any type of development project, with the exception of sanitation and hygiene. Community members challenged the project by asking: “how does our shit affect you in the city?’’. In fact, their attitude towards the project was so negative, they went as far as requesting the implementing CSO not to return to the community.

In response to this situation, it was decided the entire CHISHPIN team visit the community. A community dialogue was organised that included key stakeholders – the chief, and women and youth groups. The discussion dwelt on the effects of open defecation on health, the environment and household economics. The visiting team also informed the farming community members how their behaviour of ‘shitting in the open’ leads to poor health and therefore poor productivity. It was also explained how poor sanitation and hygiene will contaminate their produce. In other words, yes, their shit does affect people outside their community who rely on them for food – a shocking revelation to many. The community soon came to realize sanitation and hygiene interventions are indeed of utmost importance in any effort to improve conditions within, and even beyond, their village.

The Abamba community members then made the collective decision to end open defecation within two weeks. They formed a Task Force and enacted by-laws against open defecation. All 36 households constructed an exclusive toilet. In fact, the Abamba community went even further; by constructing two additional toilets for visitors. They have the honour of being the first community in their Ward to become ODF.