The journey started with crossing the Nepalese mountains (serious mountains) in order to reach the valley where the Indian border was. Soon after we embarked, it became clear that safe driving in Nepal has a different meaning than in Europe and the three of us had a fair share of bonding moments when we went with screaming tires into another curve downwards the hills.
Once at the bottom a military convoy welcomed us, being so kind escorting us and hundreds of other cars, busses and vans through the occupied militants zone in the south east of Nepal - through the dark of the middle of the night. Tensions between Nepal and India are at a height right now, given the blockade of fuel and oil imports from India to Nepal. With the sunrise in our backs, we finally believed to have reached our destination, and we walked over the border to India.
However, a crucial exit stamp from Nepal was needed, which could only be gotten roughly 300 km east from where we were. Thus, we headed further to the border of Nepal and the Indian state of Bengal, in order to enter the country where our project is carried out. After another 8 hours and a total journey of 2.5 days, we finally reached our project area, and met with our colleagues Sanjib and Francesca from the Welthungerhilfe in Darbhanga, India.
After a good night of rest, we left the hotel at 8am to drive to our project area. We were warmly welcomed by the Indian partner organization of the Welthungerhilfe, called GPSVS, which is operating from its head office in the middle of the project area, which we have been supporting over the last three years.
There, we got a first overview and personal introduction to the work that has been carried out over the last few years, and we got an overview of what has been achieved. Before showing you the facts, we should explain that the main approach of GPSVS is to empower the local community and to initiate a behaviour change in the local population. The idea is that it does not help if you as an external actor build toilets that no one uses afterwards and that it is much more important to educate people about the importance of hygiene, the difference between clean water and pure water and other information related to WASH.
The method that the GPSVS chose for this is the establishment of WASH committees in all of the project villages under its supervision. WASH committees are largely consisting of women (usually more than 80%) from the local villages. This serves the double purpose of giving empowering women in a male dominated society, as well as giving voice and decision making power to the community, as the WASH committee decides together with the GPSVS what should be done in order to increase the cleanliness as well as the access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygienic practices in the specific village.
Our partner organisation GPSVS was established in 1977. Since then it is working on community-based mechanisms for self reliance and sustainability and cultivate e.g. an administrative unit as the focal point for promoting an inclusive model of self reliance, development and organization. Their focus is village self-reliance based on principles of Equity, Justice, Tolerance and ‘Ahimsa’ (= non violence). Key objectives of the organisation contain e.g. the formation of people’s organization for women and youths to strengthen the capacity of marginalized communities for sustainable development, influencing policies to create enabling environments for community led programmes. For GPSVS, all objectives should be achieved with gender sensitivity. GPSVS tries to work on a grassroots level with creative people’s involvement throughout the last 35 years in Bihar, and is since the past decade geographically widening their activities to other districts.
Concerning WASH, mass awareness campaigns on the issue of water-crisis at local and global level were created together with multi stakeholder initiatives on WASH practices. Concrete measures such as water testing and water treatment to monitor the water quality within a project area are taken in this framework. Next to the water component, our partner organisation work in contexts of SARL – Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Livelihood. Another of the nine programmes of GPSVS (what we explain here is just a brief selected overview) is a programme where they spread the word about the Right to Information, e.g. in the context of legal and social rights awareness camps for the disabled, minorities and women. GPSVS has more than 25 partners worldwide that it collaborates with, amongst other the Welthungerhilfe, European Union, UNDP, UNICEF and others.
34 WASH committees have been established in order to manage WASH related issues in their villages
- 33.03 % of all Households have an own toilet compared to 0% when the project started. 1456 toilets have been constructed with Government support. 569 Pit and 24 ECOSAN through direct funding from VCA and us.
- All villages are now open defecation free, and public toilets have been installed.
- 67.26% of all households now have knowledge on toilets, personal hygiene and importance of community level cleanliness.
- 2470 Households (39.82%) use safe drinking water - also here the number was at 0% when the project started.
- Now 65% of all Households have a Personal source of drinking water. 26% of them have an own Hand Pump with a platform.
- In 186 Households Matka filters are used 🡪 Matka filters are simple low cost solutions, locally produced and rooted in local history, for filtering water, see picture attached.
- 2115 Households have knowledge about rainwater harvesting.
- Reported cases of diarrhoea in villages have gone to zero
- Side effects of communal empowerment are starting to kick in, such as an electricity line build to one village for lights in the public toilets. These are the fruits of the lobbying work of the women of the local WASH committee at their local government.
- WASH Committees are willing to spread their knowledge to other villages, given the demand for this by the locals
- Every villages has a team of trained villagers that are able to repair water pumps in case they break down
On a general note it has to be said, that full coverage of all households with individual toilets is not feasible. Public toilets have been installed in all villages, allowing all villagers to go the toilet in dignity, safety and in a clean environment. Also, from what we have seen hygienic awareness has been extremely increased, as the local women meet every month to discuss this issue and how to improve it specifically. One committee told us that they are, upon request, intending to go to villages of friends and family that have not been part of the program, in order to set up the same community-driven structures for development. Hence, even without GPSVS carrying out their work, development is taking place, as capacities and knowledge for self-reliance are being transferred, and not just technologies.
1) Environment induced risk due to open defecation, open sewage, water logging, poor quality water, contamination of water at source and use storage of water has been reduced.
2) After this project social position of women/marginalised community has improved.
3) Awareness regarding safe water use practices and use of toilets has reduced the risks to water borne diseases.
4) Its impact is seen on improved earnings through the reduced expenditure on water borne diseases caused by contaminated water has caused 30% decrease in health expenditure.
Even though these numbers are still far from perfect, Welthungerhilfe and GPSVS believe that the community is capable of taking things from here themselves and that they will further improve the WASH situation in their and the surrounding villages under guidance from the WASH committees established by us. Naturally, GPSVS and the Welthungerhilfe will keep on monitoring the situation on the ground, and a follow up report for 2016 will be provided by the end of the year.