Reaching the ‘last mile’: getting the message to AfricaSan 5

01 August 2019

In April 2018, we convened the ‘East and Southern Africa Regional Sharing and Learning Workshop on Community-Led Total Sanitation and Rural Sanitation’ (ESA workshop) in Arusha, Tanzania, with support from SNV Tanzania.

The event brought together stakeholders engaged in rural WASH programming from eight countries across the region (Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) alongside WASH experts working at regional and global levels.

Over five days participants shared experiences, innovations, challenges and learning, and mapped gaps in knowledge with the aim of improving their capacity and future learning and building consensus on a way forward.

Workshop participants were encouraged to critically reflect and analyse trends within CLTS and to develop their thinking around new approaches to CLTS and rural sanitation, using participatory methods.

We interviewed Jenny (anonymised name), a workshop participant with experience both as an independent consultant and as an expert for a major global organisation working on sanitation and hygiene and achieving SDG 6.2.

A key message from the workshop

How to leave no one behind was a key topic of discussion at the workshop, as was the concept of reaching the ‘last mile’. Discussions on the ‘last mile’ pushed the conversation into country contexts, noting what was lacking in government strategy and offering solutions.

Many participants acknowledged that, by default, many government sanitation programmes at country-level had a blanket approach and were not targeting the ‘last mile’ nor addressing equity and inclusion, particularly when compared to INGO programmes.

Jenny and fellow participants noted the potential of more tailored government approaches. Jenny suggested that the greater scale of government approaches mean there is a real opportunity to make significant strides towards reaching the ‘last mile’.

Taking the message forward

At our workshop, attendees were mainly from NGOs and agencies, like Jenny. But participants from our workshop then went on to attend sub-regional meetings with government officials present.

Objectives of the meetings were to monitor county-level progress towards meeting Ngor Declaration commitments on sanitation and hygiene.

This included identifying national planning priorities and country learning to be taken forward and discussed further at the AfricaSan 5 conference thematic sessions.

These meetings gave an opportunity our workshop participants an opportunity to shape the thinking of government officials ahead of the AfricaSan 5 conference.

Participants like Jenny took the clear message that had emerged from our workshop, that government programming wasn’t reaching the ‘last mile’, and pushed government officials to consider the practical steps needed to adapt their approach.

Jenny, attending a sub-regional meeting in Abidjan, observed that these discussions seemed to offer a light-bulb moment for government officials participating.

At the end of the meeting, when presenting strategies for the next three, six and twelve months, the plans of the government officials clearly reflected the need for more work on the ‘last mile’ and equity and inclusion.

From our workshop, to the sub-regional meetings, to AfricaSan 5

There was clear evidence that this message had got through in the final communique from the AfricaSan 5 conference itself, published in March 2019.

The communique stressed the need for the African Ministers’ Council on Water to improve its efforts towards reaching the last mile: “we need to be better at identifying and targeting the most vulnerable groups with strategies and interventions, including product and service innovations”.