I have been at work for two weeks now, and I have figured out what I am here to do. This is great news, as I was finding the job description too vague and broad for my liking. The job description is vague, because I am supporting a team, which is doing a lot!
Over the next four years the Live and Learn is implementing a “Sanitation Marketing” scheme in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Sanitation Marketing is an approach to aid which has been successful in Africa, but has not really been used in the Pacific before. It involves empowering the end user to want better sanitation facilities. And strengthens the enabling environment so that they can buy, build and maintain them when easily and cheaply when wanted!
In theory, this is achieved through a lot of community consultation, education around sanitation, and helping start a small business or cooperative. In year one, we are piloting this in two communities close to Port Vila. Then I realised this means if that is not enough, we are also doing this in two schools. The following three years of the program will see the methods we develop rolled out to a further.
Aid donors are are not building toilets for free anymore… there are many examples of mis-used toilets in the Pacific, we’ve seen one turned into a pig sty down the road, and heard rumours of one being converted to a principal’s office in Fiji, as it was the best building in the school! But the vast majority just get abandoned or too run down as soon as the donor leaves.
I am working with a local Live and Learn team in Vanuatu. We have Marie, our coordinator, and in charge of communities; David, in charge of schools; Willie, WASH education officer; Magali, capacity development officer; and me, the technology officer. Magali is leaving us, so I fear I will also be the capacity development officer.
In the past two weeks, we have had some amazing people from Live and Learn in Melbourne, International Water Centre, and International Women’s Development Agency to go through the donor proposal, and turn it into what we are going to do for the next year. They have also provided a lot of training and tools for us to work with communities, and schools. This has been an amazing time to start, as the training is intense, but our team now has a clear direction for the next four years.
In my breaks, I have been reading about different toilet and hand washing technologies, learning Bislama, finding somewhere to live, figuring out where the market is, and fighting a constant battle against the heat, the mosquitos, and an upset stomach. I have only been to the beach once. But I have seen some amazing sunsets, and I think the communities we are working in are receptive to our ideas, so I am happy.