Using cluster approach to drive sustainable WASH improvement

Updated - Monday 22 January 2018

To achieve the project goal, different approaches have been implemented both in schools and the communities. HEWASA concludes that the Cluster System, which aims at strengthening the capacity and commitment of households within a small group of community members, is one of the most effective approaches. HEWASA has adapted this approach from EMESCO, another local NGO partner in the WASH & Learn! programme. Some progress and reflections have been shared with the support of HEWASA.

Main takeaways

  • Direct involvement of the community members is essential to ensure the sustainability of WASH promotion.
  • Clustering method fosters a better learning environment and helps improve the general health condition among community members.
  • Demand-driven changes are the keys to successful WASH improvements in the communities. Therefore the sensitization process is very important.

Establishing the clusters

Using the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach as the first step, community members were made aware of the negative effects caused by poor WASH practices, such as open defecation and improper use of latrines at homes. After the triggering exercises, sanitation committees, consisting of representatives elected by community members, were formed to oversee the progress of WASH activities in the communities.  

To evaluate the effectiveness of the cluster approach, households in Kajumiro A, Kakinga, and Kanyamukale villages were selected as pilot communities and clustered in groups of 25, with the help of three sanitation committees. Five clusters were formed based on the distance between houses. In each cluster, a household head was chosen to be the cluster head. The selection was made by cluster members based on exemplary leadership skills and the level of WASH practices in his or her home.

Strengthening direct involvement of community members

Cluster heads are responsible for monitoring the progress of improvement in WASH activities in their clusters as well as offering technical support and advice when needed. Cluster heads are told in advance that their roles are completely voluntary with no material reward and that the main goal is to improve the WASH condition in their communities. 

Cluster members are tasked to adopt the practices of households that are identified to be model homes, which must meet the requirements of owning a strong and clean latrine, a drying rack, shelters for animals, a rubbish pit, and a hand washing facility. In order to keep track of changes, HEWASA designed a follow-up form for cluster heads to use when conducting routine inspections in households.  

A HEWASA officer explaining to a cluster head about the Hygiene and Sanitation follow-up form

Fostering sustainable changes

Take Kayembe cluster as an example. All 25 households constructed latrines and installed washing stations near the latrines. In particular, two latrines were constructed with the help of cluster members for two households headed by a child and an elderly widow respectively.

“I am grateful for the support that the members of this community offered me by constructing a new latrine for me because I am old, weak and not able to construct one on my own,” said Kangangye, an elderly widow.

Kangangye using the tippy tap that was constructed in front of her new latrine

All cluster members showed great passion towards WASH interventions and met twice a month regularly to discuss the progress in their homes and how they might support those who were not able to make improvements.

In addition, two supporting groups have been formed by women who have received training on making Reusable Menstrual Pads and liquid soap in order to be able to sustain proper hygiene practices in the communities even after the project finishes.

Furthermore, by providing community members with training on business skills, such as marketing and financial management, HEWASA has fostered an entrepreneurial environment among the communities and enabled a group of locals to generate income by offering sanitation services, such as latrine building, pit digging, and pit emptying.

Finally, the cluster approach has enhanced men’s involvement in WASH improvement. It had always been a challenge to increase men’s commitment in changing behaviours in their homes. Now as household heads in the cluster, men are tasked to ensure that their homes are keeping with the standards.

“When my wife told me that our home had been included in Kayembe zone and she had been made the head, I had to work together with her to improve the hygiene in our home,” said Magezi.

Magezi standing in front of a tippy tap that he was taught to construct

About WASH and Learn!

The WASH and Learn! programme integrates community and school WASH projects in three adjacent countries in East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Together with six local NGO partners, Simavi implements this programme, focusing on water supply and sanitation and hygiene behaviour improvements.

Simavi continues to work with communities on creating a positive and enabling environment in which every stakeholder is active and to ensure that people are using the WASH services properly.

More information on the WASH and Learn! programme can be found here.



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Podcast: Involving local communities for sustainable WASH in Schools