research institute for compassionate economics

How to continue the pit emptying momentum

Written by Sangita Vyas on March 11th, 2017

I’m pasting below a list of practical action ideas that Robert Chambers has proposed after the pit emptying demonstration in Warangal. These are activities that governments and organizations can take up alike, to break down taboos around pit emptying related to caste and untouchability. These are some great ideas, and if they are actually taken up by the government and others, it could be a real turning point for the SBM.

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  • Spread pit-emptying, now that the example has been set. Approach and send out a short note in  many copies with photos to key influentials especially the following encouraging them to do likewise: spiritual leaders, political leaders, district collectors.
  • Encourage all to carry around and display the manure they have dug up, showing how it is odourless, dry, crumbly and non-polluting, passing it around in meetings – (we did this in Raipur with 30 SHG members who had no qualms) – the CEO, Nileshkumar Kshirsagar had dug some out the same morning.
  • Make it a status and prestige thing – have you dug out a pit? Haven’t you dug a pit out yet?  So that it becomes a social norm within Government, NGOs, journalists and so on, to do this and to have done it.
  • Invite the Prime Minister to take a lead and be ahead of the game both nationally and internationally.   Inform him, and show him the manure. He would have a huge impact and boost the SBMG, total usage,  sustainability and the long-term  legacy of the SBMG.
  • Review,  revise and test IEC materials for twin pits.  Take septic tanks on frontally comparing them in cost, sustainability, purity (with twin pits you never have to empty that nasty stuff etc ), turning a liability into an asset, an investment every time you go to the loo, it pays to do it in the toilet.
  • Collect videoed, written and other testimonies from early twin pit adopters who in every local dialect can express their satisfaction, and demonstrate the benefits they have gained from their twin pits – men, women, children, Natural Leaders…   If possible with estimates of the value of a full mature twin pit. Consider including anyone who regrets having replaced their twin pit with a septic tank (it may be very common we have found it in UP and Chhattisgarh. Get all this on TV, shown in schools,  in newspapers etc etc.  Include any schools and anganwadis that have twin pits.
  • Knowledge and monitoring of substructures.  Substructures hide a lot of irreversible bad practices. Once covered over and being used a pit does not invite inspection.  As part of every campaign have materials to enable sarpanches, nigrani samitis, and ordinary householders to know what should be done by a mason, and encouraging them to supervise and monitor construction closely. Include information and advice on how to resist masons who argue for septic tanks – they make more money.  Stress that superstructure is a matter for household discretion and choice, and they can construct for themselves if they wish.
  • Encourage and allow space for self-help and collective action and behaviour change. To the extent possible follow the examples from HP, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and several other States in which at scale communities have become ODF without payment of the incentive.  Do not undermine or slow these more durable collective solutions with compulsory introduction of Direct Beneficiary Transfer.
  • Slogans.  Encourage national and state-wide competitions for slogans.  We did one on the bus returning to Hyderabad, which Sujoy Mazumdar has collated. But these are our ideas.  What about local people’s? These should always fit local context, use local language.  Once chosen place them everywhere in every medium….
  • Stunting and MHM as triggers, potentially deep and lasting?  Add fitting research-based text about link with OD and lack of hygiene,  performance in school, lower earnings later for stunted children, damaged immune systems … Slogans again here   Who is stunting your child today?  Are your neighbours stunting you child today (too extreme?). Whose child are you or is your family stunting today?  ,,,etc.  Have posters in all villages….How do you do it with MHM and men?
  • Brainstorming.  Invite others to contribute ideas to an open-ended brainstorming session about how to generate sustainable behaviour change drawing on Val Curtis’ and others’ experience for practical actions that can be taken immediately .  Then hold a second meeting with people who can commit to getting on with actions.