Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) for O&M and behavior change coaching? Who has examples?


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  • cprottas
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Re: Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) for O&M and behavior change coaching

Thanks Elisabeth.

The Water Trust is a small INGO with just myself (ED) in the US and a team of 30 in Uganda, where we currently implement our programming in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts. Below I have outlined the steps in our village program. We have actually begun calling the groups "Self-Help Groups" in our context, rather than VSLAs, to reflect the social mission of the groups.

Your question on what we have learned of other NGOs implementing the approach is an interesting one. I know that WeConsult in Uganda has piloted the approach with charity:water support around the same time as we did. I also know anecdotally of some local NGOs that integrate water point financial management with existing savings groups, and likewise some people refer to groups being utilized in one project or another in the past. I am not aware of an organization that has integrated the formation of savings groups as a part of its regular program model for rural communities (aside from us), however, I am sure that they exist.

To your questions on hygiene and sanitation promotion: Our staff promote the construction of missing key facilities (latrine, tippy tap, dish rack, kitchen, refuse pit, etc.) and their use. Below you can see the activities that support these objectives. The group meetings provide an excellent platform (high community attendance, regular weekly meeting times) for this purpose. In our initial pilot we did not see significant usage of loans for sanitation purchases. However, we were pretty weak on the 'sanitation marketing' this past year and we think this may change with a stronger sanitation marketing component this year.

The village program was designed to disrupt current behaviours, build durable, enabling institutions, and encourage and reinforce new habits. As outlined below, the formation of an SHG follows only after several triggering activities that increase community interest in collective action to address shared WASH challenges.

Disrupt current behaviours:

• Facilitate participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments to help communities map out economic and health risks and develop action plans to problems such as open defecation.
• Facilitate community-led total sanitation activities to trigger disgust for open defecation and commitment to improved sanitation practices.
• Repair water point and train community members to build household WASH infrastructure.

Build durable, enabling institutions:

• Form SHGs with constitutions that include standards and commitments for water point maintenance.
• Form and train water and sanitation committees to promote WASH.
• Facilitate linkages between SHGs, local leaders, and local government staff.

Encourage and reinforce new habits:

• Perform regular coaching visits of the group and natural leaders.
• Create radio advertisements and provide posters to reinforce hygiene and sanitation messages and communicate aspirational identity related to hygiene.
• Train local artisans to build WASH products and facilitate linkages with SHGs.

The results have been pretty exciting. The amount spent on water point maintenance or kept in a reserve fund increased from $2 to $164 in a one-year period, significantly more than our other pilots that did not use an SHG. Likewise, there were similarly significant improvements in hygiene and sanitation behaviors, as well as reported diarrhea in children under 5. We just wrote up our results for WEDC and hopefully it will be published this spring/summer. We will also be releasing a two-pager on this program as well as our school program (focused on handwashing behavior change and school operations management) in the near future.

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) for O&M and behavior change coaching

Dear Chris,

Have you in the meantime found other organizations who are using Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) for water points?

I noticed you mentioned hygiene promotion. Is that mainly handwashing and how are loans used for that purpose?
Are you also doing work on toilets?

Please do tell us a bit more about the background to your question and who you work with etc. Is The Water Trust a local NGO or an international one?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
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  • cprottas
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Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) for O&M and behavior change coaching

I am not entirely clear which category this belongs in, but I am curious which organizations have established VSLAs in rural communities with the mandate to manage maintenance funds for water points. Further, which organizations have used these group meetings as platforms for behavior change messaging.

At The Water Trust we piloted this approach in rural communities in Western Uganda last year after struggling, like so many others, with water point sustainability and hygiene promotion. The pilots have enjoyed significant success (time will tell of course!) However, we know we aren't the only organization to have tried this approach, and we would like to pull in lessons learned from our peers, as well as connect with fellow practitioners.

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