Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities- Thank you!

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  • Petra
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Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

Will you join us and contribute your experience, knowledge and voice to evolve the sanitation sector's response to climate change?

The global sanitation sector has taken initial steps to incorporate responses to climate change into rural sanitation programming and services. However, much of the discussion has focused on technological improvements. Furthermore, the voices of vulnerable people, households, and communities who are at the forefront of experiencing climate change impacts on sanitation are largely absent in existing discussions. Whilst resilient technology is of course crucial, the human dimension of the challenge needs to receive equal attention. There is currently limited actionable guidance on how the rural sanitation and hygiene sector can respond to climate change through planning and implementing project delivery, enabling demand, changing behaviour, addressing social norms, monitoring and evaluation, and people-centred activities at the local level.

Following on from the publication of Frontiers 17: Rural Sanitation and Climate Change by the Sanitation Learning Hub at IDS, together with the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, and building on a webinar to present the publication's themes on  14th July at 9.30 am BST (you can still register to join here or access a recording later), the Sanitation Learning Hub, together with ISF and supported by SuSanA, is hosting an online moderated discussion between July and September here on the SuSanA forum.

The aims are to
  • co-evolve actionable ideas for the integration of climate thinking and learning into rural sanitation and hygiene programming at the household and community level.
  • stimulate discussion, knowledge and experience sharing on addressing climate impacts on rural sanitation and hygiene practices
  • increase momentum around programming on climate change in rural sanitation that places people, households and communities at the centre
The discussion will culminate in a longer online Sharing and Learning workshop in September 2021.
 
The discussion will take place in three phases
  • 19th-30th July
  • 9th-21st August
  • 30th August-11th September
with a different question or theme to invite your contributions. You will find them below this post from the 19th July onwards.

We hope you will share your experiences, challenges and needs toevolve the sector’s thinking on addressing climate risks for rural sanitation. Join the discussion below once the 1st question has been posted.

A few pointers:
Please
  • stick to the theme of each phase (unrelated posts will be removed by the moderators)
  • be concise,
  • share your own work,
  • be honest about what’s challenging or not working,
  • share your questions
You might also like to consult the SuSanA forum rules
 
Petra Bongartz
independent consultant
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  • ElaineMercer
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

If you missed the webinar on 14th July  watch it here (scroll to the bottom of the page) – the authors share learning on how to get started on integrating climate thinking into existing sanitation programmes.  Rural Sanitation and Climate Change: Putting Ideas into Practice - Sanitation Learning Hub
Elaine Mercer
Communications and Networking Officer
The Sanitation Learning Hub
The Institute of Development Studies
sanitationlearninghub.org/
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  • Petra
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1

Welcome to Phase 1 of the discussion on rural sanitation and climate change. Our question to guide our conversation is


What activities are you currently engaged in to address climate change impacts on rural sanitation? What is the biggest challenge you face in this work?
 
Please share your experiences in reply to this thread. We look forward to hearing from you.
Petra Bongartz
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  • JeremyK
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1

Hi Petra,

Thanks for starting this discussion. I'd like to share a new project that the University of Technology Sydney is doing with SNV Laos. Our project is titled "Inspiring local government heroes of climate action for inclusive WASH". It's a new project we are just starting through the Water for Women Fund supported by DFAT.

The primary objective of the work is to inspire local governments in Lao PDR to overcome barriers to addressing climate change impacts within their jobs to champion climate action for inclusive rural sanitation. The thinking behind the project is that we need to stimulate some intrinsic motivation in local governments that they can and should do something about climate change if we expect climate resilient sanitation service delivery to be sustainable. The project will have 4 phases:
  1. Qualitative data collection to learn about local government officials' perceptions of climate change and it's relevance for their sanitation work, and barriers and enablers for taking climate action;
  2. Based on the data, development of "personas" - empathetic characterizations of local government officials that represent their needs, concerns, behaviours, and beliefs surrounding climate action
  3. Development of interventions that will provide targeted local government officials (our would-be heroes) with the resources they need to advocate for and champion climate action in rural sanitation in their departments;
  4. Documentation of case studies and a replicable process that can be used in other countries
Some challenges we are anticipating include low levels of awareness about climate change, a tendency for people to see climate action as the responsibility of some other ministry (e.g. ministry of environment), and perhaps a feeling that local government is already under-resourced in supporting rural sanitation as is. But these are the types of barriers that we aiming to overcome in phase 3 of the project.

The project just started this month and will run until September 2022, so we are looking forward to sharing outputs next year. We are also doing a similar process with local government in Nepal on rural water and climate change.
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  • Petra
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1

Thanks Jeremy. That is really interesting. Looking forward to hearing about the findings.
What strikes me as so important about what you describe here is that people are at the heart of what you are looking at - what are their needs, interests, beliefs, concerns etc? How can we support those who are in positions where decisions get made. Rather than blaming officials for not doing more, it feels constructive to investigate what they might need to be able to act. I'd love to hear from the Water for Women partners in Laos about their experience as they move through the different phases of the project.
Petra Bongartz
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1 (19th-30th July)

Dear Petra,
Thanks for starting this interesting discussion and providing background reading. You asked "What activities are you currently engaged in to address climate change impacts on rural sanitation? What is the biggest challenge you face in this work?" Presumably you would like to hear from practitioners, not from people like me who are into knowledge management and dissemination. 

To make it easier for practitioners to respond, perhaps we should list again what we mean by climate change impacts. I had a quick look at your publication ( sanitationlearninghub.org/resource/rural...ideas-into-practice/ ) but didn't find immediately what I was looking for. A simple list of impacts that are relevant for the WASH sector. Furthermore, I think it can be difficult to delineate the "normal" things from the "abnormal/climate change induced" things. For example, we know that hurricanes have always been around. But now they are perhaps getting more frequent or more violent. Hence, the adaptation methods are essentially the same as before but are now more urgent, right?

Climate change impacts that are relevant for the WASH sector could be:
  • Flooding (increase in frequency, duration and extent)
  • Droughts (increase in frequency and duration)
  • Tropical cyclones (increase in frequency and strength)
  • Wildfires
  • Sea level rise
  • Changes in temperatures and seasons (more important for agriculture maybe)
  • Migration, conflict
There is a good Wikipedia article on this topic (not specific to WASH sector) called "Effects of climate change":  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_climate_change
It has sub-articles on regional effects, effects on humans, effects on human health, physical impacts of climate change, ....
There is also a Wikipedia article on climate change adaptation:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_adaptation

So if anyone wants to brush up on the basics of how climate change will affect us, please read there (and if you see gaps or errors please help to improve on that!). 

And then back to the question at hand: "What activities are you currently engaged in to address climate change impacts on rural sanitation? What is the biggest challenge you face in this work?"

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(with financial support by GIZ from July to October 2021)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
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  • JeremyK
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1 (19th-30th July)

Hi Elisabeth,

Thanks for raising thoughts on what are climate impacts exactly.

The IPCC defines impacts as effects of extreme weather, climate events and climate change on natural and human systems. They also view consequences and outcomes as synonymous with impacts.

So, I would call the changes in hazards that you described (increases in floods, droughts, etc.) as climate change effects. The impacts are the outcomes or consequences of these effects for rural sanitation.

In the Frontiers publication, we describe climate hazards in four ways:

Shocks: Events that occur acutely within a short timeframe such as cyclones, flash floods, and wildfires. Climate change my increase the frequency, duration, intensity, and geographic extent of these. It may also make them appear where they never appeared before.
Slow onset: Events that gradually emerge over extended periods of time such as droughts, sea-level rise, and salinisation. Climate change may measurably increase their magnitude, but they come about slowly so people often don't notice them until it's too late.
Trends: Long-term changes in climate variables such average temperature or average rainfall. I agree with Elisabeth that these create less direct impacts for rural sanitation, but can harm livelihoods that in turn affect rural sanitation (more on this below).
Variability and unpredictability: In many regions of the world, climate change is increasing the contrast between seasons (such as increasing contrast in rainfall patterns between wet and dry seasons) and increasing unpredictability of climate and weather. 

Climate change is worsening these hazards, or making them an issue where they were never an issue before, in many regions of the world. What impacts for rural sanitation does this create? We've proposed a few categories of impacts in the Frontiers publication:

Impacts on physical access to sanitation: Shocks in particular can damage/destroy latrine facilities, cause them to become non-operational, or make it difficult to physically reach them. Slow onset hazards can do this as well (albeit more slowly over a longer period of time).
Impacts on access to resources and markets: Shocks and slow onset hazards can cut off access to markets for sanitation products and services, or make resources (water, sand, gravel) temporarily unavailable for constructing, operating and maintaining sanitation. Variability and unpredictability makes it more difficult for emptiers to schedule their services (where this is available) and for NGOs and government to schedule community engagement programs.
Impact on livelihoods: All of the hazards can affect people's ability to make a living. Indirectly this affects sanitation because people will struggle to meet their sanitation needs if their income source is affected (e.g. changes in temperature killing cash crops) and if they have many competing priorities.
Impacts on behaviours: It's difficult to predict how climate hazards affect sanitation and hygiene behaviours (and I'm not aware of any research on this!), but it stands to reason that people may change these behaviours when confronted with extreme weather.

Some documented evidence of these impacts are available in case studies that UTS produced with Plan International in Indonesia and with WaterAid in Timor-Leste .

I think many rural sanitation experts have already encountered most of these impacts in their past work. Climate change will increasingly make these barriers to sustainable sanitation. Perhaps more worryingly, future climate change could cause widespread ecosystem collapse and economic devastation that would overwhelm just about all aspects of rural life - this is an impact on a grander scale that requires responses beyond the rural sanitation sector (ideally avoiding that impact entirely by cutting down GHG emissions!)
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  • Petra
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities: Discussion Phase 1 (19th-30th July)

Thank you Jeremy for your detailed reply to Elisabeth's questions.

As Elisabeth asked to detail impacts of climate change on sanitation, I wondered if by now this is not something we can expect sanitation practitioners to know. As Jeremy says, most practitioners will have encountered these impacts, even if they may not have thought of their work as addressing climate change impacts. In the past, we may have talked about emergency  contexts and post-emergency settings as we did in this Frontiers  Whilst not all emergencies are climate-related, I would suggest that many of the ones we are encountering now, are. Maybe it's time to therefore reframe how we think, talk and approach them.

I am curious to hear from sanitation practitioners in different countries and regions whether they feel we need to talk more about impacts of climate change on rural sanitation or whether this is something most are now familiar with and that we should therefore move on to talking about timely, relevant, practical ways that we can address these in programming? What information is most needed?
Petra Bongartz
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

And following on from Elisabeth's post where she says

"Furthermore, I think it can be difficult to delineate the "normal" things from the "abnormal/climate change induced" things."

Is this a helpful distinction? In my mind, there are two ways of looking at this:

1) We need to get used to the fact that climate change is the new normal (and actually has been for many communities in many places for a long time- we just didn't make it explicit).

2) What is 'normal'? I think we can probably agree that many of the problems we are facing, whether we call them climate related or not, are human-made ie are the results of human activities that have altered the environment in ways that have short term and longer term consequences. For example deforestation, a particular way of farming, water use etc.  Looking at it this way, it is clear that we also need to look beyond the sanitation sector and link up with other areas of knowledge and work if we want to address these issues. A more comprehensive collaborative approach is needed. We discuss this in the Frontiers both as one of the issues stopping us from acting (Section 2) and as one of the suggested approaches in secton 6 (Establishing collaboration and learning to mainstream climate change into sanitation) where we suggest a consortium approach as one way to tackle the complexity of impacts at local level. There was a lot of interest in trialling consortium approaches at the webinar on the 14th.

I wonder whether anyone would like to share their thoughts and questions around what kind of collaborations and cross-sectoral ways of working may be possible where they are.
Petra Bongartz
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  • RuhilI
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Re: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

Hi Petra, 

I agree with both your points and just to add -

While climate hazards are definitely the new norm, our research and conversations have also identified that a lot of what practitioners are currently doing like - advocating for regular operation and maintenance of latrines and present ways of addressing gender and social inclusion issues within sanitation are already very good practice to draw on and continue to practice. Practitioners regularly also encounter the idea of 'risk' and 'vulnerability' in their existing programming - so these ideas are not new thinking about climate change within sanitation doesn't need to start from scratch. We already have a wealth of good practice to build on from within our existing work in the sector, and like you and Jeremy have indicated, extend this to collaborating with others to address the complexity of impacts. 

I think may be in terms of what information is most needed, many practitioners we interviewed expressed the need for there to be more evidence connecting these links between climate hazards and sanitation - both in terms of the experiences of people within villages and also how programming is being impacted at the community level. For instance, what is the impact on behavior change programming with storms repeatedly damaging latrines? What evidence exists of programs modifying current ways of engagement, what interventions have been successful, unsuccessful and why within contexts experiencing frequent climate disruptions? 

Would be great to hear any experiences that people may have to share around these, and also what others think might be important information we need. 
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Re: DISCUSSION PHASE 2: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

Hello everyone, kicking off Phase 2 of our online discussion with a new question and looking forward to your views and opinions:

When it comes to climate change and rural sanitation,...

How do we best address climate change impacts in our programmes: by strengthening existing approaches or through radically new ways of working?

In other words, do we need to do the same things that we have always done in rural sanitation, just better, or  is something entirely different needed to respond to climate change impacts on rural sanitation?
Petra Bongartz
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  • ElaineMercer
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Re: DISCUSSION PHASE 2: Building WASH resilience to climate change in rural communities

Hi Petra and all,

I just wanted to take this opportunity to promote the forthcoming Sanitation Learning Hub webinar/side-session related to this discussion:

Building climate resilience towards sanitation and hygiene


Thursday 19th August: 13.00 – 12.30 UK time 


This session (part of 31st SuSanA Meeting ) will present a framework to understand how climate impacts affect rural sanitation and hygiene practices. It will explore the direct and  indirect impacts of climate hazards and the various factors that govern people’s responses. The social context (norms and psychological factors) and local activities shape how these hazards impact physical access to sanitation infrastructure, access to local resources and markets, and livelihoods needed to support safe sanitation.

Register for meeting

Objectives:
  • Present a framework to understand the impact of climate hazards on sanitation access and behaviour based on gender, age, location and more.
  • Present case studies to unpack rural sanitation prioritisation during and after disasters
  • Discuss ways to build community resilience to climate shocks and stresses.
Presenters:
  • Dr Jeremy Kohlitz and Ruhil Iyer. Climate change and rural sanitation: how do we start?
  • Prof. Deepthi Wickramsinghe. Is emergency sanitation management gender sensitive?
  • Dr. Devanmini Halwathura. Droughts and doubts: Has sanitation gained enough attention in drought situations?
  • Dr. Indrajith Pal. Water related disasters and sanitation management
The session will be 90 minutes in total – this will include 25 minutes of breakout discussions where all participants can share their thoughts,
experiences, learning and questions on the issue. For any queries, please email us at slh@ids.ac.uk.

Many thanks
Elaine
Elaine Mercer
Communications and Networking Officer
The Sanitation Learning Hub
The Institute of Development Studies
sanitationlearninghub.org/
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