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How Save the World with Sanitation

Those are the words of Rose George, the title of her inspiring and informative piece  http://bit.ly/3ibB2V in yesterday’s Huffington Post.   Reporting from Mozambique, George recounts the reactions of group of villagers at the moment they realize the consequences of toiletlessness.
Here’s what happens:  a delicious plate of meat and rice is placed in the middle of the circle of people sitting on the ground.  Not far away is placed a paper with feces gathered from the open field where villagers defecate.  Soon enough flies gather on the shit and then land on the food.
“Are those different flies?” Muianga [the facilitator] asked the crowd. “No,” said one man. “They are the same.” He looked appalled. This is known as the “triggering moment”… It is when villagers realize — but aren’t instructed — that if they defecate in the open, they must be eating their own and their neighbor’s shit, because it’s on their feet and hands; on the claws of their chickens and the paws of their dogs.
This controversial approach to awareness through disgust is called Community Led Total Sanitation.  http://www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/   In many ways, CTLS insults people and is manipulative.   But no other approach has brought sustainable change.   Participants can no longer face the possibility that they are ingesting the shit of their neighbors and set to work building latrines.  Social pressure works to clear the commons of human waste and villages vie for the coveted status of ODF, complete with an attractive signboard on the road to the village.  ODF means Open Defecation Free.
Hmmmm.  Downtown Portland is still not ODF.  And public urination clearly persists. Now that we’re finally making progress with the hardware of toilets, is there anything to be learned from these impoverished residents of a village in Mozambique?
Those are the words of Rose George, the title of her moving and informative piece in yesterday’s Huffington Post.   Reporting from Mozambique, George recounts the reactions of group of villagers at the moment they realize the consequences of toiletlessness. Here’s what happens:  a delicious plate of meat and rice is placed in the middle of the circle of people sitting on the ground.  Not far away is placed a paper with human feces gathered from the open field where villagers defecate.  Soon enough,flies gather on the shit and on the food. “Are those different flies?” Muianga [the facilitator] asked the crowd. “No,” said one man. “They are the same.” He looked appalled. This is known as the “triggering moment”… It is when villagers realize — but aren’t instructed — that if they defecate in the open, they must be eating their own and their neighbor’s shit, because it’s on their feet and hands; on the claws of their chickens and the paws of their dogs. This controversial approach to awareness through disgust is called Community Led Total Sanitation.    In many ways, CTLS insults people and is manipulative.   But no other approach has brought sustainable change.   Participants can no longer face the reality of what they are ingesting and set to work building latrines.  Social pressure works to clear the commons of human waste.  Eventually, villages vie for the coveted public status of ODF, complete with an attractive signboard on the road to the village.  ODF stands for Open Defecation Free. Downtown Portland is not ODF.  And public urination clearly persists. Now that we’re finally making progress with the hardware of toilets, can we learn anything about the software from these impoverished residents of a village in Mozambique?


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