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How WOBA has contributed to taking Cambodia up the sanitation ladder

Story of Mr Sim Bory, Vice-Chief of Office, Rural Economic Development Department, Cambodia

Starting as an officer of the Prey Veng Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) in 1994, Mr Sin Bory has had extensive working experience in rural development sector. In 2013, EMW Cambodia started its water and sanitation programs (Community Hygiene Output-Based Aid 1 and 2 – CHOBA) in cooperation with the provincial government of Prey Veng, including Prey Veng PDRD. The successful implementation of the CHOBA1 and CHOBA2 has significantly broadened Mr. Sin Bory’s professional knowledge and experience in rural water and sanitation (WASH), thereby promoting him as the local coordinator of the subsequent Women-Led Output-Based Aid (WOBA) program.

In the past, poor households in Prey Veng were not aware of the benefits of having hygienic toilets and hygienic practices due to limited access to information and resources. Open defecation and the lack of handwashing devices was prevalent among the most disadvantaged communities. The situation has significantly changed since the introduction of the WOBA program and its technical and financial support extended to local communities in 2018. Authorities at the grassroot levels including village leaders, commune councils, Commune Councils for Women and Children (CCWCs) have become more aware of the situation and actively involved in improving local sanitation and hygiene. Funding has been allocated to support the poor and poor plus GESI households, enabling them to install hygienic latrines and adopt hygienic practices. Most female villagers and commune leaders have become focal persons for WOBA, promoting the rollout of the program activities in the most difficult areas of the province. As the program coordinator, Mr Sim Bory has mobilized and facilitated the establishment of WASH teams at the district and commune levels. As a result, 13 communes in the district of Kampong Trabek, Prey Veng province, have reached Open Defecation Free status. Poor and poor plus GESI households have now had access to water and sanitation services and been encouraged to maintain hygienic practices like washing hands with soap, using safely managed water and keeping their house clean.

With his practical experience working in the rural areas, Mr Sim Bory has been actively promoting the project rollout among the rural communities with a strong focus on the target groups of ID poor 1 and 2, ID poor 1 and 2 plus GESI and other vulnerable households. The Identification of Poor Households (ID Poor) process was launched in Cambodia in 2007. ID poor groups are separated into two categories based on their poverty levels: very poor households (ID poor 1) and poor households (ID poor 2). Working with ID poor groups is WOBA Cambodia’s first step towards the GESI efforts and objectives.

According to Mr Sim Bory, the achievement made in Kampong Trabek district is an excellent example of concerted efforts and collaboration among stakeholders to make the change happen. As the primary policy makers and practitioners at the sub-national level, Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) and District Office of Rural Development (DORD) have facilitated the establishment of WASH teams and working groups at provincial, district and commune levels (PWGs, DWGs, CWGs) with a clear agenda for increasing WASH coverage in rural areas. Village leaders, the elderly, religion leaders (monks) and private sector have been mobilized to advocate the working agenda, thereby considerably contributing to the realization of WASH objectives among the target groups.

There is a number of factors contributing to the improvement in Prey Veng province’s WASH coverage. Beginning at the grassroot levels, WASH-related information and knowledge has been widely disseminated to the hard-to-reach communities through village meetings and household visits. This has considerably changed local communities’ awareness of the importance and benefits of using hygienic latrines, drinking safe water and adopting hygienic practices like handwashing with soap and keeping their living environment clean. It is important to underline the project subsidies and the commune councils’ active engagement without which these activities would not have taken place. The commune councils have allocated funding as their counterpart contribution to WOBA program to support poor and poor plus GESI households in installing hygienic latrines and other hygiene facilities. These target beneficiaries also benefit from contributions of the philanthropists, pagodas and charity organizations. The combined support of various stakeholders and partners has led to the transformation in the province’s overall WASH picture.

As indicated in the project documents, the WOBA program aims to increase access to equitable WASH services, particularly among marginalised community members. Therefore, the eradication of open defecation in 13 communes in Prey Veng province is an especially significant indicator of the program success to date. The ODF status means poor and vulnerable households have had access to hygienic latrines and begun to adopt hygienic practices like handwashing with soap, using safe drinking water and keeping their house and surrounding environment clean.

The most concrete evidence of change Mr Sim Bory has collected is the stories of beneficiaries from various project locations. Ms Choeuk Oeu’s is one of them. Ms Choeuk Oeu is the head of an ID Poor 2 household with 5 family members. She lives in Samrong village, Chrey commune, Kampong Trabek district, Prey Veng province. Before WOBA, her family did not have access to a hygienic latrine. They either had to defecate in open space or use their neighbours’ or relatives’ toilets. With the support of WOBA, Ms Choeuk Oeu was able to put up a pour flush latrine with an offset pit at the cost of US$62.5. After the latrine verification, her family received a rebate of US$18, $13 of which was the EMW subsidy and $5 from the commune council. While the project and commune’s financial support only covered a relatively modest proportion of the overall construction cost, it played an important role in prompting Ms Choeuk Oeu’s family toilet uptake. Thanks to the mobilization effort of Mr Sim Bory and the project officers, Ms Choeuk Oeu’s family has now had easy access to a hygienic latrine. Her family is only one of hundreds of households in 13 communes of Prey Veng district that have benefited from the joint efforts of WOBA and stakeholders in increasing WASH coverage in rural Cambodia.

As indicated by Mr Sim Bory, a meaningful learning that came about from this process is the concerted collaboration between all actors involved, including beneficiaries themselves, policy makers and WASH practitioners. The change is a two-way process, beginning from the target beneficiaries’s increased awareness of the significance of WASH access and hygienic practices. The active engagement of local authorities and WASH practitioners has accelerated this change process. This has led to the ODF communities, gradually taking rural Cambodia up the sanitation ladder.

 

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