Agidi Community, Nigeria - Happy and Upbeat
A community rolls out the dancing drums, along with steaming food and fizzy drinks when it has something to celebrate. The drums sound louder and the dancing more spirited when there is the added pride and joy among the community members, of having collectively achieved a difficult task. For Agidi community in Konshisha Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State, it was the celebration of the attainment of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status in their community.
On the day of the event it was dancing, singing and community voices proclaiming the new lease of life in the community, as they proudly accepted an ODF certificate from the Vice Chairman of Konshisha LGA Honorable Orhungul. Clutching the ODF certificate with pride, amidst shouts of joy by the gathered community members, the traditional ruler of Agidi Community, Chief Unaha Koko, declared his feelings about the occasion:
“For me, today is indeed a very happy day. I am proud that my community is the first in this Council Ward to celebrate the status of being clean. We have become the envy of other people. We are grateful to UNICEF, UK Aid and the State government for helping us come this far”.
The journey started in January 2011 when a team of facilitators from the Konshisha LGA WASH department visited the community to commence the implementation of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. Agidi was one of the first communities to benefit from the UK Aid supported ‘Sanitation, Hygiene and Water in Nigeria’ (SHAWN) project that aims to serve nearly three million people in four states with sustainable access to sanitation, water and hygiene by 2015.
During the first visit, it was noted that the sanitary conditions in the community were deplorable. No household had a latrine. Numerous open defecation sites abounded with fresh excreta littered around. There were initial apprehensions that the CLTS approach may not work in the community.
However, the strength and unity of purpose that abounded in the community under its leader, Chief Koko was a revelation. Three months later, in April 2011 they called to inform the LGA that they were ODF. Today, if you go around the community you will observe how clean the community has become. All those open defecation sites are gone. The community is transformed….
“Our people are the main beneficiaries of the clean environment we now enjoy. You can see, our community smells good and the compounds are neat. The neighboring communities are already envying us. We are grateful to you people for opening our eyes”, Mr. Edwin Hemen, Chairman, Agidi Community Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee, WASHCom.
Reports from the LGAs indicate that the ripple effects of the ODF celebrations are already gingering neighboring communities as they too are re-doubling their efforts towards attaining open defecation free environments.
“Yes we are actually seeing results at the community level. As we speak there are more than 200 communities already claiming to be ODF under the SHAWN Project in Benue State”, said Dr. James Aper, General Manager, Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency.