In a community meeting in Gbeka, Mamaie Lansana shared a story about the source of motivation in building her own latrine. Prior to OVP intervention in her community, there was not a strong culture of building latrines, primarily due to the donor dependency that was cultivated during post-war reconstruction. In 2001, a latrine project was implemented by an NGO.
There was little community involvement throughout the process, and by early 2014 all of the latrines had collapsed or were otherwise inoperative. The prevailing sentiment was that an NGO would enter the community and fix or re-build the latrines, so there was little assumed responsibility or initiative on behalf of the community members to do so. Community members, including Mamie herself, also believed the cost of building a simple, hygienic latrine was too expensive.
OVP began working in Gbeka in earnest in 2015, after the Community Action Program had been temporarily suspended with the onset of Ebola. The inclusive and community-led approach of OVP encouraged all community members to participate in Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), a set of activities designed to ascertain community-identified needs, assets/resources, and local solutions. From the start, Mamaie participated in PRA, and she began to recognize her community’s—and her own—resources and capacity necessary to self-direct the development of Gbeka.
The community selected a latrine project to be carried out in partnership with OVP, and it was determined that 24 out of 27 latrines could be constructed with the available budget. The community rallied to collect 2000 Leones (about USD$0.25) from every household in order to build the additional latrines and ensure that all members would have access.
Mamaie was partnered with another household to use to a latrine. However, she deemed the latrine too great a distance away from her home, and she worried her children would not go the distance to defecate in a sanitary environment. As the community gathered the resources for the additional latrines, Mamaie realized that with her little savings and the locally-available materials necessary (sand, stones, mud, and wooden poles), she too could build her own latrine closer to her home.
Mamaie spent two months gathering materials from her fields and constructing her latrine. She used the same model that was presented by OVP and the Community Action Group (CAG) volunteers. She took pride in her progress and her success, which compelled her to publicly share her story in a well-attended community meeting. She went on to encourage others to do the same—use newfound attitudes and skills to take initiative and create sustainable growth and development in their community.
Mamaie is what we call a ‘positive deviant’, someone who independently acts to implement solutions to problems and encourages others to follow suit. It is an aim of the Community Action Program to see people taking attitudes and skills from others and seizing their capacity to continue to solve identified challenges.
OVP assumes that when a village expands in years to come, the culture of building latrines (and community-led development as a whole) will endure, thanks to positive deviants like Mamaie illustrating that it is not only possible, but encouraged, to take initiative to create their own sustainable community development solutions.
Mamaie’s story of motivation and initiative demonstrates the strength of individuals and communities to address prioritized needs when motivation is cultivated, be it through new knowledge, a sense of inclusion or responsibility, or another avenue. OVP contributed to Mamaie’s success by working with the CAG in designing their latrine project and by creating participatory forums for discussion from the start to the finish of the project cycle. However, it is Mamaie’s own initiative and pride in ownership that makes community development sustainable long after OVP leaves.
Introducing OVP’s Community Action Coordinator: Brima Lansana
From: Bo, Southern Sierra Leone, the country’s second largest city and educational hub.
Brima shares, “I love working with people in the community, because I know that if you work with them you benefit many for years to come. I love guiding community members in doing their own work for what they want in their community, and this will be generation-to-generation community-led development to transform the culture of development in Sierra Leone.”
Something you might not know about Sierra Leone?
Brima simply states,“In Sierra Leone, if someone tells you that you are ‘just too fat’, it makes you feel relieved, like you have good health. It is not meant to be vicious. Our staple food in Sierra Leone is rice, but especially in the South we can eat cassava for days on end. We like carbohydrates to make the stomach big.”