Nigerian Delegation Visits India on Study Mission to Gain Insights from Swachh Bharat Mission
By Swathi Manchikanti
NEW DELHI, India 3 February 2019 - The Government of India (GoI) and the Government of Nigeria coordinated a study mission, with the support of UNICEF and other development partners. The mission was organised with an aim to facilitate south-south cooperation between the two countries which provided an opportunity for the visiting delegation to witness the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and gain insights on how its application can help achieve similar sanitation targets in the Nigerian context.
In October 2018, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) hosted the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention (MGISC), a four-day event held in Delhi and Gujarat with representation from over 70 countries, including 55 ministers. The Convention had presented a platform on which the 200-plus representatives could learn from each other’s sanitation programmes and their unique successes and challenges.
Suleiman H. Adamu, Minister of Water Resources, and Mr Emmanuel Awe, Director of Water Quality Control and Sanitation attended on behalf of the Government of Nigeria. They saw that India’s Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on 2 October 2014 with the target of achieving an open defecation free (ODF) India within five years, possessed learning opportunities that could be potentially fruitful to Nigeria’s national roadmap for achieving an ODF country by 2025.
Nigeria, while having made considerable progress in improving national access to improved water sources by 2015, continues to grapple with low access to basic sanitation, which stands at 33 per cent, with an estimated 46.5 million people risking the practice of open defecation this placed Nigeria second in the world, only behind India, in terms of individuals without access to toilets.
To help shape the Nigerian response, a study mission to India was arranged between the Government of Nigeria and the Government of India, with support from UNICEF, World Bank, and WaterAid offices in both countries. The mission served the dual purpose of both exploring the elements that led to the success of SBM and learning from the Nigerian experience in WASH as well as their feedback on the SBM while also establishing itself as a successful model for South-South collaboration with high potential for knowledge exchange.
The study mission took place from 3 – 12 February 2019, and the Nigerian delegation was composed of twenty-four government delegates, including representatives from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR), Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Federal Ministry of Finance, and state ministries and agencies covering health, sanitation, and water supply issues.
The delegation was headed by Mr. Benson Ajisegiri, Director of Water Supply at FMWR, who provided an overview of the situation in Nigeria, and said, “We are here to learn from India and how India has responded to the WASH crisis…we are here to learn how to involve non-state actors contributing to the effort of Swachh Bharat Mission, and how to build their capacity”.
On the first day, delegates were received by Mr. Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary of MDWS, who provided an overview of SBM’s rural and largest component and reflected on the vital role that Swacchagrahis (or community motivators) played in the success of the Mission.
The meeting at MDWS was followed by discussions with representatives of development partners in India, who underlined the scope and reach of support provided to SBM’s rural programming, from policy guidance and capacity development to implementing behaviour change campaigns and facilitating partnering with public and private stakeholders.
The delegation then visited Jharkhand, a state in eastern India, to get a closer view of on-ground activities and meet the people galvanising the movement at the grassroots. In Ranchi, the capital, they had the opportunity to interact with and learn from the state’s Secretary of Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, SBM Mission Director, and representatives from other departments such as Panchayati Raj.
The Secretary, Ms Aradhana Patnaik highlighted the role of Rani Mistris (women masons) in driving forward sanitation coverage, stating, “Our sanitation efforts have focused on quality, equity and social inclusion… the investment in rani mistris is an economic spin-off.” The meeting was followed by a visit to villages in Hazaribag district, where communities showcased their sanitation programmes at home, in anganwadis (pre-school centres) and schools, and Swachhagrahis demonstrated triggering activities. The delegation was able to witness the influence of SBM’s messaging in households and institutions, as well as appreciate how favorable social structures could be leveraged to promote healthy practices.
Ms Chizoma N. Opara, the ODF Unit Coordinator at FMWR, expressed her support for gender-inclusion within the programming and in the government’s leadership body. She stated, “Kudos to the women running the show! It’s amazing to see how they are consistently advocating for a [sic] positive behaviour change”. The FMWR’s Chief Scientific Officer, Ms Oluyemisi Apka, also applauded the role of women and shared her admiration for the rani mistris, of whom the Government of Jharkhand had trained over 55,000 as part of a livelihood generating effort and to meet the growing demand for toilets.
Delegates finally returned to Delhi and then attended the Government of India’s Swachh Shakti 2019 programme in Haryana on 12 February. The event served to recognise and celebrate the determination, efforts, and skills that women across India brought to the SBM Mission and was attended by 15,000 women associated with the Mission.
During his speech, Prime Minister Modi congratulated the Nigerian delegation for participating and reinforcing the importance of sanitation through their visit and wished them the best in implementing the key learnings in Nigeria.
Adamu lauded the SBM once more at the close of the mission, stating in a newspaper publication that SBM “stands to inspire other countries, as it has done mine, and is a testimony to the global community that the SDG targets are achievable provided there is strong political resolve, the strategy is appropriate, resources are adequately deployed, and the population is sufficiently mobilised.”
For more information on the visit and UNICEF’s WASH programme, please contact Nicolas Osbert, WASH Chief, UNICEF India (email@example.com) and Sujoy Mojumdar, WASH Specialist, UNICEF India (firstname.lastname@example.org)