Namibia, Outapi Town

The Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) of the Cuvelai-Etosha basin in Northern Namibia, is being supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research through the Institute of Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) that is based in Frankfurt in Germany.  A pilot project is being implemented that aims to introduce sustainable technologies that will alleviate the shortage of water and contribute to safe sanitation in an effort to contribute towards the MDGs and IWRM principles. The first planning phase was completed in 2009 with the close collaboration of key local stakeholders and with empirical studies being conducted in order to inform the design and implementation of the project which will run until 2013.


Innovative Water and Sanitation (WS) technologies are being piloted, but this requires the proper acceptance, ownership and usage of the new WS facilities by the user-community in order to ensure maximum benefit is gained in terms of improvement in standards of living and family health as well as the longer-term sustainability of the programme. With a strong appreciation of the importance of achieving a Demand Responsive Approach (DRA) and the need for user-group participation, the Community Health Club (CHC) methodology was identified by ISOE as being the preferred approach, particularly for the urban settlements in Outapi town where communal ablution blocks was to be constructed as well as in-house toilet connections using the vacuum sewer system that is particularly vulnerable to misuse.

  • Country: Namibia
  • Period: 2011
  • Donor: German Ministry of education and Research
  • Partner: Institute for Social-Ecological Research with Town Council
  • Province: 
  • District: 
  • Number of households: 455

ISOE is one of the leading non-university institutes for sustainability research. For 25 years the institute has been developing scientific bases for decision-making as well as future-orientated concepts for policy makers, civil society and economy on a regional, national, and international level.

  • Number of CHCs: 3
  • Number of CHC members: approx. 300
  • Number of beneficiaries: approx.  2,700

There were three CHCs started in the three Suburbs around Outapi Town.

  • Onhimbu, an informal settlement (600-100 persons)  since the 1980’s with a large number of transient traders from Angola. Here  an ablution block will be provided to accommodate 250 persons to be constructed in August 2012.
  • Tobias Hainyeko, an informal settlement since 2003, with 143 households, where 30 cluster units (each 3-5 households) will  share facilities.
  • Shack Dwellers, a formal settlement since 2004, where there are 62 constructed homes that will be given individual connections.

The training of CHC  facilitators was done and 3 CHCs were started in the three settlements. The six month training was completed by August 2012 in time for the completion of the ablution block. A  post intervention survey was conducted by CUVE Water Project and the results have been published by ISOE.

Participatory implementation of sanitation infrastructure in urban areas of north-central Namibia.

Jutta Deffner und Thomas Kluge (2013) in: WHOCC Newsletter, No. 21 July 2013, 1–6

Extract from the Article

However, the task of improving hygiene and sanitation also brings up an entirely different challenge: far more important than logistical and infrastructural support is taking into account the social-psychological patterns of behaviour. Given this background, Waterkeyn et al. (2009) argue that the success depends in principle on being able to mobilise and involve the communities and settlements affected. In their view, very few approaches in recent decades have managed to mobilise residents into changing their hygiene habits of their own accord. Instead, it is fair to say that top-down initiatives to introduce water and sanitation installations serve to divide community residents as they compete for limited financial resources.

“Health and hygiene promotion is therefore an ideal entry point with which to mobilise a village to not only to participate in this challenge, but to lead their own process of development and contribute through self-supply, particularly of safe sanitation, safe water and improve hygiene, food security as well as ultimately poverty reduction through income generating initiatives.” (Waterkeyn et al. 2010: 2)

From the beginning in 2008 the project Cuve Waters included the communities in all planning steps. Now special attention is paid to altering hygiene behaviour. To achieve this, a community-based approach is continued in the setting up of so called Community Health Clubs.

The main aims were: long lasting change of hygiene behaviour, esp. to reduce health risks establish a routine and demand of using toilets, showers and washing basins communicate benefits of sanitation facilities to embed them in everyday life communicate adequate use of new facilities.

This approach was developed in the early 2000s by an African NGO called Africa AHEAD and is based on scientific understanding of behavioural change and social learning. It aims to change norms and values in health and hygiene behaviour of member households. The residents need to be able to see, feel and understand the difference that improved sanitary conditions can make.

This calls for a fast  social and cultural learning process. By way of comparison: in Europe, the development from open urination and defecation to water closets and sewage systems took several hundred years as opposed to just a few years here.

The first step to this was a six-month community-based and discursive learning scheme in the Community Health Clubs to impart proper use in terms of knowledge and everyday practices. Starting with issues such as avoidable diseases, cooking, household and personal hygiene, it went on to teach the correct use and maintenance of the new sanitary installations and provide support for the transfer of ownership.

The facilitators of the Health Clubs were trained beforehand by Africa AHEAD and were recruited from the communities and a nearby vocational training centre with a class of community development. The element of the ‘health session’ included in the Community Health Club approach is ideal for introducing new topics to the inhabitants of the settlements in Outapi. For example, it was used to impart the use and care of the new sanitation infrastructure and washhouses, or the self-organisation strategies for the community.

The ‘homework’ element was suitable, especially for conveying proper use of the sanitation facilities installed for the households or to try out new practices in the household. Therefore the Community Health Clubs are a very important part of the implementation. Only both components can make the project successful: the software side (behaviour & use) and the hardware side (technology).  …. download full article above.