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Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation for Lake Victoria: A question of prioritisation.

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Achieving a vision first requires buy-in from multiple stakeholders. The vision of Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation for Lake Victoria therefore requires enormous levels of regional collaboration and coordination, but what happens next? With such a great list of challenges and needs relating to Lake Victoria's poor water quality, smart prioritisation of activities and investments is required.

Prioritisation amongst a multitude of stakeholders, across a region as diverse and complex as Lake Victoria's basin, does not occur overnight. It requires debate, argument, disagreement, and empathy. Perhaps most importance of all, prioritisation requires compromise.


The three Pooptank innovators have been discussing prioritisation using the medium of a rolling debate, on our shared Whatsapp group. This blog is the fruit of that debate: the opinions of the innovators as they consider the deep, complex, and sometimes provocative subjects which will need addressing in order to move ahead, faster and more efficiently, with the mission of Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation for Lake Victoria.


We hope you may reflect upon these opinions, and we welcome your engagement should you wish to leave a comment.


DISCUSSION #2:

All evidence suggests that Lake Victoria's major pollution centres are Kampala, Kisumu, and Mwanza, in that order. These are the Lake's 3 big urban centres, and the Lake's "sanitation hotspots". However, there are other secondary cities, as well as towns, which are also urbanising rapidly without safe sanitation systems. When we talk about Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation, we mean safe sanitation for all people, all throughout the Lake's basin. But we have limited resources and we need to prioritise our activities, so logically, we should start with the 3 sanitation hotspots.

As sanitation professionals from Lake Victoria, how do you think we should prioritise our activities, whilst at the same time 'leave no-one behind'?


Carolyne Odero of Kenya:

"Access to sanitation is a human right. It is fundamental to our health, our dignity and our prosperity; no-one should be left behind. However, at the current rate, 2.8 billion people will still be without safely managed sanitation in 2030. Most of these people come from marginalized groups who are often overlooked and discriminated against with regards to basic services. In the Nyalenda slum (Kenya’s second largest informal settlement after Kibera) in Kisumu, the high water table means that improper sanitation facilities allow human excrement to flow into Lake Victoria after each rainfall event. ‘Leaving non-one behind’ will require the following measures, which will also help salvage Lake Victoria from its death:


The three riparian governments of Lake Victoria’s three sanitation hotspots (Kampala; Kisumu; Mwanza) must take a rights-based approach to sanitation so that no-one is left behind. A rights-based approach to sanitation is inclusive, with accessible and affordable context-specific sanitation services. Achieving Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation (LWIS) requires strategic investments which are rooted in equity. Supporting local innovators with funding and technical assistance (i.e. The Lake Victoria Pooptank) is essential because local innovators best understand the problems of the Lake and its communities.


Leaving no-one behind is a central promise of the 2030 SDG agenda which cannot be achieved without inclusive sanitation. No society can have public health, gender equity and economic productivity without respecting the basic human right to sanitation."


Juliet Mukunde of Uganda:

"Saving Lake Victoria with limited resources needs huge levels of advocacy for the problem. The three riparian countries must make advocacy their priority. Information which engages all lakewide stakeholders, in a way which entertains, informs and educates, would help stakeholders realize their responsibility, as far sanitation for all is concerned. As Carolyne Odero, my Pooptank colleague from Kenya says, ‘Niko na role’ – we all have a role.


Using the commonly used languages for the advocacy effort is essential. Not only English, but Luo, Luganda, Kiswahili and all of the various regional languages around the Lake. If Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation is truly to include all people, then their diverse languages and culture must also be respected. Also the medium of communication is very important. Communications media changes faster now than ever before, so using the most relevant social media platforms as well as traditional media is essential to reach everyone.


Like the Sanitation Innovation Fund, I believe that children are the best agents of change. Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation requires involving the next generation, whose lives will be affected by Lake Victoria’s deteriorating water quality in ways which we can now barely imagine."


Saul Mwandosya of Tanzania:

"I definitely agree with Carolyne that access to water and sanitation is a human right. Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater body in the World, and has over 40 million people who depend on the Lake's basin for water and other resources; approximately 22% of the total population of the three riparian countries. Prioritisation of activities is difficult given the huge importance of the whole Lake, and the vast population it serves. However, I would prioritise the following:

  • Undertake more formative research on the safe and unsafe sanitation practices in the Lake’s basin, to help establish motives and drivers for changes.

  • Integrate the lessons from the many programs and projects which have been implemented over the last decades, e.g. The Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP - https://www.lvbcom.org/lvemp-ii/).

  • Strengthen the Lake’s multi-stakeholder platforms at each level (regional, national, district, ward, village and sub village) with a clear hierarchy of command and communication, including (thanks Juliet!) the appropriate use of local languages.

  • Integrate a rights-based approach to the Lake’s basin management programme.

Finally, I share some of LVEMP's key lesson learnt for integration into implementable actions;

  1. For better results in the management of the Lake Victoria and its resources, partner states should adopt and implement harmonized policies and frameworks and use science to guide interventions.

  2. Awareness creation on environmental issues needs to go along with law enforcement to achieve the intended results.

  3. Community members, particularly the rural ones, in the LVB are obedient to their political leaders, thus political leadership is key."



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