As a Monitoring and Evaluation regional volunteer in Kolda, one of my tasks is to implement the new monitoring tools for Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP).  During the month of May, I asked one of the UNICEF project supervisors, Amadou Alpha Ba, if I could accompany him on his monthly monitoring visit to a few centers in his supervisory area. 

Driving through the small Pulaar villages of the Kolda region of Senegal, it was easy to spot the communities who were participating in the Tostan Community Empowerment Program. With their increased awareness of the human rights to health and a clean environment, and information about germ transmission, as well as problem-solving and project management skills – these communities now implement weekly community clean-ups and other initiatives to keep their villages free from litter and protect their environment – and it shows. 

Since the end of January 2013, Tostan has implemented the CEP in partnership with UNICEF in 40 villages in Kolda. With support from their facilitators and the newly established Community Management Committees, these villages took steps within the first months of the program to protect their environment. In the six villages that I visited during my monitoring visit, each had put in place weekly community clean-ups led by the CMC.

At these events, both the men and the women of the community participate, with the women sweeping and the men collecting trash and clearing brush for motorcycle and foot paths. In addition to community clean-ups, community members have been trained on how to build improved stoves that burn wood more efficiently. These new stoves reduce the amount of trees cut down for firewood and save families money they would have spent to buy additional firewood.

One of the villages, Saré Simaly, has adopted a unique approach to keeping its community clean – its members implement fines for community members who leave their animals roaming around in public areas. If someone finds an animal walking in public areas after a clean-up, that person can hold the animal until the owner claims it; at that point the owner will be fined. With measures like these, community members hope to sustain the progress they have made in keeping a clean environment.  

When asked about what changes they have seen in the community since the introduction of the CEP, community members were quick to respond with this new focus on hygiene and cleanliness.

“You don’t know what our village looked like before,” I was told by one village chief, “but if you did, you would see how much has changed.” 

Story by Meagan Byrne, Tostan.