A day in the lives of staff on the San-Dem project in Zambia

Jenala and one of the landlords involved in the San-Dem study

9 Oct 2019

In our latest blog Mwiza Haambokoma, a Research Fellow under the Social and Behavioural Science unit at CIDRZ, gives an update on what life was like for Research Monitors and Facilitators working on the San-Dem trial in Zambia.  

Our latest blogs introduced you to our plans for the third phase of SHARE and also to the phase three researchers; including Jenala Chipungu, who is working on the San-Dem project in Zambia.  

The San-Dem behavioral intervention – called Indaba Yama Landlords (IYL) – ran for 6 months in 2017. The rationale for the intervention was the need for developing acceptable onsite sanitation, as sanitation was of poor quality and at the time was showing a worrying trend of decline in Zambia, especially in the peri-urban areas.  


Standard sanitation in Bauleni compound, Lusaka
Standard sanitation in Bauleni compound, Lusaka 

Using the Behavior Centered Design (BCD) Framework, the intervention aimed to motivate landlords to improve their toilets in relatively small ways. The specific improvements targeted and measured were a functional rota system for cleanliness, an inside lock for privacy, an outside lock for access restriction and a hole cover or water sealed pan for smell reduction.  

The findings showed a significant increase in the number of toilets with the four improvements over time compared to the control group, providing strong evidence that the use of behavior science approaches are successful in motivating landlords to make improvements to their toilets without subsidy or provision of additional infrastructure. 

For this post we will introduce you to a Research Monitors and a Research Facilitator who each spent 3 months on the ground in Bauleni compound, where the San-Dem trial took place. 

Meet Chisha Nakazwe, one of four Monitors who ensured that the project work ran as smoothly as possible. Here is her story. 

“I worked as a Monitor under the San-Dem project during the 6-month intervention period.” 

“I would have to physically inspect the households to ensure that the improvements were being made, for example, if a landlord had bought a lock I would record that the lock had been bought. It was up to landlords to make the improvements on their own.” 

“As with every study challenges are expected. Some of the biggest challenges my colleagues and I faced were getting the landlords to come to meetings and persuading landlords that it was important to make the suggested improvements. A lot of landlords wanted to receive something and were not willing to come to meetings without receiving an obvious benefit.” 

“Overcoming these challenges is where the Facilitators came in. They would use strategies like coming up with drama, sketches or songs to illustrate how the tenants might move away if certain improvements were not made to the toilets” 

 “Looking at dirty toilets, pit latrines and fecal matter is definitely not a job for the faint-hearted, and it was difficult to see people living with such a lack of sanitation infrastructure.”  

“The team was able to achieve the project’s goal of improving sanitation in some parts of Bauleni. What’s more, a lot of the landlords went on to improve their toilets even beyond the suggested improvements from the study. Some observed successes were seeing some landlords bury their old toilets and build better ones after realising the benefits an improved toilet could bring not only for health concerns but also for increased revenue and social harmony on their plots.” 


An old buried toilet on a plot involved in the San-Dem study
An old buried toilet on a plot involved in the San-Dem study 


“One major highlight was seeing the improvements made by a landlord who was going through a tough time. When the landlord meetings began he was regularly attending and very eager to learn and make improvements. Unfortunately, along the way he had a stroke. Despite that he would send his wife to the meetings. He also requested that the team go to his house on weekends to teach him the secrets on the weekends as he really wanted to learn. He saw the importance of the secrets and begun to dig to start building a new toilet and bury his old one. His determination despite his illness was such an inspiration, and it showed how people are willing to make changes.” 

“At the beginning I thought that maybe we needed to give incentives to the participants for them to corporate, but I realized that once the participants took ownership of the project, they were empowered to make the improvements taught to them in the intervention. Some of the landlords would even call the mentors to come and inspect the toilets, as they were eager to show they had made improvements.” 


A new and improved toilet on one of the plots involved in the San-Dem study
A new and improved toilet on one of the plots involved in the San-Dem study 


Now meet Veronica Chumbe, co-founder of Yoweli Chungu Filimu (YCF), a film and creative arts hub engaged to facilitate the San-Dem project. The role of a Facilitator was to deliver the intervention using exciting engagement strategies informed by the formative research. She shares her experience.  

“We are a talent management company that has been in the creative arts for two years now and we partnered with CIDRZ to deliver the Indaba Yama Landlords intervention in an appealing, educative and entertaining way for all to understand.” 

“Three times in week, we met with landlords in newly formed landlord group meetings in the community of Bauleni. Our main duty was to engage the community – in particular the landlords – about sanitation. We communicated about how they do not need the government to wait to fix the sanitation challenges in their community and how they have to take responsibility for their own hygiene.” 

“We used various methods to get our messages through, including games, drama and songs. These proved to be a real crowd puller and the landlords would show up in numbers” 

“To start the day, we came up with guidelines that helped set the pace for the day. We would show the landlords videos and secret cards depicting various scenarios – such as how not having a lockable toilet would lead to the door being open while you are in the toilet. Such demonstrations really had an impact on most of the landlords. We would award the ones who had made improvements with stars.” 

“We used creative ways to quickly solve any challenges that came our way. One challenge we encountered was having to be sensitive in the way in which we packaged our messages seeing as there were various age groups among the landlords.” 

The hard work of the Monitors and Facilitators really paid off, with the San-Dem project running smoothly and great participation and enthusiasm from landlords and tenants alike.  

What’s more, the study achieved incredible results; as the plots in Bauleni involved in the study saw an increase in quality of toilets across all four parameters measured.   

Over the coming months the team will be working to disseminate these exciting findings to policymakers, practitioners and academics.  

This is the first study of its type to show that a behavioural intervention - independent of infrastructure change and provision of money or materials – can improve shared sanitation. Keep an eye on SHARE’s website in the coming months to follow the team’s progress as they try to encourage scale up of behavioural science in sanitation interventions in Zambia and beyond! 


Bauleni compound, Lusaka
Bauleni compound, Lusaka


SHARE contributes to achieving universal access to effective, sustainable and equitable sanitation and hygiene by generating evidence to improve policy and practice worldwide.