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Community Contribution

Empowering Chiefs and Traditional Leaders Revolutionizes Sanitation Program

Andy Prinsen

Akros has been working in Zambia in Community-Led Total Sanitation towards improving uptake of open defecation free (ODF) status at the village level. Our innovative approach utilized mobile phones and cloud-based data aggregation to empower the government and its stakeholders with a real-time picture of both the scale of the problem as well as the progress being made against it. But the program was not catching on as we had hoped. 

Akros needed a different strategy. Field officers began spending more time on the ground, meeting with village stakeholders, district officers and provincial staff. We realized that Zambians' loyalty follows traditional leadership hierarchies rather than government officials. The top of these hierarchies for most of the citizens living in rural areas is not the District Health Officer or other government staff, but chiefs – Zambia’s traditional leaders. Therefore, Akros adapted their original program to include orientations to reach out to these traditional leaders and give them a reason to support this ODF agenda.


This case study was submitted as part of USAID's CLA Case Competition, held in August 2015. Taken together, this collection of submissions illustrates the diversity of ways collaborating, learning, and adapting approaches are being operationalized in the field. Stringent judging criteria was used to determine official CLA Case Competition winners, so not all submissions should be considered an official USAID endorsement of best practice. To view all entries, visit the CLA Case Competition page.

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