A summary for a research project in Nepal – Author: Byron Bignell
The success or failure of a development project is a matter of perspective. Determining success becomes a process of evaluating the outcomes after the fact through observation and community engagement. While the author has participated in several projects in Nepal, they had been troubled by the question of success and its measurement; the actual state of projected outcomes as differing from intended state in addition to being attentive to future states in terms of outcomes and evolving conditions and contexts as may affect the community.
Given the scant data coming from projects the author found one dataset from Amelia Lyons (2008) that represented the one comprehensive baseline of community health in the study area and, using this data as a starting point for comparison, set about designing a research project to measure the outcomes of a sanitation initiative in the village of Namsaling.
Employing the same approach as Lyons (2008), the author, with the help of the community, developed a digital survey based on the Lyons (2008) data and a 50% distributed survey was designed, tested and deployed in the village of in the winter of 2016. The survey consisted of socioeconomic and health information as well as Geographic Information System (GIS) data. The 2016/17 data was analyzed and compared to the 2008/09 Lyons data to determine the quantifiable changes in rates of gastrointestinal and waterborne disease in the community.
The 2017 results show a decrease in the rates of disease overall, although water testing for the presence of coliform bacteria indicate its presence and the season (winter) is a potential bias in the data. As with the Lyons (2008/09) data the average age was 42 years, roughly 60% of all respondents were women between 30 and 40 years of age. A significant change from the Lyons (2008/09) data can be seen in the number of households reporting as having no toilet, at under 5%.
The 2017 results show a significant drop in the rates of GI disease although the correlation between distance from the spring and a rise in the incidence of disease can be seen in several hotspots in the data where similar patterns of disease were identified in 2008/09. The research also identified a potential problem with the local geological conditions, and the design, age, and placement of the septic tanks; a set of conditions that the research strongly suggests the tanks and surrounding areas be monitored for any changes as the failure of a tank represents a direct threat to the health of an already burdened system.
The findings of the research (available from the link below) indicate a strong decline in the rates of gastrointestinal diseases in the population. The Lyons data, as well as my own, were compiled in the drier winter weather. Seasonal adjustments indicate a greater than 50% variance upwards in the number of cases of GI diseases during monsoon.
Findings also indicated a potential problem with the design and construction of the pits for the toilets in the absence of a regular maintenance cycle and a bottom draining design.