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India Malnutrition Program: Community Mapping Pilot

May 09, 2011 - India

by Caitlin McQuilling

Community Mapping

The month of April was RMF’s Community Mapping Month in Barwani district as part of our Community Mobilization Pilot with the Department of Women and Child Development.  The team started this community mobilization activity by having a two day training on the method for Community Nutrition Educators (CNEs).  This was to ensure that all CNEs used similar, participatory methods in doing the mappings.

 The first day was at the office in conjunction with the weekly team meeting where mapping techniques, use of symbols, and methods to involve community stakeholders were discussed.  The second day of training, Anjana split the CNEs into two groups and took them out to a village near Barwani to do a practical mapping exercise as a group.  This hands-on mapping training turned out to be the most effective, with the feedback from many CNEs saying that this gave them the most clarity and confidence.

CNEs started the mapping exercise by meeting with the village Patwari wherever possible to discuss the village layout, ensure his/her participation in the mapping exercise and to obtain a village map.  They made an appointment with key community stakeholders, including anganwadis, Sarpanches, patwaris, and active mothers, to do the community mapping exercise on their next visit.

In each village, we ask the community to lead this exercise, with the CNEs prompting the community members to dive deeper and deeper into the mapping exercise.  CNEs were instructed to ask community members to map out both the things there were proud of in their communities and the things they thought were bad for health.  Good things included schools, new latrines, and village meeting places.  Bad places included liquor shops and open defecation sites.  In each instance, CNEs were instructed not to pass any judgment or not to make any suggestions, but to let communities do this analysis on their own.

Community mapping covers:

–          Households in the community (some villages got down to the level of detail of the names of the family members in each house, other just mapped out the homes)

–          Location of SAM kids

–          Water sources, streams, rivers, damns, ponds

–          Hand-pumps

–          Public buildings: AWCs, schools, panchayats, PDS shops, AWW homes, temples

–          Shops (general stores, PDS shops, liquor stores)

–          Local doctors, health centers, medicine men

One of the best examples of this method leading to community realization and behavior change was in Badgaon with CNE Saroj.  At the beginning of her mapping session, a handful of women sat around the poster paper, with their heads and faces covered and didn’t say much.  As the anganwadi and ASHA led the mapping and did most of the work the women started to contribute more and more, peeking out from behind their veils and laughing and arguing as they discussed various aspects of the community.  In the beginning, a few men stood around the outside of the circle, attempting to look as disinterested as possible.  As the mapping progressed, they too couldn’t help themselves with participating more and more.

During her mapping exercise she asked community members to map out the positive and negative things in their village.  The women listed newly constructed latrines (under TSC) as positive things in their village.  Then Saroj asked them if they were being used.  The community members laughed nervously and admitted that no one used these newly constructed latrines and still continued to defecate out in the open.  Saroj asked where the open defecation sites were.  The anganwadi worker plotted these right next to a stream.  Without passing any judgment Saroj asked the community what they used the water for.  They all said bathing.  Then as Saroj remained silent, women in the group all started to giggle at the same time.  They were making the connection between the open defecation and the proximity to the stream they used as a water source.  And in this moment, this simple mapping activity may have had the largest Behavior Change result of any of the activities RMF has undertaken in this village thus far.  Community members started to chatter amongst themselves and comment that they should start using the new latrines right away and started speculating that this contaminated water may be why children are getting sick.  It’s too early to see if this has made a true change in the community, but this kind of self-realization is bound to be much stronger than any lecture or training session.

This was the most dramatic example of the effects of community mapping observed so far by RMF Managers (Caitlin was present during this session), but the community mapping seems to be a very effective and well-received activity.  It’s a chance for local communities to show off their knowledge for a change and makes them feel proud of their knowledge.  RMF CNEs have reported enthusiastic participation of community members in each session.  Anganwadi workers have told us that this is “a very simple activity” and fun. 

The key to making these mapping exercises work is to make sure the CNE understands that this is not just about drawing a map, but that it’s a community mobilization activity.  CNEs can facilitate the map making process, being the illustrator or scribe, but the actual process must be conducted by community members. 

We found that the mapping exercise is better with a small group of 5-10 individuals, otherwise it gets too crowded and confusing and leads to less participation.  To be able to include more individuals in the process, CNEs did the mapping in 2-4 sections per village, depending on the village size and number of anganwadis.  One map was made for each village, but the CNE drew the map in various stages depending on how many anganwadi centers there were in the village, so that each section of the community could participate meaningfully.  The final complete village map was then copied and given to each anganwadi center to hang on the wall so that each anganwadi center has a full map.  Another important pointer the CNEs found was to begin the mapping process by drawing the village boundaries instead of just diving into mapping locations.  This was scale could be developed.

To date mapping has been completed in 114 villages in Barwani district.  Given the success of this activity it will be scaled up to all RMF villages in the 4 other districts this quarter.

For more information about RMF’s Malnutrition Eradication Program in India, click here

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