Can collective action strategies motivate behavior change to reduce open defecation in rural India? 2016.
- Payal Hathi, research institute for compassionate economics (r.i.c.e.)
- Dean Spears,Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; r.i.c.e.
- Diane Coffey, Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Woodrow Wilson School of Public andInternational Affairs at Princeton University; r.i.c.e.
The world’s remaining open defecation is increasingly concentrated in rural India. The Indian government’s efforts to reduce open defecation by providing subsidies for latrine construction have been largely unsuccessful in addressing the problem.
It is now clear that behavior change must be the priority if progress on ending open defecation is to be made. While community-led strategies have proven effective in various developing country contexts, there are serious reasons to question whether similar methods can work in rural India.
Through both quantitative and qualitative analyses, we find
that strict social hierarchies that continue to govern daily interactions in rural life today obstruct the spirit of cooperation upon which such methods rely.
Additionally, caste-based notions of purity and pollution make the simple latrines used all over the developing world unattractive to rural Indians. In acontext where people identify most closely with their caste and religious groups rather than their geographical villages, our findings suggest that a more nuanced understanding of the idea of “community” is required. More experimentation, both with community-led and other strategies, is
needed in order to effectively move from open defecation to latrine use in rural India.