Around 1.1 billion people still practice open defecation, posing hazards to health and personal security. Decades of large-scale programmes imposed from outside the local context have failed to change these practices.

Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) is an innovative way to achieve communities free from open defecation. It changes people’s behaviour by shifting mindsets – to focus their desire for, and triggering them to build a sanitation system themselves.

CLTS emerged in Bangladesh in early 2000s. Developed by Dr Kamal Kar, it is a participatory answer to traditionally subsidized sanitation programmes that have not succeeded in getting people to want, build, pay for, and use latrines.

The approach promotes 100% open defecation free communities to minimize the risk of contamination for all, breaking the cycle of faecal-oral contamination. Contrary to most conventional sanitation approaches which aim simply at providing toilets, CLTS aims to promote collective behaviour change as the key to sustainable, improved sanitation.

Through a facilitator, communities conduct their own appraisal and analysis of their sanitation situation and take action to become open defecation free. During the process, the facilitator brings attention to sanitation related topics, provides facts (e.g. faecal-oral hazards can only be reduced if open defecation is completely banned from the community as a whole), and provokes a discussion about open defecation and the feelings of disgust and shame associated with it. This triggers change.

CLTS has proven effective in various settings and contexts, enabling communities to set their own goals and fulfil them with minimal (external) financial inputs. In some settings, communities have extended CLTS beyond latrine construction to that of hand washing stations.

Of course, coverage is not always total: certain members of the community never reach the target or fall back into practising open defecation. Other issues presenting challenges are scaling up the approach and the issue of exclusion or punishment of community members who do not (or cannot) comply with self imposed restrictions.

Several of the WASH Coalitions are engaged in promoting, implementing, training, and evaluating CLTS in their countries. Following are several examples.

  • In Burkina Faso, the coalition focused on the promotion and adoption of the CLTS model to match with the national latrine standard. Twenty-nine communities have effectively implemented CLTS.
  • Promotional activities in Cambodia focused on improved sanitation and hygiene in schools and in communities using the CLTS approach.
  • The Coalition in Nepal produced a film documentary on CLTS implementation in Nepal.
  • In Nigeria, a community participated in a WaterAid sponsored three country study on sustainability and equity of Total Sanitation which included field visits with observation, interviews, and community mapping.

In 2010, Dr Kamal Kar, WSSCC, and the CLTS Foundation published the Trainers’ Trainer Guide Workshops for Community-Led Total Sanitation. The guide is a resource for field staff involved in CLTS; it shares best practices, experiences, and methods for the facilitation of CLTS in communities. The CLTS approach is also described in Hygiene and Sanitation Software publication.

Last updated: Wed, 11/24/2010 - 15:27