Nigeria’s roundtable conference on Community-Led Total Sanitation: Eight takeaways


“Water is life, and sanitation is dignity.” – Engr. Suleiman Adamu, Nigeria's Minister of Water Resources, during the launch of national open defecation free (ODF) roadmap at the roundtable.

Around 25 percent of Nigerians – more than 43 million people – defecate in the open (source). In order to meet the Nigerian Government’s commitment to end open defecation by 2025, practitioners from across Nigeria assembled in Akwanga, Nassarawa State, for the 5th National Roundtable Conference on Community-led Total Sanitation. The conference was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, in collaboration with United Purpose and UNICEF. United Purpose is the Executing Agency for the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)-supported Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN) programme.

During two days of lively discussions, participants shared best practices, common challenges, and promising innovations to end open defecation and meet Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets by 2030. Here are the top takeaways from the roundtable:

1. The SDGs are raising the bar for CLTS

Driven by the SDGs, collective behaviour change programmes utilizing approaches such as Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) must also address safe transport, disposal, and treatment of waste, while also ensuring that women, girls, and vulnerable groups are not left out. Through its CLTS approach, RUSHPIN continues to address these aspects, such as by supporting the elderly and championing CLTS in conflict-affected communities.

2. Focus on dynamic post-triggering follow-up

Facilitating CLTS doesn’t just involve one triggering event, but rather a series of behaviour change activities which support community-led initiatives to achieving ODF status. Dynamic, organic follow-up strategies were identified by practitioners as critical for accelerating and sustaining ODF status. For example, the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency emphasized how Follow-up MANDONA is implemented across the state. The approach has led to accelerated results for both RUSHPIN and UNICEF, since it was introduced in Nigeria during an exchange with the GSF-supported Uganda Sanitation Fund. To address post-ODF monitoring, WaterAid Nigeria uses the Post-Implementation Monitoring Survey (PIMS) model, in both short- and long-term intervals, to assess the sustainability of behaviour change.

3. Target entire Local Government Areas (LGAs)

Rather than triggering communities in a piecemeal manner, targeting entire LGAs – the lowest level of government administration in Nigeria – has been an immensely successful strategy. However, an LGA-wide approach means that urban centres and critical public spaces – schools, health facilities, and market places – will also need to be tackled. RUSHPIN's LGA-wide approach in six LGAs has led to strong progress. Between December 2014 and December 2015 the number of communities declared ODF increased by over 400, and the number of people by over 148,000 (read more in the latest GSF Progress Report). Furthermore, Obanliku LGA in Cross River State has now been officially declared as the first open defecation free LGA in Nigeria.

4. Trigger traditional leaders

Across Nigeria’s diverse array of cultures and peoples, one common successful approach has been identified by CLTS practitioners: triggering chiefs, emirs, and other highly respected traditional rulers to become behaviour change champions. Chief Joseph Ikanshul from the RUSHPIN-covered Obanliku LGA explained to conference participants how he used his position to end open defecation at scale. Chief Ikanshul organized a triggering session with other chiefs to push them into action. Through the influence of his fellow chiefs, communities ended open defecation while helping schools, health centres, and market places ensure that adequate sanitation facilities are provided.

5. More coordination is key

Accelerating joint planning, advocacy, and learning within and beyond the sanitation sector is essential for ensuring equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. The Federal Ministry of Water Resource’s new ‘Partnership for Expanded Water Sanitation and Hygiene’ (PEWASH) programme will be a powerful mechanism for Nigeria’s 36 state governments to scale up sanitation and hygiene interventions. However, meaningful coordination needs to be further decentralized, and meaningfully involve actors traditionally outside the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. The multi-sector National Task Group for Sanitation and its emerging state and local level counterparts – all key RUSHPIN stakeholders – will be the dynamic engines for achieving Nigeria’s sanitation targets.

6. Urban CLTS is already underway

Despite posing vexing challenges, practitioners in Nigeria are already making headway with concrete strategies and approaches to implementing CLTS in urban areas. Common approaches involve strategically sub-dividing urban areas into manageable units, and then triggering ‘communities’ of landlords and tenants. In Cross River and Benue states, RUSHPIN uses Institutional Triggering to ignite urban sanitation and hygiene movements comprised of influential leaders and groups. This approach supports these movements to end open defecation and ensure adequate sanitation in public spaces. Read more about Institutional Triggering here. Questions remain, however, on the appropriate mix of bottom-up empowerment and top-down regulation to ensure adequate and equitable urban sanitation and hygiene for all.

7. Community capacity = sustainability

Participants identified active Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCOM) composed of Natural Leaders as a cornerstone for sustaining ODF status and moving up the sanitation ladder. A successful strategy identified by RUSHPIN was first building the capacity of emerging Natural Leaders to reach ODF status. The next step involved facilitating the formation of WASHCOMS which are then used to trigger their neighbours and promote the use of improved facilities. Women’s empowerment is a key ingredient for success. The Nigerian Society for Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) pointed out how WASHCOMs with strong women’s participation tended to perform significantly better than ones dominated by men.

8. Local solutions are needed to climb the sanitation ladder

RUSHPIN described how in its programme Natural Leaders and WASHCOMs from ODF communities are brought together in triggering sessions, to help their communities move up the sanitation ladder. These actors are supported by locally-based artisans. In addition, UNICEF highlighted that WASHCOMs are key institutions for linking sanitation financing with community members willing to upgrade their latrines. Furthermore, WaterAid Nigeria is pioneering business-based sanitation marketing approaches to increase the uptake of improved facilities in ODF communities. Key elements of success involve using local designs, adapting upgrades to existing latrines, and linking sanitation businesses to an army of community-based marketers working on commission.