Published on: 21/08/2012
Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) is a new and promising approach to create demand for open-defecation-free environments and toilets. It uses participatory methods to empower local communities to stop open defecation and to build and use latrines without the support of any external hardware subsidy.
CLTS was first implemented in Bangladesh in 1999 and has since spread to other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, accelerating sanitation coverage. It is used mostly in rural settings, but some CLTS programmes, also known as U(C)LTS, work in low-income urban settings.
CLTS is especially known for its effective demand triggering: in the best cases communities become ODF in 3-4 months. Triggers can be both positive and negative: desire for and pride in a clean environment, and shame of open defecation.
There are also challenges. Among those identified from experiences of IRC and partners are quality of construction, equity issues and sustaining ODF.
CLTS builds on participatory approaches such as PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal). The following six factors are cited by CLTS promoters as key characteristics of the approach:
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Slippage (that is, going back to a degree of open defecation) happens irrespective of the approach. In India it was 30% and in Andhra Pradesh 8-15%. Studies in six and 12 states confirmed slippage and also failure to meet minimum quality standards (e.g. no transmission risks from open pits, excreta soiling, broken water seals, lack of privacy).
However, there are also cases of a large proportion of households that do not slip, but climb the sanitation ladder. CLTS programmes thus vary in quality with regard to sustainability of toilets and toilet use across the sanitation cycle. Better data on support costs in effective CLTS programmes is another requirement.
In places where for political or other reasons community leadership is weak, schools can be an alternative entry point. This approach is also known as school-led total sanitation (SLTS).