By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member
Eight years after the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach for mobilising communitites to build their own toilets was pioneered, over 60 delegates have gathered together to discuss how much progress has been made in stopping open defecation. It is the last major event of the International Year of Sanitation, held here in the UK at the Institute of Development Studies. Photo: CLTS conference / Julia Day
The CLTS approach is that treasured thing in development, a success story. First trialled in Bangladesh, it has now spread across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. In the past, money invested in toilet programmes was wasted as people continued to defecate in the open, which continued the spread of disease. But with the CLTS approach, communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free).
At the heart of CLTS lies the recognition that merely providing toilets does not guarantee their use, nor result in improved sanitation and hygiene. Earlier approaches to sanitation prescribed high initial standards and offered subsidies as an incentive. But this often led to uneven adoption, problems with long-term sustainability and only partial use. It also created a culture of dependence on subsidies. Open defecation and the cycle of fecal–oral contamination continued to spread disease.
In contrast, CLTS focuses on the behavioural change needed to ensure real and sustainable improvements – investing in community mobilisation instead of hardware, and shifting the focus from toilet construction for individual households to the creation of “open defecation-free” villages. By raising awareness that as long as even a minority continues to defecate in the open everyone is at risk of disease, CLTS triggers the community’s desire for change, propels them into action and encourages innovation, mutual support and appropriate local solutions, thus leading to greater ownership and sustainability.
CLTS was pioneered by Kamal Kar (a development consultant from India) together with VERC (Village Education Resource Centre), a partner of WaterAid Bangladesh, in 2000 in Mosmoil, a village in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh, whilst evaluating a traditionally subsidised sanitation programme. Find out more about the approach on the shiny new CLTS website.