2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to improved sanitation facilities and sanitation coverage is the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where two thirds of the population lack access to improved sanitation. In recent years, Community-led total Sanitation (CLTS) has attracted significant attention. Unlike earlier top-down approaches which focused on toilet construction with upfront hardware subsidies, CLTS refrains from advocating toilet construction for individual households. Instead, through processes of intensive facilitation and mobilisation and powerful emotions such as disgust and shame, the whole community is encouraged to analyse the problems associated with open defecation in order to build toilets and create ‘open defecation free’ (ODF) villages and communities. From its early beginnings in Bangladesh in 1999, CLTS has spread rapidly across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and is now being implemented in over 20 countries with the makings of a development success story.
This paper tracks the origins of CLTS and highlights its key tenets. It discusses how it spread from Bangladesh to other countries in Asia and the African continent and asks whether initial success has led to the generation of myths about the extent to which the approach really generates ODF communities. It discusses challenges concerning monitoring and evaluation and going to scale and issues of social, technological and institutional sustainability. It also looks at what is happening to the poorest and to women who are supposed to benefit most from CLTS as well as cultural beliefs and taboos around sanitation (for example, in many countries it is not appropriate for women to use the same toilets as their fathers-in law). The paper then focuses in depth on Ethiopia.
RiPPLE Office, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 39 pp.