Community-led Total Sanitation Programme

Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become open defecation free (ODF).

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.

IDS has been working on the research, learning and networking aspects of CLTS for close to a decade. During this time, CLTS has become an international movement. The IDS programme on Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) works around the world to ensure that CLTS goes to scale with quality and in a sustainable and inclusive manner. The aim is to contribute to the dignity, health and wellbeing of children, women and men in the developing world who currently suffer the consequences of inadequate or no sanitation and poor hygiene.

Strengthening and Broadening Community-Led Total Sanitation at Scale

The Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Hub works in collaboration with practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and others in the development, sanitation and related communities, and in governments, international agencies, civil society, research institutes and other organisations. More details

Sharing Lessons, Improving Practice: Maximising the Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

CLTS is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). More details

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The Community Incentive Model: Towards an Open Defecation Free Chhattisgarh

This Learning Paper documents the Community Incentive Method. It focuses on how and why it evolved, how it works, the challenges of using a similar approach and recommendations. More details

Waterlines Journal coverpage

Urban Community-Led Total Sanitation: A Potential Way Forward for Co-Producing Sanitation Services

Waterlines 35.4 (2016)

This article explores whether Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) can be used in peri-urban and urban areas to help co-produce sanitation facilities More details

The Addis Agreement: Using CLTS in Peri-urban and Urban Areas

CLTS Knowledge Hub Learning Paper (2016)
This is the cover to the book, 'Sustainable Sanitation for All'.

Sustainable Sanitation for All

Describing the landscape of sustainability of CLTS and sanitation with reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and through examples from Africa and Asia, the book captures a range of experiences and innovations from a broad range of institutions and actors within the WASH sector, and attempts to make recommendations and practical suggestions for policy and practice for practitioners, funders, policymakers and governments. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Using a CLTS Approach in Peri-Urban and Urban Environments: Potential at Scale

This note summarises the potentials and limitations of using a CLTS approach in peri-urban and urban environments More details


Impact of Community-led Total Sanitation on Women’s Health in Urban Slums: A Case Study from Kalyani Municipality

IDS Evidence Report 194 (2016)

This Evidence Report seeks to understand the health and other impacts of slum women’s access to sanitation through the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. More details

The image is a photo of the front cover of Frontiers Seven

Norms, Knowledge and Usage

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 7 (2016)

The partial or total non-use of toilets, with some or all in a household defecating in the open, is a growing concern. Although all households may have a toilet, communities cannot remain open defecation free unless they are always used by everyone. This is not just an issue of maintenance and accessibility but also of social norms, mind-sets, and cultural preferences. The problem is widespread but most evident in India. More details

Front Cover Frontiers MHM. Photograph on front is: A School in Tororo District, Uganda. Credit: Plan Internation

Breaking the Next Taboo: Menstrual Hygiene within CLTS

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 6 (2015)

Menstruation is a natural and healthy part of the life of women and girls, but is often a taboo subject, not easily talked about, which can lead to feelings of embarrassment and shame. It can also lead to girls losing attention at school or missing days from school. More details

Front cover of Frontiers of CLTS number 5 by Sarah House and Sue Cavill

Making Sanitation and Hygiene Safer: Reducing Vulnerabilities to Violence

This issue of Frontiers of CLTS focuses on the issue of safety and vulnerabilities to violence that women, girls and sometimes boys and men can face which are related to sanitation and hygiene. More details

Sustainability and CLTS: Taking Stock Front Cover by Sue Cavill, Robert Chambers and Naomi Vernon

Sustainability and CLTS: taking stock

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 4 (2015)

Sustainability is without doubt one of the most burning subject matters that subsumes many of the issues seen in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and wider Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practice. This issue of CLTS Frontiers series identifes priority areas for learning More details

IDS publications on international development research

Community-Led total Sanitation and the Politics of Scaling Up

Those who control water, hold power. Complicating matters, water is a flow resource; constantly changing states between liquid, solid, and gas, being incorporated into living and non-living things and crossing boundaries of all kinds. More details

Front cover of Frontiers of CLTS issue 3 by Jane Wilbur and Hazel Jones

Disability: Making CLTS Fully Inclusive

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 3 (2014)

Community-Led Total Sanitation aims at total sanitation. For that it has to be inclusive. There are ethical reasons for this, but the bottom line is that while any open defecation continues, all are affected. This issue of Frontiers of CLTS focuses on people with disabilities and particular needs for access to sanitation. More details

cover page of CLTS publication 'Triggering for Handwashing'

How to Trigger for Handwashing with Soap

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 2 (2014)

This is the second issue of Frontiers of CLTS: Innovation and Insights series. More details

Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 1 (2013)

Sustainability of latrines is a key issue in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Sandy or rocky soils, seasonal flooding and termites can present challenges to communities who have taken sanitation into their own hands as a result of CLTS and are building latrines. More details

cover image of publication: Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights;Issue 1 (2013)

In this issue of the Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights series, Ben Cole, who helped UNICEF to adapt and trial participatory latrine design in Malawi, describes the different stages of participatory latrine design and gives practical guidance based on the experiences in Malawi. More details

IDS publications on international development research

CLTS in Africa: Trajectories, Challenges and Moving to Scale

This book chapter looks at the progress and maturing of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Africa. It introduces innovations and adaptations, poses questions and challenges and suggests possible ways forward as CLTS goes to scale on the continent. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Sanitation and Hygiene in Africa: Where do We Stand? Analysis from the AfricaSan Conference, Kigali, Rwanda

This book takes stock of progress made by African countries through the AfricaSan process since 2008 and the progress needed to meet the MDG on sanitation by 2015 and beyond. This book addresses priorities which have been identified by African countries as the key elements which need to be addressed in order to accelerate progress. More details

IDS Research Summary

Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa

IDS Research Summary of IDS Practice Paper 8 (2011)

Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach that focuses on community-wide behaviour change to stop open defecation, has spread widely but with varying outcomes in Africa. More details

This is the image of Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa.

Digging in, Spreading out and Growing up: Introducing CLTS in Africa

IDS Practice Paper 8 (2011)

Open defecation is the norm in rural and urban Africa – only about a third of the population uses improved sanitation facilities – and this contributes in various ways to a heavy disease burden. More details

Shit Matters

Shit Matters: The Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

Sanitation remains one of the biggest development challenges of our time, and a long-neglected issue associated with taboos and stigma. Despite growing attention and efforts, many top-down approaches to sanitation have failed, reflecting that simply providing people with a latrine or toilet does not necessarily guarantee its use. More details

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