Going to Scale? The Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

The total elimination of open defecation holds promise of major gains in enhancing the wellbeing of women, children and men and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a participatory approach that started in Bangladesh and has been spread to varying degrees in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, Nepal. To a limited degree, it has also been trialled in some African countries.

In a CLTS process, facilitators encourage communities to carry out their own appraisal and analysis of community sanitation. This generally leads them to recognise the volume of human waste they generate and how the practice of open defecation means they are likely to be ingesting one another’s faeces. The resulting disgust and desire for self-respect can induce them to take immediate and comprehensive action by digging and building latrines and stopping open defecation without waiting for external support in the form of hardware subsidy.

This project aims to make a difference by reducing the deprivation and enhancing the wellbeing of poor people through research to generate knowledge and insights concerning CLTS, through participatory action research engaging with practice, and through the sharing of knowledge, experience and insights across communities, organisations and countries.

CLTS website

Key contacts

Project details

start date
1 April 2006
end date
31 December 2010


About this project

Programmes and centres
The Sanitation Learning Hub


Image of Elaine Mercer

Elaine Mercer

Communications and Networking Officer

Image of Naomi Vernon

Naomi Vernon

Programme and Communications Manager

Image of Peter O’Flynn

Peter O’Flynn

Research Officer

Image of Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers

Research Associate

Image of Stacey Townsend

Stacey Townsend

Programme Officer

Recent work


World Toilet Day: timely reminder of the global sanitation crisis

World Toilet Day aims raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis, which affecting 2.4 billion people around the world. Although commitments clean water and sanitation are enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 6, the topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos.

18 November 2016


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...

1 April 2011


Handbook on Community-Led Total Sanitation

The CLTS approach originates from Kamal Kar's evaluation of WaterAid Bangladesh and their local partner organisation - VERC's (Village Education Resource Centre is a local NGO) traditional water and sanitation programme and his subsequent work in Bangladesh in late 1999 and into 2000.

1 January 2009


Community-Led Total Sanitation

This paper is intended to complement IDS Working Paper 257 (November 2005), by giving a short update on recent developments in the rapidly changing field of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in six countries in South and South East Asia. It highlights emerging trends, successes, challenges...

1 January 2006