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Highlights from the CLTS Sharing and Learning workshop in Nakuru,Kenya

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Yesterday (30th June 2013), we had a CLTS Sharing and Learning workshop in Nakuru, Kenya, in the run-up of the 36th WEDC International Conference, about which I will blog starting from tomorrow. Lots of people from different countries and diverse experiences on CLTS came together and discussed the situation of CLTS in each country or organisation: national policy, implementation strategy, resources allocation, outcomes (total communities triggered and ODF), challenges, innovations, research... There were so many interesting interventions that it is impossible to sum them all up here; you will have to wait for the workshop notes to be released on the CLTS website for extensive information. For now, you can read these highlights from three countries [NB: these are examples of some of what is happening in these countries and not comprehensive indications of the extent and success of CLTS]:

  • Madagascar is one of the countries where CLTS has taken up best, with a clear zero-subsidy policy and Natural Leaders playing a crucial role in spreading the message. Challenges lie in institutional coordination and ‘low-cost’ expectations, with too little time and resources devoted to accompany the communities in their way towards ODF after the triggering.
  • Kenya has drafted a sanitation policy which includes CLTS as the main approach to sanitation. However, it is not clear whether and when it will be approved. In the meantime, very exciting innovations are taking place in the country, especially to what concerns urban CLTS. For instance, Practical Action and Umande Trust have developed innovative latrine designs in a participatory manner and work with pit emptiers in slums in order to empower them and improve their situation. In the next days we will probably have the opportunity to learn more about these initiatives.
  • An experience from Bhutan shows the importance of gathering accurate information before triggering. Doing this allowed to identify a community which had a sanitation coverage of 75% already. As a consequence, the triggering tools were adapted to address the specific needs at that point of time. One of the tools used was a mapping exercise where the latrines were given 1, 2 or 3 stars, depending on their quality (households defecating openly got no star). Thus, apart from focusing on those without latrines, an incentive was created for improving existing latrines. The experience was successful and has been scaled up.

One of the most interesting outcomes of the workshop was the discovery of IOD: Institutional Open Defecation. It is a phenomenon which has reportedly been observed in many countries: CLTS has enabled many communities to become ODF and has shown the potential to make a difference at the national level. However, Institutional Open Defecation prevents it from going to scale successfully. Some of the characteristics of IOD are lack of communication and coordination –if not competition– between NGOs and agencies, poor liaising of these with the government and unclear responsibilities within the administration. Kamal Kar put India as a paramount example of IOD, resulting in India being the country which spends most on sanitation, but has 60% of the world’s open defecators (a figure that keeps growing). I was wondering whether we could think of this as a paradox of abundance (or resource curse): too much money results in mechanisms that perpetuate the problem, instead of solving it.

To conclude, we produced a series of key messages to feed into the WEDC Conference (and beyond), which I reproduce here unprocessed:

  • Emphasise Monitoring and Evaluation, with honest and accurate reporting
  • Verifying and certifying ODF status is crucial, unless we want to waste efforts. We need to empower communities for this (being aware of potential incentives for over-reporting)
  • Ensure institutional mechanisms for measuring sustainability
  • Focus on moving up the sanitation ladder
  • Emphasise the collective focus, with special attention to equity
  • Address menstrual hygiene management
  • Participatory technology development is key when common latrine designs don’t work
  • Pay special attention to solid waste when in urban settings
  • Special conditions, such as pastoralist communities or post-emergency settings, involve ‘new’ challenges  that need to be addressed
  • Create strategic partnerships for implementing CLTS


Date: 1 July 2013


Submitted by Deborah Cousins (not verified) on

Thank you for sharing this learning as it is possibly core to institutional resistance to change and does require attention for ways to address. Our best bet in the South African pilot study (adapting to a subsidy/hardware/delivery-led environment) is that socio-institutional interfaces are significant CLTS spaces. Research created such spaces to deepen our understanding of both potential within and barriers found in interactions between communities and support institutions. So far, findings suggest that progress towards reaching ODF status is a valuable formative process for all levels of agency, so that relying on summative celebration of ODF to mobilise spread out may inhibit learning from accompaniment. An open invitation to learn together may be one way to go, especially for institutions in a somewhat defensive mode.