The Global Water Initiative (GWI) was an action-research and advocacy programme that ran from 2008-17. The project is now closed. This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close. After that date, information about the project and core GWI technical publications will continue to be available from the IIED website and Publications Library.

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Sustainable sanitation: behaviour change

The MDG target for sanitation was to halve the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation by 2015. However, progress has been too slow, and unless the pace of change in the sanitation sector can be accelerated, the MDG target may not be reached until 2026. Every year, 2.2 million people (mostly children younger than 5) still die due to sanitation-related diseases and poor hygienic conditions.

Sustainable sanitation

For GWI, improved hygiene behaviours mean:

  • Everyone washes their hands with soap (or ash) and water after defecating and before touching food.
  • There is no defecation in the open.
  • Infant faeces are disposed of safely.

Learn more about why these behaviours are important

Our sustainable sanitation project initially focussed on implementing ‘demonstration latrines’ in rural areas, where the culture of open defecation (OD) and non-hygienic disposal of children’s faeces was widespread. However, demonstration latrines built in 2009 and 2010 proved ineffective in terms of cost, sustainability and replication. We therefore stopped constructing demonstration latrines in June 2010, took stock of how to address sanitation and our critical review led us to adopt an alternative approach: Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).

Sustainable self-constructed latrines

We want to help people stop open defecation forever. When people are convinced of the benefits of this approach, they will build their own latrines, using traditional designs. In some cases these are known to collapse, causing unease about the safety of the technology. We therefore developed and promoted an illustrated guide and a participatory method to provide technical assistance for the design, self-construction, operation and hygienic maintenance of affordable and safe household latrines. In this section you will find technical tools that illustrate the key features of our work on sustainable sanitation.

Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)

CLTS is a means of mobilising communities to eliminate open defecation, by training them to conduct their own appraisal of their local sanitation circumstances. We learned that merely constructing toilets for people does not necessarily result in improved hygiene. We used a participatory learning approach involving health workers, community volunteers, teachers and the media to train people in sanitation, thereby enabling communities to take responsibility, initiative and action. In this section you will find project reports and technical tools demonstrating our work on CLTS.

CLTS has already encouraged millions of people to look at, talk about and tackle the problems caused by open defecation. “Tales of Shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation in Africa”, a bilingual DVD of Participatory Learning and Action, draws on this growing body of experience with CLTS.