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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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Promoting safe affordable design for self-construction of 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, which is the initial rung of the “sanitation ladder”. In some cases these are known to collapse, causing unease about the safety of the self-build approach. 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. This is designed to be used in conjunction with the CLTS approach.

The guide presents the guiding principles to take into account, although we also leave much room for individuality, and actively encourage ingenuity. Our photo gallery shows examples of latrines that were built using this guide. The simple pit latrine offers a positive outlook for a sustainable future of community-led total sanitation.

The resources listed below illustrate our promotion of safe affordable designs for self-construction latrines.



In 2008 GWI began a sustainable sanitation project in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

GWI helped build appropriate, strong, low-cost latrines. This illustrated manual is aimed at community sanitation mobilisers and villagers already motivated to build their own latrines, and it is best used alongside CLTS.