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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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Using evidence to change practice: embracing shift towards CLTS

GWI’s sustainable sanitation approach in West Africa 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).

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 sanitation. 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. 

CLTS has already encouraged millions of people globally 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. Additionally, the resources listed below document our experience of using evidence to change practice in the shift towards CLTS.



GWI commissioned this assessment of Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committees in the Upper West region of Ghana, 3 years into their operations. Each of the 32 project communities in this region have a WATSAN committee, composed of approximately 9 local people (men and women).

GWI are tackling sanitation issues in rural regions of Niger in the lower Tarka valley. Our 2008 ‘demonstration latrine’ project made way, in 2010, for Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). CLTS is an approach focussed on empowerment and changing behaviour.

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