Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Innovations for Urban Sanitation: Adapting Community-led Approaches

Jamie Myers, Sue Cavill, Samuel Musyoki, Katherine Pasteur, Lucy Stevens

Practical Action Publishing



This guide to Urban Community-Led Total Sanitation (U-CLTS) was developed in collaboration by the Institute for Development Studies, Practical Action and Plan International. It is intended for practitioners and CLTS facilitators in urban areas.

The book’s first part provides background on the principles and tools of this approach. The authors explain that U-CLTS principles include: participation and empowerment, collective action, community ownership, demand creation through triggering of emotions, natural leaders, and total sanitation. And they describe why an urban-specific guide is needed. Among other factors, space is more limited, people are exposed to faeces from more sources, and the network of stakeholders is more complex in urban areas. 

Part 1 also contains abundant information on how readers can develop their own U-CLTS analyses, muster support from various entities, and facilitate community-led planning. This includes the political as well as infrastructural dimensions of a U-CLTS project. The step-by-step explanations and the space for notes indicate that this guide is meant to be user-friendly and adaptable to different contexts.

Part 2 compiles 15 case studies of U-CLTS in Africa and Asia, written by individual authors involved in each case. This is an ongoing project, and readers are encouraged to send their own case studies to CLTS@ids.ac.uk. These case studies follow a standard format, which gives information about implementing organisations, budgets, objectives, the geographical context, outcomes, and challenges. The format eases comparison across the cases, although for substantive detail, readers would need to explore further.

For instance, the case study of Fort Dauphin, a medium-sized town in Madagascar, describes a three-year project to reduce open defecation and diarrhoeal disease. This included construction of a septic tank, ventilated improved pit latrines in homes, and school latrines, as well as training and communications campaigns. The author of the case study is frank about the challenges, including the community’s reluctance to empty the shared latrines, which filled up quickly. Still, there were some notable successes, such as an 85% decrease in the proportion of children under 5 with chronic diarrhoea. One lesson learned is that “households sharing latrines should be encouraged to agree on management and maintenance arrangements to avoid disputes about cleaning and emptying once they begin to fill” (page 128).

Taken as a whole, the case studies show the importance of paying attention to the local context, collaborating across the urban sanitation chain, and incorporating sanitation projects into larger urban planning.


Freely available at: https://www.developmentbookshelf.com/doi/book/10.3362/9781780447360


Further reading:

Banana, Evans, Patrick Chikoti, Chisomo Harawa, Gordon McGranahan, Diana Mitlin, Stella Stephen, Noah Schermbrucker, Farirai Shumba and Anna Walnycki (2015), “Sharing reflections on inclusive sanitation”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 27, No 1, pages 19–34, available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956247815569702.

Das, Priyam (2015), “The urban sanitation conundrum: what can community-managed programmes in India reveal?”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 27, No 2, pages 505–524, available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956247815586305.

Participatory Learning and Action (2010), “Tales of shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation in Africa”, PLA 61, available at http://pubs.iied.org/14579IIED/?k=clts&s=PLA.


Book note prepared by Christine Ro

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