Study examines sustainability of CLTS programmes in Africa

Plan-ODF-sustainability-coverDespite the widespread implementation of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programs and many claims of success, there has been very little systematic investigation into their sustainability.  A new study, which aims to change that, is creating a stir in the WASH sector.

A study commissioned by Plan International on the sustainability of CLTS programs in Africa revealed that 87% of the households still had a functioning latrine. This would indicate a remarkably low rate of reversion (13%) to open defecation (OD) or “slippage”.

However, if the criteria used to originally award open defecation free (ODF) status to villages are used, then the overall slippage rate increased dramatically to  92%. These criteria are:

  • A functioning latrine with a superstructure
  • A means of keeping flies from the pit (either water seal or lid)
  • Absence of excreta in the vicinity of the house
  • Hand washing facilities with water and soap or soap-substitute such as ash
  • Evidence that the latrine and hand washing facilities were being used

The study, conducted by Australian-based consultants FH Designs, investigated results in CLTS programs operated by Plan International in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. Data was collected in 4960 households in 116 villages where CLTS had been triggered and communities declared ODF two or more years before the study commenced in March 2012.

Key factors preventing or causing slippage

The study looked at the main motivators/enablers and de-motivators/barriers for households and communities to invest in and maintain use of latrines. The results of this analysis, based on interviews with 1200 households across more than 50 communities, are summarised below.

Plan ODF sustainability table

Source: Tyndale-Biscoe, Bond and Kidd, 2013, ix-x

In contrast to previous research and perceptions, one remarkable finding was that health was the most cited motivator for initially building a latrine in both ODF and OD households and for maintaining a latrine in ODF households.

Key recommendations

The study identified several key practice implications for future CLTS programs including:


  • a need to more effectively address improved hand washing behaviours as part of sanitation programs;
  • the value of incorporating at appropriate times in the CLTS process health messaging as a motivator for both uptake of sanitation and maintenance of latrines;
  • greater (and more targeted) post-triggering follow up and support for households; 
  • the value of ensuring maximum household and family member participation in triggering events; and
  • the importance of improved access to finance and market supplies of higher quality latrine materials to allow households to upgrade from basic latrines – in the absence of this the study found virtually no movement up the sanitation ladder from simple pit latrines built using local bush materials


Source: Tyndale-Biscoe, P., Bond, M, and Kidd, R., 2013. ODF sustainability study. Plan International. Read the 2-page summary + full report at:…inability-study-plan

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