PLA 61 Overview: Tales of Shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation in Africa

Journal (part) article
PDF (622.28 KB)
Published: November 2010
Participatory Learning and Action
Product code:G02795
Source publication:
Participatory Learning and Action 61 Tales of Shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation in Africa

Where do you shit? In developing countries, the answer may determine whether you live or die. Around 2.6 billion people defecate in the open. The consequences are dire: shit carries disease and is a major killer. Recently, a radical new participatory approach called Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) has encouraged millions of people to tackle the problems caused by open defecation. Communities analyse their hygiene habits and practices and mobilise to take collective action to totally sanitise their environments.

Following development in Asia, CLTS is being piloted in Africa. This overview examines some of the issues, challenges and lessons learnt - and how CLTS differs from other sanitation approaches and emerging issues in Africa and elsewhere. It examines community-level processes, innovative forms of triggering, language and building on an understanding of local taboos, and its potential to empower children and youth. It identifies opportunities, challenges and lessons when scaling up, considers management and organisational changes needed. It discusses the importance of quality training and facilitation, identifying CLTS champions and natural leaders, engaging with government and ensuring multi-sector involvement. Verification, certification and follow-up activities are also examined. Documentation and sharing experiences needs to be encouraged to improve CLTS practice and policy.

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board. See:

Article in: PLA 61. Guest-edited by: Petra Bongartz, Samuel Musembi Musyoki, Angela Milligan and Holly Ashley.

Cite this publication

Bongartz, P., Musyoki, S., Milligan, A. and Ashley, H. (2010). PLA 61 Overview: Tales of Shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation in Africa. .
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