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CLTS events during SACOSAN V: Transforming sanitation and urban CLTS

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Apart from the pre-conference workshop, there were two CLTS events during the SACOSAN V in Kathmandu.

One was on ‘Transforming sanitation: CLTS around the world’ and attracted a very high attendance. For around one hour, Kamal Kar (CLTS Foundation), Deepak Sanan (CLTS Foundation), Robert Chambers (Institute of Development Studies) and Chris Williams (WSSCC Executive Director) shared their views on how CLTS has evolved and influenced the sanitation sector.

One of the ideas I found most appealing was how CLTS navigates many times between the fringes and the mainstream. For instance, there was almost no mention to CLTS in the conference’s country paper presentations, but its principles were present in many of them. Firstly, almost every country and experience presented its outcomes in terms open defecation free (ODF) communities, instead of exclusively in percentage of sanitation coverage. Moreover, the two countries which have apparently achieved more remarkable progress over the past years, Nepal and Bangladesh, have adopted policies that are to a great extent aligned with the CLTS approach: focus on collective behaviour change, local leadership, no subsidies coming from the central government based on national poverty classification.

This, along with the spread, adaptation and re-branding of the approach (SLTS, PATS, CATS...) was pointed out as a natural evolution and as a sign of the maturity and success of the approach. Along with it come also the tensions and contradictions when trying to go to scale: compromises in the approach, pressures to spend a lot of money... It is important to be aware of these issues and to wait until the CLTS process within a country has arrived to the point where it is possible to go to scale with quality. For instance, a critical mass of master trainers should have been trained and the capacity to implement and monitor the campaign adequately should be in place, too.

The second side event took place on Thursday at the CLTS stall and dealt with urban CLTS. We were around 20 participants, coming from different organisations: ENPHO, Lumanti, CODEF, UEMS, WaterAid, UN HABITAT, Practical Action... Each participant shared his or her insights and experience in adapting CLTS to urban areas.

The general feeling was that CLTS works in urban areas, but always needs adaptations due to their dissimilarities towards rural areas, where CLTS was developed. The main difference is that there are many actors involved with which it will be necessary to engage: landlords, tenants, slum dwellers, several government departments or local entrepreneurs. Other typical characteristics are dense settlement patterns, land tenure issues and a high share of floating population. One participant pointed out that is worth differentiating between slums and peri-urban areas, as the dynamics vary considerable between both settings. But we always have to bear in mind that still within these categories there is a broad range of situations, and the intervention will have to be adapted to the specific case at hand.

One adaptation shared was the use of local drama and street plays –instead of the ‘regular’ triggering methods–, which proved to be effective in generating behaviour change. In my research in India I found that the same had happened in a rural area, namely Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh, where local drama had been a significant and very effective awareness raising tool. What both theatre and CLTS tools have in common and, in my opinion, makes them effective is the fact that they try to engage with people’s emotions instead of having a purely rational approach to behaviour.

A final note worthy suggestion was to establish two levels of ODF in urban areas: one when nobody is defecating in the open and another when the wastewater is not anymore discharged directly into water bodies.

When the session concluded, we all had the feeling that it had been a fruitful exchange and that there is a need to have more research, sharing and learning in urban CLTS.

Date: 5 November 2013