Partial Usage: Cause or Consequence?

By Alok Gangaramany, Final Mile

Many organizations have tried to deal with the problem of open defecation in India. Some programs built free toilets, only to realize later that this resulted in a lack of ownership among beneficiaries. As a result, toilets were never used for the reason that they were built in the first place. The model then moved from a supply-driven one, to a demand-driven subsidy model. New initiatives enabled toilet construction by providing villagers with the technical know-how and some economic incentives that partially offset the costs of building household toilets. However, a problem still persisted: people had no reason to buy these toilets because they did not see the need for one in their homes. So the expected demand for toilet construction did not build up as expected.

New Information, Education and Communication (IEC) initiatives under Government of India’s Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan programme (the erstwhile Total Sanitation Campaign) focused on highlighting why people should build toilets at home to begin with. Building toilets for women seemed to be a strong motivator. At Gulbarga where we conducted our observational research, we were told that this approach of highlighting the need for building toilets seems to have significantly increased demand for toilets. When people started building these toilets, a social norm around construction was created. Applications for new toilets increased significantly and overall toilet coverage improved significantly. We learned this from the Parishudh field staff at Gulbarga, where toilet coverage increased from 1,500 to over 10,000 toilets very quickly*.

A new behavior pattern around toilet usage also emerged in our observational research. In places where the space available for Open Defecation decreased, more and more women started to use toilets. We saw this in Sangwar village, Yadgir district where only women seemed to be using toilets. Men, however, continued to go outside. During our conversations, we saw that toilet usage was considered a necessity for women only. We wondered if this was a result of the focus on women in the earlier motivation initiatives. By solving the problem of low demand, had a new problem of partial usage been inadvertently created? We could also argue that this might just be another excuse used by men, since they still don’t have a reason to use toilets.

While we can debate the cause, it is probably more important to focus on the new behavior and what we need to do to change that. In an earlier post, we described sanitation as a “wicked problem” in which the problem, its causes and solution remain subjective; this statement may help us come to terms with the situation and give us some perspective. Wicked problems may not have immediate or ultimate solutions; instead, they may lead to a wave of consequences.

In line with this thinking, we have stopped asking the question of why people don’t use toilets. Instead, we are focusing on why they should. An important finding that emerged in our search for Positive Deviance behaviour, was that commitment played a major role in guiding people’s behavior. For instance, Parishudh village coordinators who were committed to the cause of preventing open defecation and who had helped in building the initial demand for toilets exhibited positive usage behavior.

Our experiment in Gunjbablad village is focused on using commitment as a lever to change behavior. As part of this experiment, we asked each household to first commit towards keeping their surroundings clean by using their toilet, and also to pay Re. 1 each (Rs 30 per month) for cleaning services. For this nominal charge, a person would come every morning and pour water (supplied by the household) mixed with phenyl into their toilet. This system of commitment towards cleaning their toilet and surroundings along with a daily reminder as part of the cleaning process was implemented about 3 weeks ago. We started with 22 households, and have now scaled up to 50 households in the village.


Beneficiary with the Cleaning Services Receipt and the Commitment Poster pasted on his house entrance, one of the Ethnolab interventions conducted by Final Mile in North Karnataka

Last week, we went to monitor the situation in Gunjbablad and noticed a positive difference in toilet usage patterns. We know that while the rains have also played a role, there seems to be a noticeable difference in the perception of toilets among the villagers. We have also implemented some new experiments last week, and are continuing to look for levers that will lead to the desired consequence.

*Parishudh is an initiative of Infosys Foundation that is working on building toilets in Gulbarga, Yadgir and Bidar districts of North Karnataka. On a visit in early 2013 to review the progress, the Arghyam team noticed a clear usage problem with constructed toilets. Essentially, toilets had been built by Parishudh but were still not being used due to a behaviour problem, primarily. Final Mile has used this as their “control” area for the Ethnolab, in preparation for the pilot roll out in Davangere.


Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)

By Priya Desai, Arghyam

Arghyam invited Dr. Kamal Kar and Deepak Sanan from CLTS Foundation and Mr. Ajay Sinha from Feedback Foundation to Bangalore in June 2013, to discuss and explore the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. CLTS is a communication approach that has shown good results in getting people to stop defecating in the open and  get on the sanitation ladder. It has been used in Africa, East Asia and some states in India. Other stakeholders in Arghyam’s Communication for Sanitation project were also present, including the Davangere district staff, the communication agencies and other NGOs and partners working on sanitation.

The crux of CLTS is that it is a participatory approach that involves the whole community to decide on ending open defecation in their villages. CLTS proponents say that the approach was responsible for a major shift in thinking about sanitation in India. For the first time in history, the term open-defecation free (ODF) emerged; until then the thinking had been mainly around toilets. CLTS brought about a recognizable shift, from measuring numbers of toilets to counting the number of OD-free communities as an outcome. CLTS is based on the natural human response to the idea of eating shit, which is one of disgust and repulsion. When communities realize this for themselves, the trigger is powerful enough to motivate them to stop defecating in the open.

The discussion in Bangalore got quite heated at times, with different viewpoints being expressed and discussed. CLTS has been very often associated with (sometimes unethical or questionable) coercive measures, to which its proponents say that it is unfortunate and unfair to associate the entire method with one negative point. They are also unequivocal that CLTS is an “all or nothing” approach that can only work in an enabling environment where there is no subsidy given for toilet construction and where there are skilled and passionate facilitators to implement the approach in the community.

Arghyam’s challenge in the Communication for Sanitation project in Karnataka is that it is working within the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan programme, which gives subsidies for toilets. CLTS is apparently completely incompatible with subsidy if implemented in its purest form. Its proponents do not recommend trying to use elements of CLTS within a subsidy regime or framework. Sustainability of the CLTS approach, given that it has not been scaled in India, is also something that needs better understanding. One suggestion that came up in the meeting was to stop NBA subsidy in one taluk in Davangere, and implement CLTS there. However there are differing points of view on whether or not this is a good idea; Dr. Kar and Mr. Sanan said that it would be tough to do something like that in a state like Karnataka but it was not impossible entirely. Their main point was that one should only do CLTS if there is an enabling environment. If there isn’t, it should be created in order for CLTS to have true impact.

About the speakers

ImageDr. Kamal Kar, CLTS Foundation

Dr. Kamal Kar is a specialist in livestock production, agriculture and natural resources by training, with special interest in Social and Participatory Development. He has worked as an independent consultant in South and South East Asia, Africa and Latin America for bilateral, multilateral and international agencies, including the World Bank, WSP, the Asian Development Bank, DFID, UNICEF, UNDP, Ireland Aid, GIZ, and a number of International NGOs, including CARE, Plan International and WaterAid.

Dr. Kamal Kar pioneered Community Led Total Sanitation, commonly known as CLTS in Bangladesh in 1999. Since then, it has been introduced and implemented in about 55 countries across the globe. It has been incorporated in the National Sanitation Strategy of at least 18 countries of which 14 are in Africa and the rest in Asia.

In 2010, Dr. Kar set up the CLTS Foundation in his hometown Kolkata. He continues to work as consultant providing CLTS trainings, follow up support and advice to NGOs, governments and bilateral agencies.

ImageShri. Deepak Sanan, CLTS Foundation

Deepak Sanan is an officer of the Indian Administrative Service. He has been allocated to the state of Himachal Pradesh. In his career, he has held positions offering experience in public finance, rural development and the water and sanitation sector while working in the state of Himachal Pradesh as well as the Government of India. He has undertaken number of assignments as a Consultant with the World Bank, IFAD, DFID, IDS Sussex and AusAid relating to his skills and experience in both public finance and rural development and especially in the water and sanitation sector in India. He has also been on the staff of the World Bank as the India Country Team Leader in the Water and Sanitation Program (South Asia).

Currently, he is the Additional Chief Secretary (MPP & Power) to the Govt. of Himachal Pradesh and also holds the charge of the Revenue, RR and NCES Departments. He is also on the Board of CLTS Foundation.

ImageAjay Sinha, Feedback Foundation

Ajay Sinha has more than 18 years of experience of working in the development sector in India, including more than 6 years in the water supply and environmental sanitation sector. An M.Phil in Psychology from Delhi University, Ajay’s core areas of expertise include capacity building, community engagement, monitoring and evaluation, project design and implementation, and field research in rural and urban water and sanitation sectors, as well as resettlement and rehabilitation initiatives.

A passionate trainer and astute planner, Ajay has managed more than 15 water supply and sanitation projects supported by multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and Water and Sanitation program-South Asia (WSP-SA), UNICEF, DFID, and state governments. Alongwith his team of water and sanitation specialists, Ajay has conducted more than 110 workshops on CLTS across various states in India and Nepal.