Beyond ODF: A Phased Approach to Rural Sanitation Development

July 2016

CLTS has transformed rural sanitation improvement by demonstrating that poor rural communities can build simple toilets, change their social norms, and achieve impressive collective sanitation and hygiene outcomes.

This is a book chapter taken from Sustainable Sanitation For All: Experiences, Challenges and Innovations

Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) has proved a powerful approach for triggering open defecation free (ODF) communities, but there is increasing evidence that the sustainability of these collective sanitation outcomes is fragile. Evidence also suggests that the most critical households in terms of health benefits – disadvantaged groups with the highest disease burden – are often the first to revert to open defecation (OD).

This chapter in Sustainable Sanitation for All: Innovations and Insights, unpacks a phased approach to rural sanitation development. The approach encourages community progression beyond the ODF outcome to higher levels of service that incorporate other critical sanitation outcomes: institutional sanitation; improved handwashing with soap; solid and liquid waste management; and safe water management. Each phase sets gradually higher targets for collective sanitation outcomes, with carefully designed verification criteria and sustainability checks on previous outcomes.

Achievement of the first ODF outcome is taken as proof of genuine demand and behaviour change, after which targeted support is provided to poor and vulnerable households that might otherwise struggle to achieve better sanitation and hygiene.

(Updated June 2023: the authors have published a blog reflecting on this chapter and progress since 2016, ‘Phased sanitation development 7 years on!’)

Additional details

PublisherPractical Action Publishing
RegionEast and South East Asia
ThemesClimbing the sanitation ladder, Leave no one behind, Sustainability and safely managed sanitation
ApproachesCommunity-led approaches

Robinson, A. and Gnilo, M. (2016) ‘Beyond ODF: A Phased Approach to Rural Sanitation Development’, in Bongartz, P., Vernon, N. and Fox, J. (eds), Sustainable Sanitation for All: Experiences, Challenges, and Innovations, Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing, doi:


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