Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stopping Open Defecation With Shit Calculation Tool of CLTS

Calculated shit per person per year
Source: Emmanuel Ato Quansah
Extension Service Specialist
Community Water and Sanitation Agency
Upper West Region

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a sanitation promotion concept based on stimulating a collective sense of disgust and shame among community members as they confront the crude facts about mass Open Defecation (OD) and its negative impacts on the entire community (Kar and Chambers 2008).

CLTS is a radical sanitation initiative which empowers communities to completely eliminate OD through community self analyses of problems of faecal-oral transmission which negatively affects them.

The concept is participatory in nature, and a bottom-up approach that prompts a self-realization among community members that OD is the primary cause of many diseases and health hazards that confront them  (Movik and Mehta, 2010). CLTS is focused on igniting a change in sanitation behaviour rather than constructing toilets. Again, the approach concentrates on the entire community rather than an individual behavior. The concept does not prescribe type of latrines and does not provide any form of subsidy.

Notwithstanding, the approach has a lot of tools that enable it to achieve its aim when applied.


CLTS has several tools that can be used to trigger communities to end OD. These tools include the transect walk, defecation area mapping, faecal - oral transmission routes and calculation of medical expenses. However, one other important tool of the concept is the shit calculation.

Nature of Shit Calculation

This is a tool that enables the communities to calculate the quantity of faeces that are released in the open in the community at a given time with the aim of stopping open defecation. This helps the community to have a self assessment of the sanitation problems which confront them. The tool allows individual households in the community to use their own methods and local measures to calculate how much they add to the problem.
Shit calculation process.

The process begins when facilitators ask community members the number of households in their community and the ones with and without latrines. Once the number of households without latrines is derived, the number of people living in each of such households is also determined.  The sum of people living in all the household without latrine forms the bases for the calculation of shit in the community. With the average shit quantum per person per day determined, the quantum of shit that the community releases in the open daily is calculated.

The calculation is further done to find out the quantum of faeces that is released in the open for a week, month, years and decade. However, in using the shit calculation tool, some questions from the facilitator to community members are unavoidable though they may cause embarrassment, nervous, laughter, shock or outrage or may start a conversation.


What are the number of households in the community?
How many households are without latrine / with latrines?
How many persons are in a household?
How many times do a person shit per day?
What is the average quantity of shit per person per day?

Key things to identify

There is the need also to identify the households that have a lot of people. Community members must be made to congratulate and clap for such households for shiting massively in the community due to their numbers. The first and the second most populated household followed by the third, fourth and fifth must be identified and congratulated for their contribution to the open defecation practice in the community. The households that have few people must also be identified. The people in such households must be encouraged to eat more and shit more after the community analysis is done.

Calculation of shit

Determine the number of times that a person defecates in a day (e.g. two (2) times in a day). Measure the quantity of faeces release per person per day using a measurable scale that the community members can easily understand. This can generate one (1) Calabash or (1) Milo container full per person per day. This can be followed by determining the amount of faeces that is released in the open per person per week.

This can also generate two (2) Olonka or one (1) bucket full. Using these same measures to calculate for the faeces released in the open by an entire household of 8 people, this can generate a (1) drum full of faeces per week. Hence, a community with 30 households and an average household population of 8 will therefore generate approximately one (1) truck load of feaces per week.

Expected Outcomes

Though the exercise of calculating shit may generate some fun, the core intention of making community members to feel disgust and shame for their OD practices is inwardly met. Also, the act of congratulating the households with a lot of people is one ways that brings out the sense of shame. The act of encouraging the households with few people to eat more and defecate openly the more also brings a sense of self analysis of sanitation situation to community members.


The shit calculation tool is very easy to use since a lot of materials are not used as compared to the defecation map. The tool encourages people to change their hygiene and sanitation behavior through the calculation. It is an effective tool to make community members feel shame and disgust of OD. The tool empowers community members to take up their own action to stop OD.