Community Involvement

The levels of community involvement in sanitation projects has shown to either make or break the future success and long-term sustainability of the project. The community members should be a major player during any project on the outset, starting with the process of deciding what type of facility would work best, designing the facility alongside trained professionals, providing physical labour during the actual construction and implementation of the facility, and managing the facility. Without the proper inclusion of the community through efforts such as these, the chances of future failure are greatly increased.


In order to show exactly to what extent community participation can have on the potential of success for a sanitation project, one comparative study done by S. Manikutty was conducted between two sanitation projects in Kerala, India. Both projects were nearly identical in every aspect except community involvement – one project was assisted by the Dutch and Danish governments which highly promoted community involvement, while the second project, directly ran by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA), involved very little community participation and was seen as nothing more than a water supply project. Project One incorporated the community in a significant amount of ways including deciding upon the location of the water standpipes, educating the community about the importance of safe sanitation practices, providing physical labour during the construction phase of the project, along with maintenance of the facilities. Three Socio-Economic Units (SEUs) provided the link between the resident and the KWA, helping the community with training and implementation throughout the entire project. These SEUs consisted of social scientists, responsible for fostering community involvement during all stages of the project. A committee of seven residents was elected by the community, responsible for important decisions such as picking caretakers for the facilities and maintenance. On the other hand, Project Two, lead solely by the KWA, involved almost no community participation.


The results of the study were measured in a number of factors, starting with technological outcomes. Overall, the quality of water in villages under Project One was noticeably better, along with the percentage of working taps as compared to those of Project Two (92% vs. 74%). While Project One villages had devised a plan for dealing with faults, involving reporting the problem as soon as possible to ensure quick fixing, Project Two had no such scheme. Project 1 also greatly incorporated the community in the location of standpipes, creating a greater sense of ownership within members of the community. While 40% of people in Project One switched to using only the clean water provided by the project, only 25% of those in Project Two did, which Manikutty believes is due to the education and awareness about contamination and disease from traditional water methods that was evident in Project One. Manikutty also places this education as the main reason that 10 times more people in Project One filtered their water before drinking, and 94% of people in Project One used their newly built latrines while only 34% of those in Project Two did. Furthermore, Project 1 villages continued to show involvement, through an effective manner of keeping record of what taps were functioning properly, along with reporting directly to the KWA if something needed to be repaired. Project Two, on the other hand, had no such reporting method, and felt that finding and fixing problems was solely the task of the KWA. Project One also continually held community meetings to address any issues faced by the village. Results are summarised in the table below:

Table 2: Summery of Manikutty’s Study

Project 1

Project 2

Percent of Working Taps



Percent of Residents Using only Clean Water



Percent of Residents Using Newly Built Latrines



Percent of Residents who Filter Water before Drinking



Percent of Children Using Newly Built Latrines



Percent of Residents Satisfied with the Project




Based on this evidence, community participation during sanitation projects helps build a lasting and sustainable facility. By addressing community involvement in a variety of areas, from participation during the planning, implementation, and long-term management aspects of the project, Project One illustrates a much stronger sense of community ownership and sustainability
(Manikutty 1997). While all of the information gathered points at the benefits of community participation, it should be mentioned that a number of unknown factors may have also contributed to these results, in turn skewing the data. The fact remains that community participation, as well as any participation involving multiple stakeholders is challenging, but studies have emerged to show that it can in fact help foster the success of sanitation.


Initial Steps in Building Strong Relationships

Designs and Planning Stages

Construction and Implementation