Sanitation marketing helps make toilets more available, affordable

Golam Mostafa lived with his family for many years with an unhygienic pit latrine. Mostafa, the owner of a small printing press in Jamalpur town, had previously considered upgrading his latrine, particularly for his wife and young daughter’s use.  However, he didn’t see the upgrade as a necessity nor could he afford the estimated US$83 a new system would cost him and his family.

But then Mostafa met Hafiz Rahman, a local sanitation entrepreneur from whom he would purchase his first improved, twin-pit offset latrine, complete with handwashing facilities.

sanitaionHafiz is one of more than 200 entrepreneurs in Bangladesh who received specialized training through a sanitation marketing program supported by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), alongside other partners.

Since 2008, the program has taught entrepreneurs such as Hafiz about the construction and maintenance of hygienic latrines, as well as how to combine social and commercial marketing approaches to stimulate demand for improved sanitation facilities for the benefit of the poor. Participants learn to emphasize the benefits of improved sanitary latrines and to offer a selection of product and payment options that are helping make improved sanitation options more widely available and affordable to all consumers.

While 90 million people in Bangladesh have moved away from practicing open defecation, diarrheal diseases are still the second-leading cause of child and infant mortality, creating an urgent need for better quality sanitation options. Many rural households that do have latrines use “direct pit latrines,” which lack a water seal and are extremely vulnerable to floods and storms, destroying the latrines and spilling their contents, which spreads disease.

When they met, Hafiz talked to Mostafa about the importance of hygienic facilities with a durable superstructure and facilities for handwashing. He taught the printing press owner about the system’s benefits and also offered him a “hire-purchase” option, which allowed Mostafa to pay for his new latrine in 10 monthly installments. It wasn’t long before Mostafa’s neighbors followed his example. Today, not a single unhygienic pit latrine remains in their village cluster.

“My wife and daughter feel secure using the latrine. I also now understand the benefits of having a good toilet, especially the comforts of using it,” says Mostafa.

After receiving his sanitation marketing training, Hafiz and his wife, Salma Begum, launched a campaign in neighboring villages, hoping to motivate villagers to install hygienic latrines. They conducted demand-creation sessions to emphasize the benefits of improved sanitary latrines. As they presented photographs of various latrine models along with their cost, many participants approached the couple to place orders.

As Hafiz’s experience showed, the training helps entrepreneurs provide demand-based sanitation products and services. The aim is to effectively empower consumers and provide them with a choice of affordable options of hygienic toilet facilities. The program has motivated people to improve current sanitation practices and increased affordability for the poor thanks to the hire-purchase system.

Another member of Hafiz’s community, Laila Begum, and four members of her family used to share her neighbor’s latrine.

Hafiz offered to build her a latrine at a cost of US$100 to be paid in installments. After putting down an advance, Laila paid the remaining amount in weekly installments. Once the latrine was built, Laila said confidently, “Investing in a latrine was indeed more worthwhile than earning more by investing in my present sewing work. My social prestige has improved after constructing a good-looking, improved latrine and I feel secure, which is more important. Hafiz really opened my eyes.”

And since US$100 remains cost prohibitive for some households, the program continues to work with entrepreneur networks and private companies on innovating product design, manufacturing, and distribution to further lower the cost of improved facilities.

-World Bank Feature.