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What color latrine would you like? Sanitation marketing in Bangladesh

Sabrina Haque's picture

Mr Jalal with one of the hygienic latrines he built for a family. To the right is the family’s old latrine.NGOs, lending agencies, and the public sector are hard at work in meeting the global sanitation target. But what about the private sector, and what about the families that do not want to wait for the next NGO to knock on their door with a better toilet? Over the past couple of years, the Water and Sanitation Program’s (WSP) Sanitation Marketing strategy in Bangladesh has tried to address these concerns by stimulating the supply and demand of hygienic sanitation facilities through the mobilization of local entrepreneurs. The objective of Sanitation Marketing is for families to have the desire and the agency to move up the sanitation ladder on their own.
 
In 2009, the pilot program began in five villages in the Jamalpur district, and has now been scaled-up to around 230 villages across Bangladesh with support from the Dutch WASH Alliance, International Development Enterprises, and the Max Foundation. WSP also strategizes and implements the project with Hope for the Poorest (HFP), a local Bangladeshi NGO, and the Association of Social Advancement (ASA), a microfinance institution.
 
Mohammed Jalal is one of the many sanitation entrepreneurs supported by Sanitation Marketing in the Hobiganj district where WSP has began scaling up the initiative since 2011. Through microfinance loans from ASA and small-business training sessions from WSP, Mr. Jalal was able to open two stores in Hobiganj. Mr. Jalal’s shops are decorated with colorful flags to attract customers and are filled with an assortment of sanitation products such as handwashing stations and off-set pit latrines. With a catalogue in hand, Mr. Jalal markets his products to local villages and gives households the chance to move up the sanitation ladder. Customers are able to choose the materials and colors of their latrine and are most importantly, able to choose the type of sanitation facility that fits into their budget. Products range from Tk 1,600 (US $20) to Tk 20,000 (US $250), and all Sanitation Marketing entrepreneurs offer an installment plan for families to pay for their products over time. WSP additionally connects these entrepreneurs to the local government in order to establish whether any families in the area are eligible for subsidies. In the Hobiganj district alone, Sanitation Marketing has been able to support over 17 entrepreneurs like Mr. Jalal to serve hundreds of happy customers. 

Have Collective Sanitation Achievements Been Sustained in Rural Bangladesh?

Craig Kullmann's picture

Poor sanitation has devastating—often overwhelming—consequences. As sanitation advocate Rose George writes in “Why there’s a Sanitation Crisis and What We Can Do About It,” the health, social, and economic toll is hard to overestimate. Research from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program’s (WSP’s) ongoing Economic Impacts of Sanitation Initiative shows that inadequate sanitation costs developing economies from 1% to 7% equivalent of their GDP and that investments in increasing access to improved sanitation and hygiene are needed. These findings are based on research conducted in Southeast Asia and India (similar studies are in progress for Bangladesh, Pakistan, and countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Carribean).

A key to improving sanitation is learning how to work at scale and how to strengthen the sustainability of improved sanitation. WSP has been implementing large-scale learning projects to investigate both questions. One place to look for insight is in Bangladesh, where access to basic sanitation in rural areas has grown significantly since 2003, when the Government of Bangladesh formulated a national sanitation policy and strategy that has been implemented by local governments.