Original article from the Global Waters
In rural Cambodia, one USAID partnership, the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Enterprise Development program, or WaterSHED, is improving health and increasing the demand for sanitation while enlivening rural economies and supporting local enterprise.
Over three quarters of people in rural Cambodia do not own toilets so open defecation is common. USAID’s WaterSHED program is successfully using a “hands-off” marketing approach to enable Cambodians to change their sanitation behaviors for improved health.
“We learned from experience that people are more likely to embrace somethign new if they consider it desirable,” said Geoff Revell, program manager for WaterSHED, which also targets communities in Laos and Vietnam. The Cambodian team collaborated with local stakeholders to understand wh ich design elements appeal to rural consumers – in this case a ceramic pan that is flushed with water – and then cultivated local entrepreneurs to produce the latrines at a lower cost. Recognizing the important role of community leadership in eliminating open defecation, the team engaged the local government in the project.
The product is demonstrated at promotional events and door-to-door, and people in the crowd are encouraged to tell their story to the salesperson, also a community member. Suppliers have sold well over 50,000 latrines at full cost to the consumer, without subsidies, and will remove an estimated 25,000 tons of human feces from the open environment every year.
“I think selling latrines is much better than providing them for free to villagers because some just leave it unused or do not know how to install it,” noted Min Hi, a toilet sales agent in Battambang Province.
WaterSHED’s overarching goal is to reduce waterborne illnesses in the region- for the long term. WaterSHED is now an NGO that carries out the work started by the program. “We want to fall back and let the local entrepreneur and the local government carry it forward themselves,” Mr. Revell said.