Sanitation Marketing: A Brief Overview

Sanitation marketing takes a different approach to WASH than traditional development initiatives, which have often relied on donations or subsidisations of infrastructure and frequently are poorly sustained.

It is based on the concept that in order for changes to be sustained, communities need to have invested in their own facilities and have ownership over the changes that occur. Common challenges faced are that the materials required to build facilities are not available or affordable.

Sanitation marketing addresses this by working with local change agents and entrepreneurs to establish sustainable business models and local enterprises that provide improved sanitation, hygiene products, services, and education. These enterprises operate as any other private sector business and continue operations beyond the life of the initiating project, thus providing a long-term, sustainable solution for sanitation and hygiene.

The enterprises established can range from manufacturers and sale-points for products such as toilets or hygiene products, to providers of services such as ongoing maintenance or waste management. At the same time, marketing techniques are used to increase demand and willingness to invest amongst the target communities.

WASH diagram

One of the most vital aspects of sanitation marketing is engaging target communities and conducting comprehensive research on appropriate products, prices and motivations for consumer behaviour.  Furthermore, the provision of an enabling environment in which businesses can operate effectively is essential and sanitation marketing also works to develop this.

In addition to the targeted benefits of improved health outcomes and sanitation, the incorporation of market mechanisms means that there is also the opportunity to influence flow on effects such as economic empowerment, participation in education, capacity building and inclusion of formerly marginalised groups such as women, children, the elderly and disabled.

 The method has been proven in countries in Asia and Africa, where sanitation coverage has increased dramatically in recent years. In some parts of the Pacific progress on sanitation access in the past 25 years has been limited so it is hoped that, despite environmental and cultural challenges, the introduction of sanitation markets will provide valuable improvements.

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