WSP 2004 Sanitation is a Business

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WSP 2004 Sanitation is a Business
Sanitation is a business
Approaches for demand-oriented policies
Customers in a Sulabh
community latrine, India
Published by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) – 2004
Concept and publication (editorial team)
Urs Heierli (msd consulting gmbh), Armon Hartmann (consultant), François Münger (SDC),
Pierre Walther (Walther Consulting)
Bernard Imhasly, (New Delhi), Rocio Florez (WSP
Lima), Param Iyer, Jason Cardosi (WSP Washington), Programme Solidarité Eau (pseau), Partenariat pour le Développement Municipal (PDM),
Martin Strauss, SANDEC, EAWAG (Duebendorf)
Collaborating organizations
Water and Sanitation Program, (WSP), Water
Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
Peer review
Gourisankar Gosh (WSSCC), Pete Kolsky (WSP),
Rick Pollard (WSP), Carolien Van der Voorden
(WSSCC), Julian Jones (Skat Consulting),
Thomas Zeller (SDC)
Front cover, top:
Delivery of latrines for the Engadin ski
Production and layout
careof kommunikation gmbh
marathon with 25,000 participants
Front cover, bottom:
Denz Lith-Art AG
Delivery of latrine components by
rickshaw in Bangladesh. The latrine
consists of 5 rings (to be sunk below
Varicolor AG
ground) and a water-sealed platform
(shown upside down in the image)
Back cover:
A large public toilet complex – the
largest in the world – at Shirdi (India),
a centre of pilgrimage. The complex is
This publication can be obtained through
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
(SDC), Freiburgstrasse 130, CH-3003 Bern,
[email protected]
run by Sulabh and has a daily capacity
of 50,000 users.
ISBN: 3-03798-058-3
Sanitation is a Business
Approaches for demand-oriented policies
Why this Brochure?
Time for a Paradigm Shift
Scope of the Brochure
Demand and Markets for Sanitation
Demand – Somewhere Between Desires and Obligations
Creating Markets for the Poor
page 9
page 11
Supply Chains for Sustainable Sanitation
page 12
Development of Supply Chains
page 12
Looking Back at History
page 14
Sanitation was a Business 2000 Years Ago
page 14
Case Studies
page 16
Sulabh Community Latrines: 12 Million Customers Daily (India)
McClean®: Business at Railway Stations (Europe)
Private Sector and Sanitation in Rural Bangladesh
Public-Private Partnerships Focussed on Hand Washing (Global)
Sanitation as a Component of Urbanization (Bolivia)
Urban Sanitation in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)
Money from Pit Emptying and Faecal Sludge (West Africa)
Conclusions for Action
page 34
New Strategies for Sanitation – It Can Be Done
Fresh Partnerships for Sanitation
Intelligent and Effective Subsidies
page 34
page 35
page 36
Why this Brochure?
Silent Suffering
At any given moment, almost half of the developing world’s people are sick
because of unsafe water
and sanitation.
Source: WSSCC, 2003
In 2000, around 1 billion urban dwellers still lacked adequate sanitation and hygiene.
The corresponding figure in rural areas was even higher. Yet practical examples from
all over the world increasingly demonstrate that sanitation is good business, and it is
often of most benefit to the poor. This is a strange contradiction, and one whose resolution has far-reaching potential when working towards the Millennium Development
Goals (MDG).
Sanitation: still largely neglected
Sanitation is a neglected topic and should be put
much, much higher on the agenda of donors
and governments. People do not want to talk
about hygiene and sanitation; such issues are
not popular topics for public debate. This is one
of the reasons why around 1 billion people are
currently living without access to adequate sanitation. The global consequences in terms of
debilitating disease and loss of human life
almost defy the imagination.
as a goal (see the Bangladesh case). Today, the
concept of sanitation is known practically all over
the world. However, the “top down” approach of
distributing latrines with subsidies (sometimes
even distributing latrines free of charge to
beneficiaries) has not worked.
Taking a safe lower limit of USD 20 per capita
for providing sanitation services only in urban
areas, the estimated capital requirements are
around USD 10 billion for the poorest urban
areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. This
means that current responses would have to be
scaled up by a factor of 100 or more if services
are to reach those in need before 2015. (figures
from Bhatia and Hansen, 2000).
A need to recognize the importance of
sanitation and hygiene
Paradoxically enough, and in sharp contrast to
this substantial neglect, the relationship between
sanitation, hygiene and human health has been
known about since Robert Koch (1843–1910)
discovered that bacteria were a source of infectious diseases. The World Health Organization
(WHO) estimates that the global incidence of
The Global Disaster
Try to imagine a jumbo jet
filled with children, crashing without survivors, every
hour. Would this be
acceptable to the world?
And yet, every hour around
400 people – mainly children – die from a lack of
clean water, sanitation
and hygiene.
Hygiene and sanitary facility in a village in Bangladesh
Achievements so far
Public programmes for latrine construction have
had an impact in the past, but this impact probably has less to do with the provision of sanitary
hardware than with the promotion of sanitation
Subsidized latrine programs did not always
respond to the demand (mid 90ties, Bolivia);
this latrine is used as a storage room by the owner
who left the village as seasonal worker
The importance of
sanitation and hygiene
Hotspots of the global sanitation challenge in densely
populated urban areas (Madagascar)
diarrhoeal diseases can be halved through a
simple gesture: hand washing with soap at critical times. Since sanitation and hygiene measures
should go much further than hand washing,
opportunities for comprehensive progress are
Poor sanitation also has an economic impact. It
is estimated that hygiene-related illnesses cost
developing countries around five billion working
days per year – a statistic that largely concerns
the poor who also lack adequate sanitation. This
is a significant economic loss. Studies have
shown that in Peru, every case of diarrhoea costs
the public health system 12 USD, and this is
money that could be better spent in prevention
(Source: WSP Peru 2003). With the appearance
of SARS and the avian influenza, public health
authorities have recently become more aware of
the major economic losses that epidemics can
cause: the decline in tourism and business travel
alone can be enough to bankrupt airlines, and
entire sectors of economic activity (tourism,
export trade) can be severely damaged.
existed, but it has remained in the “shadow” of
sanitation policies. Integrating the private sector
with a “sanitation revolution” would add much
needed dynamism to the challenge of meeting
the millennium development goals. To simply
continue as normal until funds for public sanitation programmes are doubled is a rather fatalistic approach. It is also clear that this measure
alone will never be enough. Investments in
school latrines will always be a task of government. However, the proposed new allocation of
roles between public and private sectors will
ensure that greater leverage be obtained.
NGOs play an important role in organising
communities. As the partners of Governments,
NGOs can play a very important catalytic role in
creating awareness, in conducting and implementing social mobilisation campaigns and
similar activities. There are many cases where
NGOs have successfully opened up sanitation
markets for the private sector, for instance in the
cases of Midnapur in West Bengal, or in
Despite epidemics in many
European cities, many doctors did not believe that
cholera was contagious. In
Hamburg, the main traders
feared that their businesses
would suffer if it became
known that the city was
suffering from a severe epidemic. The discoveries by
Robert Koch and Louis
Pasteur that the spread of
the disease was due to a
microorganism which could
be transmitted in contaminated water or food, led to
a new public health paradigm. Infected patients were
to be quarantined, water
and milk were to be boiled,
hands were to be washed,
and cleanliness was to be
pursued everywhere: a vast
territory for action.
Source: R. Evans
But NGOs cannot do the job alone – their
capacity is largely constrained by the total funds
that are available to the public sector, and this is
not enough. NGOs are complementary to a
business-minded private sector that is interested
in obtaining loans to construct sanitation facilities and that is willing to take the financial risks
that make things happen.
Involving the private sector as a partner
– Richard Evans: Death in Hamburg – Society and Politics in
How can the sanitation challenge be met? One
plausible approach includes involving the private
sector as a partner. The role of the public sector
could then focus on demand-orientation, market
creation and on an enabling environment
favouring the private sector to deliver on the
supply side. This private sector – be it big business, or a myriad of small enterprises stretching
from plumbers to latrine-makers – has always
– Bhatia, R. and Hansen, St., 2004: Millennium Development
the Cholera Years 1830–1910, Oxford 1990.
Goals Challenges: What can we learn from the communitymanaged urban Sanitation Programs Experience. Paper for
the Norwegian Ministry of Environment. Oslo.
– WSSCC, 2003: Water, sanitation, and hygiene: of the
people, by the people, for the people. Geneva.
– WSP (Peru), 2003: Alianza publico privado para promover el
lavado de manos en el Perú, Programa Nacional de Lavado
de Manos – Resumen Ejecutivo 2003–2006. Lima.
Time for a Paradigm Shift
Until now, sanitation has been seen as an unpopular “obligation”, a headache and an
unwelcome burden for more successful water programmes. But the case for meeting
the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in sanitation is overpowering and can only
be achieved if the private sector becomes more actively involved in sanitation. Under
the new paradigm, sanitation has to be seen as an opportunity – actually, as a business.
This is not “the” answer to all problems; it is a new look at an old problem. It stems
from the idea that people have desires, they dream of cleanliness, they don’t want
to be looked at as being dirty, and their desires are a strong change agent to be
Epidemics and “laisser
In the past, many politicians have reacted to epidemics in similar ways –
“take a broom and sweep
it under the carpet”. The
SARS and “avian influenza” outbreaks are recent
examples of this tendency.
The cholera epidemics in
the city of Hamburg between 1830 and 1892 are
notorious: for many years,
the mayors of Hamburg –
an aristocratic group of
honorary gentlemen – denied that the city “had a
problem” and pursued a
policy of “laisser-faire”. In
August 1892, over 7,000
new cases were reported,
and the hospitals and cemeteries could not cope
with the patients and the
deaths. The cholera outbreak was so dramatic that
a new policy of hygiene
promotion had to be
adopted, on the initiative
of the far-sighted Senator
Hachmann and Prof. Robert Koch, the scientist
who had discovered the
cholera bacteria.
Histories, age-old beliefs
Top-down approaches, based on the conviction
that poor people have “to be told” to practice
hygiene and must “be given latrines” will not succeed. It is an unacceptable prejudice that poor
people are unconcerned by their own hygiene.
Most people know exactly what they want. They
aspire to cleanliness, comfort and a better life,
and this can be converted into a demand.
It is a proven fact: even poor people are willing
to pay for hygiene and for suitable services. All
over the world, an increasing number of businesses – sometimes very small – are making a
living from sanitation. As they do so, they are
providing a good service to their customers, who
are often poor people. Sanitation is an opportunity for both the user and the provider.
The old paradigm
The old paradigm that has been holding sway
throughout recent history is one of public neglect. Although some political leaders (like Nelson
and Graca Mandela, or Kofi and Nane Anan)
have spearheaded new campaigns to make
sanitation a top priority, we still need much more
involvement and commitment from politicians
and donors. This is one of the reasons why the
WSSCC has launched the WASH campaign. This
campaign aims to bring water, sanitation and
hygiene back into the limelight of public debate.
The old paradigm is also characterised by neglect from a public health perspective: the budgets for sanitation are low (“they will never be
sufficient anyway”) and the quality of goods and
services is correspondingly poor. Low investment
leads to low performance, and those in charge
of sanitation in ministries find themselves
trapped in a constant battle against frustration
and pessimism. This has created a climate of
resignation in response to the enormous task
that lies ahead.
Available public funds are invested in subsidies:
the resulting services are of poor quality but free,
and the subsidies are only given to a few
because such resources are not boundless.
In short, the old paradigm is a vicious circle of
inadequate resources, failure, frustration and
A new paradigm
The promoters of the new paradigm are not
suggesting a “laisser faire” policy that abandons
the responsibility for managing public health to
the private sector. Rather, the new paradigm is
built on two pillars:
1. A drastically more active public health policy
which puts water, sanitation and hygiene very
high on the political agenda, but where the
focus should entirely be on the demand side,
on market creation and on the enabling
environment. Instead of providing top-down
solutions (with “one-size fits all” subsidies),
Governments and civil society should actively
work together to promote the creation of
markets for sanitation and hygiene. This can
be done with social mobilisation campaigns
and/or financial incentives (intelligent subsidies) to invest in sanitation. Both instruments
should focus on (a) encouraging desirable
behaviours and attitudes (the “carrot”), and
(b) discouraging bad practices (the “stick”).
Public investments such as costly sewage
systems should be made in a form which
encourages the private sector in the best way.
2. A radically more active involvement of the
private sector on the supply side is needed, to
deliver creative and innovative solutions that
provide better services for all customers,
including the poor. The private sector can also
play a major role in demand creation with
innovative marketing campaigns and communication strategies.
Private entrepreneurs must be invited to see the
water, sanitation and hygiene sector as an
opportunity for good business. Accordingly, they
will invest in these “new” markets, designing
new products and services that fulfil the dreams
of people, and which respond to their needs.
Intelligent subsidies are the key,
not neo-liberal dogmas
Market forces will not resolve the problem of
sanitation without external prompting. And private enterprise responding to the demands of
poor people is not some new form of exploitation, as committed development advocates
sometimes argue. Public sector action is often
characterised by free or subsidised service provision of a uniformly poor standard. The private
sector can provide better, more diverse services
and results, where people can access the services they really want at prices they are willing and
able to pay.
Small enterprise, producing latrine components (water seals) in
Bangladesh: an effective partner for a sanitation revolution
basic services, and they should take a form that
respects their real needs. Poor people, like
others, should be seen as customers with a right
to demand, and not as beneficiaries having to
accept what ever they can get.
Many of the positive examples in this brochure
have been heavily subsidised. Perhaps social
mobilisation campaigns – as in Bangladesh –
have been promoted by donors, the Government
and by NGOs. Or perhaps water for the rich has
been taxed and the resulting revenue has been
re-distributed as subsidies for the poor (as in
Burkina Faso and Bolivia). Public investments in
school latrines are an effective way to promote
sanitation and hygiene for the next generation.
“Free” goods that are unavailable in practice
(because funds for subsidies have dried up) help
nobody. If subsidies are given, they should support the “start-up” of activities, but in a way that
ensures the continuation of activities once the
subsidies are withdrawn.
Not a neo-liberal
This new paradigm is not a
naïve neo-liberal ideology
that believes in the “miracles of the free market”.
The authors are aware that
markets for hygiene and
sanitation will not evolve
automatically. The new paradigm advocates in favour
of a strong state (as regulator, as promoter) that is
able to manage the energy
and creativity of the private
sector to provide sustainable and demand driven
solutions – in response to
one of the most striking
public health scandals of
today’s world.
Subsidies are essential and will continue to be
needed for a long time; however, they should
clearly target those who cannot pay for even
Scope of the Brochure
This brochure summarises case studies that have been taken from all over the world,
showing that sanitation can be a viable business. It seeks to motivate policy makers
and donors to embrace a new paradigm that advocates for a strong state, managing
the potential of the private sector to provide sustainable and demand driven solutions
to sanitation needs.
A poverty focus
Clearly, it is possible to base a business on the
need for sanitation and hygiene in the North.
The case studies show that this also holds true
in the poorer countries of the South, sometimes
even under extreme circumstances.
A poverty focus
Services for the poor
should not be “poor services”, as is often the case
when services are provided
for “free”. What is more
important is that they are
desirable, accessible and
affordable. Under the new
paradigm, numerous jobs
are created for small businesses.
Poor people – in this case producers of clay rings – benefit
This brochure adopts a strong poverty focus,
but the recommendations are also meant to be
useful in transition countries. The majority of
businesses that generate income from sanitation are small enterprises, some coming from
the informal sector. And it is the poor who
stand to benefit most, if products are affordable and adjusted to their demands.
most from the sanitation revolution (Bangladesh)
Learning from case studies
A global business case
This brochure is a first step towards a new
approach, showing a variety of different best
practices. It tries to establish links to a global
business case and to the case studies on water
and sanitation that are being edited by the
Norwegian Ministry of Environment and others,
in preparation for the Spring 2004 meeting
of the Global Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD).
Some of the principles which are demonstrated
in the case studies from the North are valid for
developing countries as well.
Not surprisingly, many of the case studies
that are described below would benefit from
more in-depth analysis. However, this does not
weaken the positive value of the conclusions
drawn, with respect to the significant potential
of demand driven models to achieve the
MDGs in sanitation.
Why not look at success stories in industrialised countries too?
(McClean®-toilet at a railway station)
Demand – Somewhere Between Desires and
The demand for sanitation is built not only upon gentle coercion (obligations) but also
upon people’s desires. The business sector cannot survive without cultivating and
responding to this demand. If private businesses can cater to the needs of poorer
customers as well as meeting the demands of wealthier groups, the business community can become one of the key partners to reach the MDG in sanitation.
Centuries ago in rural
Bavaria, latrines were the
place where the family met
for a chat. Desires and
standards only changed
when the concept of privacy
was introduced, sometime
during the 18th century.
Demand and behavioural change
The characteristics of demand in sanitation are
complex and overshadowed by cultural taboos.
People are used to talking about food, but not
about excreta. And although everybody in this
world prefers a clean environment to a dirty one,
hygienic attitudes are not always evident.
Demand may also depend on behavioural pattens. For instance, people in India prefer open
defecation because they do not want to pollute
the vicinity of the house; they perceive a latrine
as a source of pollution, especially, if it is close to
the kitchen. But such attitudes and perception
may change, mostly due to social influence.
Adopters of latrines in India – having reversed
the perception of what is “pure” and what is
“polluted” – have strongly influenced their neighbours. Similarly, one reason why we wash ourselves every morning is the pleasure we derive
from feeling “clean”, but to a great extent we are
Why not family toilets
Cultural preferences are sometimes surprising, particularly
in sanitation: family toilet in Bavaria
also influenced by social factors. Nobody wants
to smell of sweat or dirt and give a bad impression. Prestige and social pressure are absolutely
crucial motives for sanitation and hygiene campaigns.
Once demand for latrines is created, an opportunity has arisen for the private sector to design,
make and deliver a solution that fully satisfies
this demand. If the customer is poor, then the
product must – above all – be modestly priced.
If the customer is wealthier, then the product
may be of a higher quality and a better design.
There is never only one solution: it is not true
that “one size fits all”.
Behavioural change
How many times a day
does a mother need to tell
her child to wash hands? It
is easier to throw a paper
on the floor than to walk to
the next paper bin.
The demand for such toilet chairs was high in the 19th century
when water closets were still a luxury
During Goethe’s times
Hygiene and sanitation
were only problems in
densely populated areas
and grew to epidemic
dimensions with rapid urbanisation. When Goethe
travelled to Italy and
asked where he could go
for a call of nature, the
answer was: “tutti gabinetti”, which means wherever he wanted, in the
open field.
Early markets – historic views
Social change, development of standards
It is apparent that latent demand is not sufficient
to unmask the full extent of opportunities for the
private sector in the South. It is also clear that the
small-scale private sector in the South does not
have the capacity to widen markets for sanitation
and hygiene. Small-scale businesses and propoor business models will only emerge if a
corresponding market is visible.
However, once the Queen had a loo, the
common man (and even more so, the women)
did not want to be deprived of the comfort, the
privacy and the well being that modern technology could offer. In Europe, the market for
bathrooms grew rapidly at the turn of the 20th
century. In 1910, 28% of the newly built apartments in the city of Zürich had a bathroom; in
1920, this figure had risen to 36% and in 1930,
it was over 60%.
These markets were created in Europe through
two major developments:
Water closet, a royal
1. At the end of the 19th century, and as a result
of cholera and typhus epidemics, more severe
public hygiene practices and standards pressured people to change behaviours. It became a legal obligation to include decent
latrines and bathrooms with houses.
2. At the same time, electricity, gas and piped
water became available to the middle classes
and were gradually introduced as a matter of
prestige and comfort in more and more houses.
In Germany, the first water
closet was installed in
1860 for the visit of the
Queen of England to the
castle of Ehrenburg.
These developments opened up new markets
for a wide range of hygiene and sanitation
enterprises, and eventually grew into an important economic sector. An industry specialising in
pipes, joints and fittings evolved, the plumbing
and construction sector flourished, and hotels,
baths and spas attracted rich tourists from many
parts of the world.
Such nicely decorated water closets (19th century) were
affordable only to the richest of the rich
– Ashok Dyalchand et al, 2001: “Promoting Hygiene & Sanitation Behaviours – a Manual for Programme Planning in Rural
India”, Institute of Health Management, Pachod, India.
It is also obvious that the first customers for sanitation products will not be the poorest: the first
water closet was made by Sir John Harrington
for Queen Elisabeth I, and the best markets for
luxurious bathrooms were the palaces of the
– “50 Jahre schweizerischer Spenglermeister und Installateurenverband, 1891–1941”, Zürich 1941.
– Geneviève Heller, 1979: „Propre en ordre – Habitation et vie
domestique 1850–1930: l’exemple vaudois“, Lausanne.
– Schrader, M., 2003: Plumpsklo, Abort, Stilles Oertchen.
Edition Anderweit. Suderburg, Germany.
Creating Markets for the Poor
The logic of creating markets for sanitation is similar in the South and in the North.
However, although the markets of the poor are huge, they are not easy to tap. Governments, NGOs and civil society can play a very important catalytic role in awareness creation, in conducting and implementing social mobilisation campaigns and similar activities.
Success stories
The examples in this brochure show very similar
trends and market creation patterns. In particular,
the Bangladesh case shows that it is possible to
create a thriving market for all types of latrines
through a social mobilisation campaign with the
following characteristics:
1. A strong public campaign to encourage desirable behaviour, presenting a latrine as a
symbol of prestige, comfort and privacy. The
same campaign discouraged unhygienic practice, creating strong public aversion to the
“hanging latrines” over water ponds.
2. The involvement of a dynamic and competitive
sector of private latrine producers, marketing
different types of latrines to different customer
segments. The range stretched from very
simple and affordable options to very prestigious alternatives.
Innovative solutions, where there is a
Private Sector as Partners of Vision 21
The private sector performs best under competition. It is therefore very important to avoid the
distortion of markets and to encourage competition. Technical standards should be set in such a
way that not only one supplier can provide the
required quality.
Building on people’s energy and creativity at all
levels is one of the core
elements of the WSSCC’s
Vision 21. This measure
helps to make water and
sanitation services sustainable.
If the private sector is to demonstrate its creativity,
competing models at different prices should be
allowed. There is no “one size that fits all”. Unfortunately, technical standards are exaggerated in
many donor driven sanitation programs, with
expectations elevated so high that only a few
suppliers can qualify. This is a killer for mobilising
private initiative. An important principle ignored
by many sanitation engineers is the need to
“design to price”, i.e. to ensure that the best sanitation (from the consumer’s point of view) is made
available at the price the consumer can afford.
In a similar way, the case studies in Burkina Faso
and Bolivia show how such markets can be created through financial incentives and intelligent
However, it is the role of the Government to act as
a regulator and to set adequate safety standards
in order to protect the environment from pollution.
Market potential in poor areas
Hotspots in densely populated areas
Usually, marketing is focussed on the more affluent parts of a society, but the number of affluent
people is small. For multinational companies, the
advancing middle class is the key target – a larger
market segment with the purchasing power to
afford more expensive products.
Sanitation and hygiene are essential in densely
populated areas. New solutions are therefore
most urgently required in rapidly growing urban
areas, or in densely populated rural areas. In
Asia, many regions are very densely populated
but still maintain a very rural appearance: cows,
camels, people, cars, dogs and chickens share
the same spaces.
However, it is a reality that the poor far outnumber the rich, and the poor all have desires,
dreams and needs too. In a country like India or
China, the rural markets are huge, but innovative
new marketing strategies are needed to develop
and tap them. Hindustan Lever (see below) has
pioneered rural marketing strategies that even
involve poor women from Self-help Groups as
mini-retailers in supply chains for soap.
Household Centred
Environmental Sanitation (HCES)
People are at the centre.
Issues should be addressed
at the lowest possible level
(household, neighbourhood)
and only referred to the
next level if solutions cannot be found. Individual
solutions, to satisfy criteria
of demand and affordability, are important.
– Dyalchand, A. et al., 2001: Promoting hygiene & sanitation
behaviours – a manual for programme planning in rural
India. Institute of Health Management, Pachod, India.
– Heierli, U., 2001: Poverty alleviation as a business. Berne.
SDC, 2000.
Development of Supply Chains
Eradicating diarrhoeal diseases is not a task that can be completed in one or two
years; it is the challenge for a generation at least. And demand and supply must
increase in step with each other. How can such coordinated growth be achieved?
What is needed is the development of a prosperous, sanitation business community.
Sanitary business in
Profitable supply chains guarantee
continuous supply
SUISSETEC, a 110-year-old
sanitary trade association,
counts over 12,000 registered employees, of which
1,000 are apprentices:
The estimated net income
(salaries) of this workforce
is roughly 1 billion Swiss
Francs per annum.
In developed countries, the markets for sanitation
and hygiene are reaching saturation. Nevertheless, the sanitation and hygiene sector sustains
itself through constant innovation and aggressive
marketing. In looking for new clients, the sanitation business has diversified with “jacuzzis” or
“whirlpools” into the still growing “wellness” markets. The soap and cosmetics industry is also
constantly positioning new products into markets
that are already very competitive.
A sanitation outlet in the South (Mozambique)
challenge. Usually, plumbers and masons in the
South are semi-skilled, they have low status and
they work mostly in the informal sector. This
means that they cannot create markets on their
own, but if there is a demand, they can deliver
goods and services at very low costs.
Maintenance of demand
Behavioural changes need time; they are social
processes that require collective action. It is not
possible to change intimate attitudes in one step
and only through rational means.
A sanitation outlet in the North (Switzerland)
In comparison, the markets for sanitation and
hygiene in developing countries appear to be
almost endless. Once the “affordability” barrier
is crossed, demand can grow more or less continuously. However, the maintenance of profitable and performing supply chains is a real
For social mobilisation campaigns to be effective, they must be astute, continued and repeated. Usually, a lot of energy is released after any
epidemic, since this serves as a rude wake-up
call for civil society and public authorities. Today,
Surat is considered to be one of the cleanest
cities in India, after it got such a bad name when
the plague broke out in 1994.
How can the drive for continuous campaigns be
maintained? This is only possible through public
pressure and lobbying, through campaigns such
as the WASH initiative of the WSSCC.
A small-scale sanitation entrepreneur who taps the rising demand
for latrines in Vietnam
Nguyen Tan is a 58 year-old man, with thirty
years of experience working as a small-scale
private mason. Mr. Tan is married, with 4 children: he has 3 sons and 1 daughter. All of his
sons have followed in his footsteps, carrying on
the family tradition by becoming masons themselves.
Due to limited work opportunities in his home
village, Mr. Tan had to work as a migrant
labourer on short-term contracts. This line of
work only allowed him to come back home for a
few days every 2 or 3 months.
In December 2003, he was invited to attend a
workshop organized by International Development Enterprises (IDE), an international NGO that
promotes small-scale private sector development and stimulates demand for sanitation through rural
marketing. The workshop targeted masons like Mr. Tan and was aimed at improving local
techniques for building hygienic latrines.
Once IDE had started to create a market for sanitation, it did not take too long for Mr. Tan to realize
that local demand for latrines was increasing – not only in his commune but also in neighbouring
areas. He thought that the semi-septic tank model promoted during the workshop would become a
“hot seller” in his area, because of the benefits it had to offer such as convenience, hygienic design,
and reasonable prices.
Realizing that the construction of the semi-septic tank requires a large amount of concrete, Mr. Tan
decided to start his own concrete business to meet the rising demand. He purchased iron to make a
ring mould, hired a venue for business transactions, advertised his concrete rings, and started
building “ringed” latrines.
Recently he was invited to attend a village promotion meeting, to talk about the techniques of building this type of latrine. After the meeting, 25 out of 40 participants decided to place latrine orders
with him on the spot. The rest of the participants said they would discuss the expenditure decision
with their family and would place an order later. Given short-term cash constraints from his potential customers, Mr. Tan has only built 50 latrines in 3 months, yet he remains confident that many
more people will come back soon after the peanut harvest in April.
It is important to note here that as a businessman, Mr. Tan believes in after-sale service. He said:
“My customers are my neighbours and village-fellows, so I feel responsible for doing a good job”.
He also offers a guarantee on his sanitation products for 6 months from the time of purchase.
He believes that the “quality of the product and the prestige of his service should come first”.
Size and scope of the
sanitary sector
It is difficult to estimate
the economic importance
of the sanitary sector.
Plumbers install water
pipes, toilets and bathrooms, but they also
install gas pipes, heating
and cooling systems. Producers of fittings and tiles
supply bathrooms and
kitchens, but also shops
and restaurants. The industry incorporates manufacturers of ceramic tiles,
ceramic toilet products,
and a very decentralised
trade of plumbers, masons,
tile-layers and sanitary
In a broader sense, it also
includes the soap and
cosmetics industry, the
perfume industry, manufacturers of toilet paper
and diapers, sanitary
towels, tampons etc.
Mr. Tan is very optimistic about the future of his sanitation business. He has plans to expand his business by selling a large quantity of latrine rings and to build latrines regularly. He will hire 2 more
workers and recruit one of his sons from the city to help him with his business. Life is much better for
him and his family now. He does not have to travel far from his family to earn a living. During an
average month, he believes he can make about 750,000 VND (or USD 48) more than he could earn
before he started the new business – more than doubling his monthly income. Additionally, he has
work all year round, both in dry and rainy seasons, which provides a consistent income for his family.
Sanitation was a Business 2000 Years Ago
Comfort and luxury were
always close to sanitation.
The term latrine originates
from the roman term
“latrina”, which was a short
form of the roman “lavatrina,” the washroom.
Perceptions, practices and behaviour in sanitation changed significantly over
centuries and across cultures. What remained is the people’s desire for cleanliness,
hygiene, and comfort. This desire, sometimes even for luxury, is the basis for
making business with sanitation. Historic examples invite reflection on some of
the key issues.
Community latrines 2000 years ago
Fortuna, operation and maintenance
The public (community) latrines used by the
Romans needed access to water and drainage.
The design was simple, normally consisting of a
row of seats made from marble or limestone. The
faeces fell down to a drainage canal that was
periodically flushed.
Fortuna, the Roman goddess for all aspects of
health and well-being, often appeared in the
paintings of these latrines. Until the early Christian age, defecation was considered as an
integral part of human life and nature and,
therefore, subject to discussion and communal
cultural practices.
With the expansion of the Roman Empire, this
concept of community latrines became a standard – not only in Europe, but in the Near East
and in North Africa as well. Archaeological
excavations show that many of these facilities
were decorated with ornaments, water games
and sculptures.
Roman Community
According to historic research, these community
latrines were managed and operated by “conductores foricarum”. These were people who had
a kind of lease arrangement with the State and
who were authorised to collect fees from clients
using the latrines.
Privacy was not needed. On the contrary, many
of these latrines were meeting and chatting
points. The clientele would sit together in a circle,
engaged in conversation and debates; this
custom is documented in various wall paintings
and text fragments.
“Visire tacite, Chilon docuit
subdolus” was found painted on the wall of a public
latrine in the Roman city of
Ostia. The translation is:
“The cunning Chilon is
teaching us how to fart
without noise.”
Latrinae publicae
Community latrine in Dougga, Tunesia: constructed by the Romans in the first century A.D.
Relevance of this case for MDG
The service of sanitation can be offered in many
different ways and forms. Even in ancient history,
faeces and urine were not always considered as
“wastes” but as potential sources of wealth and
Lessons learnt for policy making
Roman coin
The Roman emperor Vespasian introduced a tax on urine.
Sanitation can be subject to a cultural dialogue. In many cultures, adequate sanitation is
a traditional part of health and well-being and
is associated with cleanliness.
Sanitation was money
Pecunia non olet – money does not stink
“Gastrum urinarum” (urine containers) gave men
the opportunity to urinate in the public free of
charge. Craftsmen from the wool and leather
industries put amphorae with broken tops at the
doors of their workshops into which men could
urinate. The urine was then used to clean wool
and animal skins. Urine had an economic value.
This practice was even considered as a potential
for generating public income. Contemplating
a tax reform, the Roman emperor Vespasian
(69–79 A.D) wanted to tax these urine
amphorae. For this, he was criticised by his
son, Titus.
Taxing urination and defecation in public
places seems an exotic idea today, but the
notion goes back as far as Roman times.
Masking bad smells
with fragrance
– Illi, M., 1987: Von der Schissgruob zur modernen Stadtentwaesserung. Zurich.
– Schrader, M., 2003: Plumpsklo, Abort, Stilles Oertchen.
Edition Anderweit. Suderburg.
Perfume was not a solution
to sanitation and hygiene
problems. But it made the
omnipresent stench more
bearable. The French perfume industry started to
boom in the 18th century
and has, since then, developed to a multi-billion
The historian Sueton documents the reaction of
Vespasian: Vespasian put the first coins of this tax
under the nose of Titus and asked him whether
the money had a bad odour. When Titus
responded that it did not, Vespasian mentioned:
…and yet these coins are derived from urine.
This story leads to the well-known quotation:
“pecunia non olet” – money does not stink.
Perfume bottle from the 18th century
Sulabh Community Latrines:
12 Million Customers Daily
Every day, Sulabh provides sanitation to 12 million people and charges a small fee,
demonstrating that even poor people are willing to pay to use a clean toilet. Sulabh
is running over 6,000 community centers all over India, but this is still a drop in
the ocean. The founder, Bindeshwar Pathak, says that over 150,000 such centres would
be needed. The service is just breaking even, but now Pathak wants to create a
new organisation that will allow him to expand further.
Business approach
Relevance of this case for
MDG discussions
The Sulabh model is characterized as follows:
Sulabh normally constructs and maintains the
CTC for public use on a pay-for-use basis.
Sulabh toilet complex in Goa
Local or other sponsoring authorities provide
the lands and funds for construction of these
public toilets-cum-bathing facilities.
Sulabh raises resources by charging the sponsoring authority 20 percent of the project cost
as implementation charges.
Today, around 6,000 community toilets complexes (CTC) have been constructed. The monthly
revenue per CTC is estimated as Rs 45,000
(900 USD), if at least 50 percent of the users
make payments of Rs 1 per visit. Operation and
maintenance (O&M) costs for each CTC is
estimated at Rs 43,000. This means that presently, it is not possible to provide any money
towards payment of interest and depreciation
to cover capital costs.
The perspective is now to add additional plants
that generate biogas from human waste. Today,
around 2 percent of the CTC have such plants.
A Sulabh complex in New Delhi with
Development of the business
the founder, Dr. Pathak
As mentioned in the study of Bhatia and Hansen,
Sulabh does not face legal problems in its work
because the request for setting up the facility
generally comes from the civic authorities.
Collaboration between the public and the
private sector appears to be one of the key
factors for the success of the model.
When Bindeshwar Pathak wanted to relieve the
“scavenger” caste from their horrible task of
cleaning toilets by hand, he chose to deal with
the poorest of the poor and with a group of
people who were not only badly paid but also
stigmatised and discriminated against.
The Sulabh solution of providing a clean toilet
against a nominal fee has shown that even the
poor are willing to pay for the use of a decent
However, despite admirably serving over 12 million customers every day, Sulabh has not found
a miracle model to combine social service provision with profitable expansion. In its present
stage, Sulabh community centres are just breaking even, and the expansion and scaling up is a
new challenge.
Lessons learnt for policy making
Successful collaboration between the private
and the public sector is possible in sanitation
in urban slums and on their fringes.
The replication of the model still largely
depends on the willingness and motivation of
the local authorities to invest into the construction of CTCs. This is a severe limitation
with the Sulabh model.
– see Bhatia and Hansen, op. cit
Meeting Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh
By Bernard Imhasly, correspondent NZZ, New Delhi
What does it take to make community toilets
sustainable? India's Sulabh has done a great job
but still teeters on the brink of profitability.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that if he were to be reborn, he would want to be
born into a family of scavengers. Such a rebirth would probably guide Ghandi
to cross paths with Bindeshwar Pathak.
“Scavengers” is the name used in India to describe the untouchables of untouchables – night soil collectors who clean up the faeces from millions of Indian
homes equipped with dry latrines. The caste system socially ostracises groups
who deal with dead matter, be they pallbearers, tanners or sweepers. But even
these people turn away from the “Bhangis”, who clean the night soil away.
120 million Indian households have no toilets at all.
In the great majority of rural households, people leave their homes at dawn – in rain or sunshine, cold or heat – in order to
relieve themselves in the fields. In the small towns and cities of India there are around ten million homes fitted with dry latrines
and serviced every morning by scavengers, who load the night soil into a container by hand, heave it onto their shoulders and
then throw it into the next ditch or pond.
The logo of “Sulabh International Service Society” is made up of a woman with a metal container on one shoulder. The red “X”
on the dirty container underscores the society’s aim: eliminating the dirty work of scavenging.
The existence of Sulabh is the reason why a reincarnated Mahatma Gandhi might meet with Dr. Pathak. Pathak founded Sulabh
in 1970, after having worked in a Bhangi colony, where he did research for his sociology thesis. The inhuman conditions inspired
him to take up Gandhi’s mission: to give the untouchables back their human dignity, by bringing an end to such dirty work.
Pathak did not follow Gandhi’s method of a political and moral crusade, which had culminated in the ban of the caste system in
the Indian constitution. By the time Sulabh was founded, the constitution was already twenty years old, but the practice of
scavenging had continued nonetheless.
Instead of appealing to human solidarity, Pathak developed technical alternatives for dry latrines. In so doing, he also found
a way to address the wider issue of open defecation, which Gandhi had already openly criticised in comparing India with a large
latrine. Given the population density of modern India and the growing stress on land and water resources, the open disposal
of human waste – 850 million litres of urine and 135 million kilograms of faeces every day – is a major factor influencing
the country’s health profile.
34 years later, Sulabh has become India’s largest NGO. It has built 1.2 million private latrines and over 6,000 “Community
Toilet Complexes” (CTC). The technology is simple: the waste is washed off with 1–2 litres of water into one of two tanks, where
the water slowly seeps off and leaves solid dung. What was revolutionary in Pathak’s approach was his “delivery model”. Unlike
similar public toilets put up by municipal bodies, Sulabh’s CTCs are backed by a workforce of 60,000 paid “social workers”,
who see to it that the toilets look clean and inviting to the 12 million daily customers. Instead of delivering a free service, which
usually turns the State toilets into stinking sewers, the CTCs levy a small user fee. “I demonstrated that even poor people are
ready to pay if they get a clean and safe environment for their daily ablutions”.
The income generated is supposed to cover operating costs. “Sulabh”, says Pathak, “is proud of the fact that it has never
accepted free money for its operations”.
As a result of this success, “Sulabh” (which means “easy to maintain”) has become a household word in India. However, new
challenges are looming large – “we are still at the beginning of the beginning. We are a candle in the dark”, says Pathak.
Experts estimate India’s need at 120 million additional private toilets and 150,000 CTCs if it is to attain minimal hygiene
standards and remove the source of several fatal diseases. Pathak recognises the need for a change of pace and direction:
“No doubt, we have to scale-up our services. With the present growth we will never attain the Millennium Development Goals”.
The product itself needs to be changed, too. There is little hope that the State will provide the country with a dense network
of underground drains serving private flush-toilets. India’s urban Harappa civilisation may have had an underground sewerage
system as long as 5,000 years ago, as Sulabh’s Toilet Museum in Delhi shows. But, says Pathak “the first modern sewer was built
in Calcutta in 1870. Today, 134 years later, we have equipped only 232 cities with underground drains – out of over 4,700
towns, not to speak of villages”. Does this mean continuing with the Sulabh technology? “No, this is not an elegant solution.
The waste still has to be evacuated from the chamber. It may be dry and hard by the time the trough is full, as well as
non-smelling and a good fertilizer. But this will only be useful in the rural areas. But who will do it in the urban slums? The
scavengers? No way!”
A possible solution can be seen in a prototype biogas installation at Sulabh’s headquarters in Delhi. The waste is slushed into
a closed fermenting tank, and gas is piped away for lighting or cooking purposes, or for driving a water pump supplying the
CTC. However, simple as such an installation might be, it raises the investment costs for toilets, and the savings on energy from
the gas will not be enough to compensate for this capital outlay. The elasticity of prices for the primary service to toilet users is
limited. “Maybe we could charge two rupees instead of one”, says Pathak, “but even that won’t be sufficient”.
Even the other income of Sulabh (the municipal authorities pay Sulabh a fee of 20% over and above the construction costs of
a CTC) will not allow the generation of enough capital.
Pathak has decided to loosen the financial firewalls of his organisation against outside lenders/donors. A second institution,
“Sulabh Sanitation Foundation”, will be given the mandate to take loans and grants from international bodies and Indian
financial institutions. The foundation would finance not only the technological shift – the construction of CTCs running on
biogas – but also the expansion programme. Sulabh will partner with an NGO in each of the 560 or so districts of India, and
these partners will run local CTCs and maintain complexes in housing colonies. This change will call for the scaling-up of training
and monitoring institutions within Sulabh.
Sulabh also wants to take a new look at its practise of financing existing CTCs solely the income of their operations. Pathak has
seen what has happened under his nose in Delhi. India’s capital has over one thousand slums, and the combined effects of
Sulabh’s CTCs (282 in the city) and the public toilets are not enough to draw people away from defecating in the open. The
municipality has therefore allowed private companies to set up toilet complexes. It has also allowed them to lease the outside
walls as advertising space. This proved to be a phenomenal success – and a humiliating defeat. After a Supreme Court order
banning large advertising boards along the City’s streets, these toilet walls suddenly became hot property and gave the toilet
companies a windfall of profits – far larger than anything they could earn from their primary (intended) service.
This toilet service soon proved ineffective. User fees were set too high to attract customers, and although such toilets mushroomed
all over the city, they were located along the streets with dense traffic – not where they were primarily needed, namely in or
around slums. On some stretches, one can find up to four toilets in one kilometre.
Sulabh wants to be where the need for sanitation is located. However, it looks difficult to use CTCs as advertising space in
shantytowns – their inhabitants are not consumers of ice creams or Nescafé, they just need the basic service of going to the
toilet. One such CTC lies at the entrance of a small slum called “Parvu Market”. The colony consists of several hundred huts,
squeezed between an open floodwater drain and the walls of the South Delhi pumping station. No company wants to rent wall
space here, because the monthly income of residents is not more than 1,500 Rupees (less than 30 Euros). Daily-wage labourers,
coolies and rickshaw pullers live here, as well as temporary migrants who drift into the city by the tens of thousands every year.
McClean®: Business at Railway Stations
Mr Weisskopf is an economist and the founder of the Swiss company McClean®. Already
in his childhood, Mr Weisskopf, liked clean and well-maintained toilets. To him, toilets
were places to rest and relax. In 1995, McClean® opened the first two hygienic centres
in railway stations in Bern and in Berlin. Carried by its clear focus on providing a high
quality service, McClean® is rapidly expanding all over Europe.
The birth of the business idea about 10 years ago
was relatively simple; in search of new ideas and
markets, Mr. Weisskopf had to travel through
Europe to test toilets at railway stations. He was
mandated by a ceramic factory, which wanted to
learn more about opportunities for investments in
public toilets.
What Mr Weisskopf saw was shocking: dirty public
toilet facilities, with no safety for the customers,
and with no service. During these visits, the
business concept of McClean® was developed.
minated, and equipped with high quality installations, customers find themselves placed at ease in
comfortable surroundings. McClean® offers more
than just sanitation – customers can take a
shower, and women find a place for applying
their make up. Articles for personal hygiene –
such as shampoos – are also sold.
Winning more
Mr. Weisskopf learned from
personal experience that
sanitation means business
if service matches demand.
His vision is to establish
McClean® successfully in
Asia, with an adapted
Personnel permanently supervise the centres, and
customers also find alarm buttons. This increases
the feeling of being at ease, particularly among
women. Small children and disabled people can
enjoy hygiene and comfort tailored to their needs,
free of charge.
Figures, pricing
The average users of McClean® are: men’s urinal
(43%), men’s toilet cabins (18%), women’s toilet
cabins (38%), shower facilities (1%).
Using McClean® is not cheap, but the socially
acceptable alternative – to drink a coffee in a
nearby restaurant and then use the toilet – is
around 2–4 times more expensive.
Reception area of McClean® hygienic centre
Providing centres of hygiene and comfort
McClean® sets new standards in cleanliness, safety and high quality service in sanitation. Visitors to
centres of hygiene should feel relaxed and comfortable. To achieve this feeling, Mr. Weisskopf
is convinced that hygiene must be visible and
Therefore, McClean® introduced a retail marketing approach which has its price. Because the
hygienic centres are spacious, sufficiently illu-
equipment, material
operational costs
salaries, personnel
depreciation, write-off
Public toilets in Zurich
100 years ago, there were
no public toilets in Zurich
although it is the largest
city in Switzerland. The city
police were tasked to
ensure that open defecation did not have a negative impact on the “city
image”. Today, around 43
city employees guarantee
the service of 92 public toilets, which are used by an
estimated 1–2 million people (visits). In 2003, the
service cost the taxpayer
around 4 million Swiss
Francs. As the toilet use is
free, the only way to estimate the frequency of use
is through the consumption
of toilet paper; this explains
the wide gap between 1
and 2 million users.
Pie chart: Cost structure of hygienic centres
Therefore, the establishment of partnerships with
railway stations is important, with benefits for both
partners. The public sector has to make the land
and infrastructure available (not free of charge
but for a reasonable price) and the private sector
should provide the best service and maintenance.
Relevance of this case for MDG discussions
Innovation, a clear business strategy, entrepreneurship, and the sensitivity of the company to
demand are key success factors. Besides serving
its clients, the company also has the capacity to
satisfy its shareholders.
Close to customer needs
And people are apparently willing to pay – for sanitation services as well as for personal hygiene.
Today, McClean® owns 22 hygienic centres, serving
around 10 million customers each year. The company employs around 260 well-trained people.
How costly is the use of
a toilet?
Is 2 Swiss Francs too much
to pay to use a McClean®
toilet? Or 1 Swiss Franc to
use a McClean® urinal?
Many people feel that this
is costly. One alternative is
to use the toilet of a restaurant and drink a coffee; but
this will then cost a total of
3 to 4 Swiss Francs. What
about the public toilets? If
the City of Zürich spends
4 million Swiss Francs for
1–2 million users, then
each visit costs the taxpayer
2 to 4 Swiss Francs.
(1 USD=1.25 Swiss Francs)
Development of the business
Lessons learnt for policy making
Business development is promising because the
business concept is convincing. The opening of
new centres is planned, and the McClean® brand
has been registered worldwide.
Businessmen, from the formal as well as from
the informal sector, must be encouraged to
elaborate innovative concepts and models in
response to opportunity.
Reaching the sanitation standards that European
customers demand is not a low budget undertaking. The initial investment for the establishment of
such a hygienic centre with around 20 toilet
cabins, urinals, and 3 showers (on about 260m2
in a railway station) is around 750,000 Euro.
Public Private Partnership models are successful
vehicles for addressing sanitation issues in
places where the flow of potential customers is
Around 21% of the income of an average hygienic centre can be regarded as revenue generated
for the company. Salary costs represent another
Public-private partnership with railway
These relatively high investments are a limiting
factor for business development. According to Mr.
Weisskopf, McClean® needs locations at public
places where there is a high frequency of passengers, such as railway stations. The passenger frequency at airports, for example, would be already
too low to run a McClean® centre profitably.
The principles underpinning the successful
McClean®‚ business are valid for poor countries.
McClean® is successful because customer satisfaction, the most important business indicator, is very
high. Around 70 to 80% of the customers are very
satisfied with the service and regularly use it.
Luxury toilets, to meet the demand at
European railway stations
The Private Sector and Sanitation in
Rural Bangladesh
Until the mid-1990s, SDC, Danida and UNICEF supported around 1,000 Government
latrine production centres (LPCs) in rural areas in Bangladesh. Latrine coverage
remained at a low level, despite high investments. This situation changed drastically
when a new approach was adopted – moving from a cheap hardware focus towards
social mobilization, to create a market for private latrine producers. The latrine coverage increased rapidly, and thousands of new jobs were created in the private sector.
Today, around 6,000 small rural enterprises produce some 1.2 million latrines per year.
Subsidized programme
In response to widespread need for improved
sanitation in rural Bangladesh, SDC, Danida and
UNICEF supported – until mid-1990s – around
1,000 Government latrine production centres
(LPCs). These centres did their job with low motivation, without passion or marketing spirit. They
were told by the Government and by the donors
to produce around 200,000–400,000 subsidized
water seal latrines each year.
Despite subsidised prices, sales were low and
severe stock piling became one of the hallmarks
of the programme. A conclusion began to gain
acceptance that “people are not interested in
latrines”, even if subsidies are increased. But, was
this really true?
A new approach
All this changed radically when a social mobilization campaign was designed and implemented by
UNICEF and the Government of Bangladesh
(GOB). This campaign aimed at positioning
latrines as desirable products, increasing the
prestige, comfort and privacy of customers.
The annual budget for this social mobilization was
much lower than the combined donor/Government expenditure for the maintenance of the LPCs.
The impact of this nation-wide campaign was
interesting. Stock piling in government LPCs
worsened. At the same time, latrine coverage
increased within a few years from around 25%
to around 50%. Both effects had a common
cause: small workshops in rural Bangladesh had
become interested and motivated because
producing and selling latrines had become
good business, once the market had been
Mechanisms of private sector involvement
In rural Bangladesh, there are many small workshops that turn out cement or clay products, such
as pots or parts for windows. More than 50% of
these workshops operate with working capital of
less than USD 20. Only 10% of them use bank
loans or money from private creditors.
Before the social mobilization campaign, many of
them did not produce latrine components. The
profit potential was assumed to be negligible due
to competition from the subsidised LPCs.
Social mobilization in rural Bangladesh
Today, private producers represent the sanitation
backbone of rural Bangladesh. The social mobilization campaign had stimulated the market for
their products.
Private workshops sell latrines at a price of around
USD 10, and the annual profit may only be
around USD 200–300 for a workshop. This
seems like a modest sum – 1 USD per day.
Nevertheless, this is substantial progress in
rural Bangladesh.
People’s Desires
Rich people in Dhaka had
a sumptuous bathroom
next to every bedroom.
Private sanitary shops sold
colourful fittings, tiles and
toilets to their more affluent customers. And how
did the poor feel? Were
they so very different in
their desires?
Millennium Development Goals
Observing the enthusiastic
response to its renewed
national sanitation campaign, the Government of
Bangladesh (GOB) has set
an ambitious target to
achieve total sanitation by
2010. To achieve this, sanitation coverage has to be
increased by 9% each year.
This will imply the fabrication and selling of millions
of latrines each year. Only
the private sector has this
Sanitation Coverage
in rural Bangladesh
The Social Mobilization
(SocMob) campaign was
discontinued in 1997. This
campaign led to drastic
increases in sanitation coverage, but also assisted the
spread of so-called unsanitary latrines. In 2000,
around 47% of rural
households still did not
have access to a latrine.
There is a strong case for
involving the soap industry
in a public private hand
washing initiative.
Where cheaper materials were used, private
producers would offer warranties with fitting. The
supply chain consisted not only of production
workshops, but also of rickshaw wallahs to transport the rings and slabs, semi-skilled labourers to
install them, and other workshops producing
bamboo superstructures.
The challenge of the
In Bangladesh, it was
realised that the MDGs
could never be reached
without drawing in the private sector as a partner.
The social mobilization
campaign was an ideal
approach to make this
Stockpiling in a Government latrine centre which was
unable to compete with the mushrooming private latrine
Another reason for the success of the private sector
may have been that access to the subsidised
products of the LPCs was not based on the type
of straightforward business transaction that is
familiar in any village market. Overall, the private
sector was able to provide a clearer, broader,
more comprehensive and better-customised
response to the demands of end-users.
producers after the social mobilization campaign
Ups and downs since the mid-90s
Was it the private sector or the
The creation of a market is a costly affair, and it
would be an illusion to think that this is a task for
small enterprises. Government involvement here
was crucial.
Create even more Jobs
for the poor
The 6,000 rural sanitation
workshops in Bangladesh
represent probably one of
the most important rural
industries in this country.
Would it be a good idea to
create a public-private
cement industry? Each
latrine consumes roughly
one bag of cement, and
this means a volume of
some 50,000 tons per
year. This is an opportunity
for cement manufacturers
to join the party and to
support the production
workshops with technology,
training, product development,
branding, but not with subsidised cement – which
would distort the market.
The social mobilisation campaign had two main
axes of intervention, based on a “carrot and stick”
strategy. It made sanitation desirable for reasons
of prestige, comfort and privacy (the carrot). And
it discouraged bad sanitation practices and positioned these habits as socially undesirable (the
The campaign worked with village leaders
(mullahs, teachers) and involved the ANSARS, a
group of village leaders consisting of about
400,000 people. These ANSARS – comparable to
scouts in other countries – were motivated to use
latrines, but they also destroyed the “hanging
latrines” which were typically constructed over
village ponds.
Why did the private sector succeed?
Whereas the Government centres produced a
single product to meet the quality standards that
donors had requested during their annual review
missions, private producers served different customer requirements in response to variations in
demand. Some wanted a more luxurious model,
others a cheaper one.
Results are promising. It is estimated that around
1,000 of the 86,000 villages in Bangladesh have
reached total environmental sanitation. This may
not look so impressive at first glance, but “total
sanitation coverage” means that every house has
a latrine, and this is a remarkable achievement in
a country where poverty is so widespread.
This is only a first step on the way to meeting the
MDGs. At the Asian sanitation conference, the
Government of Bangladesh concluded that a
renewed and intensive social mobilization campaign would be required to further increase sanitation coverage. Campaigning started in earnest
with the proclamation of a national sanitation
month in October 2003.
Private producer, catching the customers of the Government
latrine centres (Bangladesh)
tion campaign in the mid-1990s was impressive
in many ways, including job creation in the
private sector.
Government and donors should continue to open
up markets for hygiene and sanitation through
social mobilisation. The strategy should follow the
lessons learnt during the micro-finance revolution:
progress is not made by subsidising interest rates
but by reducing transaction costs. This should
make workshshops more profitable.
– Chadha S. and Strauss M, 1991:
Promotion of rural sanitation in
Bangladesh with private sector participation”, Dhaka, SDC.
– DPHE, 1994: National survey on
latrine producers and market situation. Dhaka.
Lessons learnt for policy making
Sanitary Shop in West Bengal
of Bangladesh, 2003: Bangladesh
Subsidised LPCs undermine sustainable sector
development and are not needed.
Relevance of this case for MDG discussions
Successes are possible in rural areas where the
population density is high and the latrine coverage relatively low. The impact of the first sanita-
– Government of the People’s Republic
Country Paper on Sanitation. Paper
at the South Asian Conference on
Sanitation, Dhaka.
Phasing-out subsidised public latrine production, and stimulating the market for latrines
can effectively lead to a sector revolution (more
jobs, higher latrine coverage).
– Heierli, U., 2000: Poverty alleviation
as a business. The market creation
approach to development. SDC,
Marketing Sanitation in West Bengal: Rural Sanitary Marts (RSM) in Midnapur:
“In 1993, when the Government of West Bengal accepted the challenge of replicating the Midnapur model across the State, the key
tasks of marketing sanitation and meeting demand were delegated to a new and radically different institution: the rural sanitary mart.
A rural sanitary mart is a place that manufactures and sells all of the relevant components for building low-cost latrines. It offers a range
of options designed to suit the pockets of all villagers. All options are water-sealed. As well as providing the squatting plates, pans, and
traps, sanitary marts offer all kinds of items – soap, bleach, brushes – which relate to the improvement of hygiene and behavioural
Sanitary marts also provide a focal point in the campaign to promote the construction of latrines. They are staffed by local people. Staff
are trained at district or State level and are able to generate awareness, to stimulate demand, to offer after-sales help to users, and to
train others in the manufacture and installation of the product. Sanitary marts are self-sufficient entities – part NGO and part private
business – making modest profits and using revenue to pay incentives to village motivators who bring in new latrine customers.
There are now more than three hundred sanitary marts throughout West Bengal, co-ordinated by sanitation cells at district and State
level. They are meeting the demand for sanitation in a far more efficient way than even local government ever could. As a beneficial
spin-off from the sanitation programme, they are providing valuable employment to thousands of young local people, especially women.
The Rural Sanitation Programme in West Bengal represents a remarkable collaboration between State government, UNICEF, local
NGOs and village communities. Access to sanitary latrines is now standing at 43%. In three or four more years, every family in the State
will have access to safe sanitation. This program has already attracted visiting teams from around the world, and influenced national
policy guidelines for India.
Whatever the local circumstances, it should always be remembered that delivery cannot happen without demand. Pepsi and Coca Cola
have, through successful marketing, created a demand so strong that functional supply networks are operating in the remotest regions
of Midnapur, and even the rural poor are paying for these products. Governments could take a leaf from this book: demand
first – supply follows.” Excerpt from an interview with Chandan Sengupta, UNICEF New Delhi in WSSCC, “Listening”, Geneva, 2004.
Public-Private Partnerships focussed on hand
Every hour, some 400 people – mostly children – die from diarrhoea. Growing evidence
suggests that half of them would survive if hands were washed with soap at critical
times. Changing behaviour is a challenge, but an alliance of public and private organizations can effectively target and implement large-scale hygiene promotion.
Central America
The world market for soaps
and detergents was worth
USD 88 billion in 2000,
having grown by 29% since
1996. Markets for the
“middle classes” are stagnating but there is a huge
untapped market in rural
areas and among poor
people. For them, a piece
of soap can save a life. The
global market is dominated by a small number of
multinational companies,
all of whom have strong
brand identity and enormous advertising budgets.
In Central America, a successful public-private
partnership was established to promote proper
hand washing with soap to prevent diarrhoeal
disease. Previously, only 10 percent of the people in rural Central America had used soap
properly, in other words (1) before cooking or
preparing food, (2) before feeding a child or
eating and (3) after defecation, cleaning a baby,
or changing a diaper.
The result was an overall reduction of diarrhoeal
prevalence of about 4.5% among children under
the age of 5.
The joint promotion campaign by public health
organisations and the soap industry had a
significant impact, with another 10 percent of
the people improving their hygiene practices.
Campaign in Latin America (e.g. Peru)
India: Lever’s rural marketing strategy
Because the market for soap products is largely mature in developed economies and displays stagnant growth, global companies are turning their eyes towards developing countries or emerging markets. In principle, promoting the use of soap for proper hand washing should be a promising business
idea for the soap industry.
However, tapping the huge rural market of the world’s poor is a major marketing challenge. Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) in India has set up a deliberate rural marketing strategy to reach out to over
700 million rural customers. This strategy differs substantially from conventional marketing approaches. Instead of centralising logistics by focussing on supermarkets, HLL has set up a very decentralised
system of about 7,000 redistribution stockists covering about one million retail outlets. The distribution
network of HLL directly covers about 50,000 villages, reaching about 250 million consumers.
In addition, an effective rural marketing strategy must address the issue of affordability; although
poor people have the same dreams as the middle classes, their disposable income is much lower.
They cannot afford to buy a one-litre bottle of shampoo in a single payment; they can only buy
smaller portions.
HLL has realised that sales are depressed as long as the pockets of the poor remain empty and now
tries to raise the incomes of rural families by incorporating rural self-help groups (SHG) into the marketing channel as “direct-to-home distributors”. The model consists of groups of 15–20 villagers
below the poverty line taking micro-credit from banks, using the cash to buy HLL products, and then
selling these products directly to consumers.
Products displayed at Shakti Day
Hindustan Lever’s
Shakti Project
Saving lives by promoting soap?
Another challenge in this particular marketplace
is the need for communication to change attitudes and behaviours. Mass media only reach
half of the rural population, so generating
awareness means using unconventional means
for passing on the message.
While traditional health education can raise
awareness and inform, the addition of promotion can ensure needed and sustained behaviour
change. Public-private collaboration enables the
public health agenda to be advanced by using
the private sector marketing expertise of the
soap industry. The approach takes into account
consumer needs and motivations and then delivers carefully designed and targeted messages.
Formal and informal behavioural studies in the
industrialised world have confirmed that hygiene
is a problem everywhere, so hygiene has moved
up the agenda of public health in the industrialised world.
Hand washing behaviour is surprisingly complex
This box may surprise those who assume that convincing people to wash their hands is a simple
matter of informing them that they would become ill if they didn’t do it. The facts are obvious; WSP
studies on hand washing with soap show clearly that those who do not use soap to wash their hands
after using the toilet report cases of diarrhoea five times more often than those who do use soap.
Why is this apparently simple message so hard to translate into behavioural change?
In India, there are a variety of cultural perceptions about what is “purity” and what is “pollution”: “In
rural areas, latrines are generally located OUTSIDE the house. This is due to the polluted status
accorded to objects and places associated with defecation. At the same time, within the hierarchy of
household spaces, the kitchen is considered as being (or needing to be) very pure. If the latrine is
located close to the kitchen, then according to local beliefs, it has a polluting effect on the kitchen.
This has resulted in a preference for open defecation by villagers.” A subtle consequence of these
beliefs is the need to “keep soap outdoors” (and not in the kitchen) and to use a separate soap for
hand washing after defecation. The availability of water is also crucial and hand washing with soap
after defecation in the open field is quite a difficult task. When soap and water are available at a
place before entering the house, people are ready to adopt hand washing after defecation.
Now, if the task of hand washing is to be achieved for the three critical events (before eating or cooking, after cleaning up a child and after defecation), even simple questions such as “where should the
soap be placed?” “how many bars of soap to use?” and “which water to use?” take on unexpected
complexity. Source: Dyalchand et al.
Shakti is a programme to
involve poor women as
entrepreneurs in HLL’s supply chain. If a woman joins
a self-help group (SHG) for
rural savings and credit,
she can get a loan to buy
HLL products for re-sale in
the village. Started in 2001,
the project already covers
some 12,000 villages. So
far, 2,800 women entrepreneurs have joined. A
typical Shakti entrepreneur
earns a sustainable income
of over Rs. 1,000 per
month (25 USD), which is
double the average household income.
HLL’s “Lifebuoy“
health and hygiene
education program
“Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetana”
is the single largest rural
health and hygiene educational programme ever
undertaken in India. The
objective is to educate
people about basic hygienic habits. Launched in
2002, the programme has
now covered 15,000 villages in 8 states. It has
already touched about 70
million people, imparting
hygiene education to over
25 million children. The
vision of this on-going
project is to make a billion Indians feel safe and
secure by focussing on
their health and hygiene
Still a lot to do: Hand washing behaviour in different countries:
Handwashing with
soap by mothers
Kerala (India)
After using the toilet
After cleaning up a child
Before eating
Before eating
Before preparing food
10 %
Source: WSP
The hand washing
campaign in Peru
In Peru, the „Alianza publico/privada para promover
el lavado de manos“, started in May 2003. A preliminary study revealed a
familiar picture:
a) A high incidence of diarrhoea among children (up
to 27% in the 15 days preceding the interview).
b) Only 14% of mothers
washed their hands with
soap before cooking and
only 6% after toilet use;
only 5% of children washed
their hands before eating
and only 11% after using
the toilet.
c) Every case of diarrhoea
costs the public health system 12 USD; a 10% reduction in incidence would
save 840,000 USD per
Source: WSP Peru
Hand washing initiatives making use of public
and private resources are active in Ghana, Peru
and Senegal. Ghana has launched a nationwide hand washing campaign using mass media
and live promotional events. In Peru and Senegal, consumer research is guiding the design of
promotion strategies.
By helping to relieve the burden of disease
through the use of soap, industry can eventually
benefit from market expansion. From the public
health perspective, this is a win-win situation;
market expansion generates sufficient demand
to sustain commitment towards serving poor,
high-disease risk populations.
Lessons learnt for policy making
A public-private partnership must be very carefully
designed, the roles of each partner clearly determined and spelled out, the needs and expectations of each stakeholder addressed, transparency
conveyed in all activities. A planned hand washing partnership was not implemented in Kerala,
India, for example, because of (1) the socialist
political tradition and negative perceptions of the
multinational consumer goods industry in that
State, and (2) the perception of Kerala as being a
healthy state where hygiene behaviour was
already well-practiced.
PPP programs need time and effort. Advocacy is
needed at all levels. Building partnerships is
time-consuming and requires champions within
participating organisations. To have the initiative
open to all industries is a must but also a
challenge, as competitors are not interested in
sharing proprietary information.
In addition, initiatives need to measure their
benefits in order to obtain and maintain stakeholder buy-in and resources.
WASH campaign: Hygiene is more
than just hand washing
Hygiene, with safe sanitation and water supply, is what transformed health and productivity in the industrialised countries. It is one
of history’s longest running scandals that
the same thing did not happen long ago in
other regions of the world.
In 2001, the Water Supply and Sanitation
Collaborative Council (WSSCC) launched
the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All
(WASH) campaign, aiming to mobilise political awareness, support and action towards
achieving the Millennium Development
Goals. In an attempt to alter decades of
neglect on key issues, WASH focuses on
placing sanitation and hygiene centre-stage,
alongside water. Only by addressing this
‘holy trinity’ is it possible to improve health,
dignity, and quality of life for all.
Taps and toilets cannot improve health on
their own. Better hygiene is what matters.
Interview: Hand washing as seen by a
soap manager
We asked Mr. Julio Bermejo, Professional Relationship Manager of Colgate Palmolive, Lima,
how he sees hand washing as a future business:
“What was the primary motive for Colgate Palmolive to join the Public-Private Partnership for
the promotion of hand washing in Peru?”
“Diarrhoeal diseases are one of the primary
causes of infant mortality, and it was for this
reason that Colgate Palmolive Peru decided to
participate in this initiative; we wanted – as is
already happening in Central America – to
emphasize the importance of correct hand
washing in order to reduce the incidence of
these diseases.”
“How do you see the development of the soap
market for the poor people in Peru?”
At present, we have a market that has been shrinking over the last year due to lower incomes.
People have had to switch to cheaper substitutes with the same function – such as making the least
cost choice between washing powder or laundry soap.
This initiative will help us a lot to develop the market for body soap, if we explain to people – and
especially to the poor – the importance of correct hand washing and that the cost of prevention is
much less than the drugs and the treatment needed to combat the disease”.
– Curtis, V. and Cairncross, S., 2003:
“Effect of washing hands with soap
on diarrhoea risk in the community:
a systematic review”, The Lancet
infectiuos diseases, Vol 3.
“What efforts are needed to convince mothers and children to use soap for hand washing at critical
“With respect to hand washing, we have used the word and the ‘doing’ to demonstrate the importance of ‘how to wash the hands correctly’; this was supported by printed materials in a simple and
direct language for easy memorisation and replication.”
– Saadé, C. et al., 2001: The story of a
“If your company has invested in the development of this market, when will you see returns from this
“The strategies in the past have only led to a competition among the soap companies for the same
customers. Efforts have never been undertaken to open up this market. If we are to measure the
profitability of this investment, we should separate the social objective from the commercial objective. The indicators that will show the commercial success of the product/service are an increase in
the penetration of soap in Peru, the increase of the market share of Colgate Palmolive within soap
categories, the increase in the distribution of the ‘PROTEX’ brand and finally an increase in sales.
The indicator which will allow us to measure the social objective is the reduction of diarrhoeal
diseases due to lack of hygiene and deficient hand washing”.
– Hindustan Lever, 2002: “The chal-
Successful Public-Private Partnership
in Central America – Hand washing
for Diarrhoeal Disease Prevention,
(see: www.globalhandwashing.org)
lenge of rural markets”, Mumbai
(see www.hll.com).
– Water
(WSP), 2002: “Lessons from Building
Public-Private Partnerships for Washing Hands with Soap”, Washington
– Ashok Dyalchand, et al., 2001: Promoting Hygiene & Sanitation Behaviours – a manual for programme
planning in rural India”, Institute of
Health Management, Pachod, Maharasthra, India.
– WSP (Peru), 2003: Alianza publico
privado para promover el lavado de
Nacional de Lavado de Manos –
How poor families calculate
In El Alto today, the connection fees for both
water and wastewater
services cost around 440
USD. This is less than the
corresponding increase in
the land value due to the
connection. Subsidies to
poor families are neither
needed nor granted. But
under special and donor
co-funded programmes,
poor families can extend
their repayment schemes
up to 5 years, with virtually
no interest charges. In this
way, piped water and
sanitation services become
affordable for the poor as
Sanitation as a Component of Urbanization
Urban development in El Alto lies somewhere in transition, with districts split between
rural and urban settlements. Demand for water and sewerage is high, even in poor
areas. And people are willing to pay the connection fees and service tariffs. With the
condominial approach, it becomes viable to connect also the poorer neighbourhoods.
Urban development rapidly takes off once utility services arrive. These turning points
are ideal stepping-stones for the local sanitation business. Many new houses have to
be equipped with sanitary facilities.
A single service provider has always delivered
water and sanitation in the cities of La Paz and El
Alto. Today, Aguas de Illimani (AISA) is a private
concession. One of the objectives influencing the
latest form of the utility was the need to maintain
social justice. Revenue from wealthier areas of La
Paz is used to subsidise tariffs in El Alto, where
concession. Tariffs are among the lowest in
Bolivia. In the mid-90s, the WSP carried out a
pilot project to test new approaches (condominial
water supply and sewerage), with support from
the Swedish Government. A larger publicprivate partnership project to increase service
coverage in district 7 – funded by seco, the Swiss
“State Secretariat for Economic Affairs” – is now
in the offing.
Large parts of District 7 in El Alto is still not served by Aguas
10 years ago, this neighbourhood in El Alto was similar to
de Illimani (AISA)
the majority of district 7. Today, households are connected to
Creating markets for
sanitary businesses
3 months after connection
to the wastewater system,
64% of the households had
constructed their bathrooms or showers. This
shows the market potential
for sanitary businesses that
develops around urban
infrastructure projects.
services (condominial system), streets are paved, and most
many poor immigrants from the rural Altiplano
Condominial system
Condominial designs lead
to substantial reductions in
costs for water and sanitation services. Financial savings are of the order of
24% for the sewerage service and 40% for the water
At the urban fringes, like in district 7, daily life is in
transition between the rural and the urban.
Urbanization rapidly gains momentum once
houses and blocks are connected to water and
waste water services. At present, settlement
density in El Alto is not so high, which facilitates
the construction of bathrooms. But as soon as
the utility services arrive, the pressure on land
Water and wastewater utilities are managed and
operated by Aguas de Illimani (AISA), a private
families have installed a shower
Demand exists, but not enough volume for
Demand for sanitation is high, even among new
immigrants. A recently conducted survey shows
that 95% of the families are willing to pay for connections – not only for water supplies but also for
sewerage systems.
Is working in these poor neighborhoods a business for Aguas de Illimani? At the moment, this is
certainly not the case, in the short run. But the
company has an interest in setting the infrastruc-
Local sanitation businesses
Motives for sanitation
The project also trained people in the construction
of sanitary installations, providing some craftsmen
with an additional source of income. The NGO
Sumaj Huasi offers similar training programmes.
In the last few years, 120 small enterprises have
been trained.
41% of people interviewed
in a neighbourhood that
already has access to sewerage services believe that
comfort is the strongest
argument in favour of connection. Other motives are:
less risk to be faced with
complaints of the neighbours, less risk that children (sent to the river to
defecate) are lost, cleanliness.
Impacts are difficult to estimate as most of these
craftsmen do other work in addition to building or
fitting sanitary installations. However, craftsmen
clearly see the construction of bathrooms and sanitary units as an increasingly profitable business.
Residents of District 7 clearly express the demand and
their willingness to pay for sanitation
Relevance of this case for MDG discussions
ture in place, knowing that – sometime in the
future, when urbanization is complete – the people of El Alto will be good, reliable customers.
Developing the market for sanitation
Infrastructure projects are a perfect stepping stone
for developing sanitation markets. Customers are
motivated, and they realize that the value of their
properties increases. It is crucial that the property
rights are granted to new residents, to encourage
Certainly, this transition from rural to urban settlements accompanies behavioural changes. An
average immigrant family coming from a rural
area does not consume more than 20 litres of
water per day. This is very low, and hardly justifies
the construction of wastewater connections. Poor
water consumption is a headache for the operator
because wastewater channels lack proper flushing.
Making a living with
Hygiene education has had a substantial impact
on investments in sanitary installations. Of the
families in receipt of hygiene education, 70% subsequently constructed a bathroom or shower in
their homes, compared with a corresponding figure
of 35% when hygiene education is not provided.
Families building their own bathrooms spent an
average of USD 400 on materials and invested
16 days of their own labour. These costs are substantial when compared with the average monthly
income of 122 USD.
Construction of sanitary modules
– Cannelli, N., 2003: Sistemas concominiales de agua y alcantarillado: Cambios en la disponibilidad de infraestructura sanitaria y en hábitos de igiene a partir de la implantación del
To facilitate this transition to sanitation, the WSP
pilot project included a micro-credit line. Only
around 25% of the families applied for credit,
which was granted at a 32-months term and at a
low interest rate. While this eased the payments for
some beneficiary households, there is no evidence
that bathroom construction rates were significantly
higher in neighbourhoods where micro credits had
been offered.
proyecto piloto: un enfoque quantitativo. Lima.
– Martínez, C.E., 2001: Experiencia local, zona Oro Negro: La
participación de la comunidad y su implicancia en la
appropiación y la sostenibilidad del sistema de alcantarillado.
Estudio Universidad, La Paz.
– Seco, 2003: Estudio socio-economico del Districo 7, ciudad de
El Alto. La Paz.
– WSP, 2002: Lower Costs with Higher Benefits: Water and
After having received startup support from Sumaj
Huasi, mainly in the form
of training, Hector Silva
from Tupiza (Potosi, Bolivia)
started a business specialized in sanitation. Recently,
the construction of 52
school latrines brought him
a good income, between
10,000 and 15,000 USD.
So far, his clients have
been mostly from the public sector, including donor
funded programmes. To
consolidate his business
however, Hector Silva is
committed to promoting
sanitation. He hopes to
increase the share of private customers in his business. In taking this course
of action, he becomes a
change agent promoting
Sewerage Services for Low Incombe Households. Lima.
Urban sanitation in Ouagadougou
ONEA – a parastatal
ONEA (Office National de
l’Eau et de l’Assainissement) is an autonomous
that was founded in 1985.
It is responsible for water,
sanitation and drainage in
36 urban centres in Burkina Faso. As part of the
decentralisation process,
the gradual transfer of sanitation activities to municipal level was envisaged at
a very early stage.
Since 1990, WSP has been supporting the Government of Burkina Faso, working with
the National Water and Sanitation Office (ONEA) in the elaboration of the “Ouagadougou Strategic Sanitation Plan”. The plan was followed by an impressive upgrading programme, with the installation of more than 28,000 on-site sanitation systems.
About 260 artisans/supporting NGOs served thousands of households, and the output
of the artisans is rapidly increasing. This sanitation revolution (funds for subsidies)
is financed by collecting a 4% sanitation levy on all water bills.
In 1991, only around 40% of the 700,000 inhabitants of Ougadougou were connected to the
water supply network of the city. Concerning sanitation, about 70% of all households used traditional latrines, while 13% used septic tanks. The
modern buildings of the town centre were connected to a conventional sewage system, which
transported the sewage to treatment stations.
These stations were not functional.
The improvement programme was led by ONEA
(Office National de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement).
Between 1990 and 1992, a strategic plan was
elaborated, basically recommending that the programme should be based on the real demand of
the customers. From 1993 until 1994, a small
pilot project was elaborated. Scaling up started in
1995 (extension to 30 areas), and at present 25%
of the population has access to improved on-site
sanitation facilities.
ONEA plans the completion of 78,000 sanitation
systems by the year 2010. The programme is
being extended to Bobo-Dioulasso and the inclusion of other towns in Burkina Faso is being
Role of private workshops
The annual output of private workshops
(artisans) has risen from 1,000 to 6,000 installations constructed or rehabilitated, demonstrating
their progressively increasing role. The fact that
quite substantial activities in the sanitation sector
were undertaken by private builders prior to the
ONEA programme was certainly a positive factor.
The programme trained around 260 artisans in
the construction or rehabilitation of sanitary
Washing children in the backyard
structures and in the production of sanitary
components such as latrine covers, or ventilation
pipes. The artisans also started to organize themselves to improve coordination and to have better
access to micro credit.
Creating the market through mobilization
NGOs and other organizations played an important role in preparing the market. Around 60% of
customers received multiple visits from various
teams before the start of installation/rehabilitation
works. In parallel, sections of the public were
regularly informed about the programme through
TV and radio spots.
Mobilisation expenditures amounted to more than
25% of the total programme costs. It was felt that
the success of the programme would be greater if
users were well informed about the targets of the
programme, the hygiene aspects of the initiative,
and the financial implications of various technology options.
Subsidised support was arranged by ONEA, with
subsidies ranging from 18% to 30%. These subsidies mainly took the form of building materials
(platforms, ventilation pipes etc).
of new owners received subsidies ranging as high
as 40%. Adapted technical options and additional
subsidy schemes should be introduced to assist
the poor to further improve their sanitary facilities.
Most municipalities are institutionally very weak.
ONEA has started to form strategic partnerships
to strengthen them and to improve their capacities
in preparation for the future, when they will be
expected to play an important role.
Relevance of this case for the MDG
On-site sanitation module, comprising evacuation of waste water
As with the Bolivian case study of El Alto,
improved understanding by users was crucial.
75% of the users with improved on-site sanitation
now feel that they have a better image and an
improved relationship with their neighbours. 21%
say that household work has been made easier.
Preferences for products
Willingness to pay studies showed that two thirds
of future users indicated a preference for a flush
latrine. Too little attention was given to the fact
that the majority of users still depend on water
vendors and use only 20 to 30 litres per day. Consequently, only 1% chose this option when faced
with real decisions about their sanitation system.
A demand driven approach was adopted from
the outset. Initially however, regulations only
authorised the construction of relatively expensive
septic tanks and VIPs. A great deal of effort has
since been made to include improved traditional
latrines at various technical and cost levels along
with the construction of showers and waste water
disposal systems with soak pits for sullage.
Benefits for urban development
As long as more expensive solutions were in
focus, the middle classes benefited most from
sanitation assistance. Poor people preferred
cheaper options and showed a strong preference
for solutions based on the soak pit. The demand
for this option was stimulated by the intrinsic low
costs, better promotion and higher subsidies; 96%
The preparation of a sanitation strategy, followed
by a short pilot phase can form the basis of a citywide on-site sanitation programme. The fact that
funds for subsidies could be collected through a
4% sanitation levy on water bills was crucial.
Studies showed that 80% of the users opted for
autonomous sanitation solutions. ONEA accepted
that collective sanitation would apply to only
about 20% of the caseload, largely located in the
city centre and the industrial areas.
Adapted solutions
based on demand and
financial possibilities
The programme offers a
broad variety of on-site
sanitation systems. Options
range from more expensive
VIP latrines or septic tanks
down to budget solutions
that include traditional latrine rehabilitation, showers and sullage disposal
via soak pits.
Normally, too many ministries and institutions are
involved in water and sanitation programmes. A
financially autonomous lead agency is needed
that is able to generate income for sanitation
First experiences have shown that competition
between artisans, NGOs and consultants leads to
improvements in the quality of the work and to
decreasing costs.
Replication and scaling-up
In the future, the programme should adopt a
stronger pro-poor focus. A continuation of subsidies is one option. Another possibility might be to
choose technical solutions where users can reduce
prices through the provision of labour and building materials themselves.
The potential for scaling-up is good. In Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, ONEA plans to
continue with the subsidy programme until 60%
coverage is reached. Medium sized towns in
Burkina Faso could also be included in the
Awareness and knowledge helps: sanitation
elevates social status
Developing awareness and
perceptions amongst users
was crucial: Measures included information meetings, home visits by NGO
teams, and guided visits.
75% of users with improved on-site sanitation now
feel that they have a better
image and improved relationships with their neighbours. 21% say that household work has been made
Money from Pit Emptying and Faecal Sludge
Market for mechanical
pit emptying
For West Africa, the business volume for mechanical pit emptying in a city of
1 million inhabitants has
been estimated at around
1.3 million USD per year.
Mechanical pit emptying is a growing market for private enterprise. For decades to
come, on-site sanitation will be the most appropriate technology choice for many rapidly expanding areas of the urban South. Moreover, there are many examples (both
past and present) of re-using human wastes such as faecal sludges in agriculture or
fishery. The overly worn Yorkshire saying “where there’s muck, there’s brass” – where
brass is a slang term for money – indicates an acute awareness of the relationship
between dirt and money.
A growing demand
Comparing 7 suction
truck operators in West
Initial investments range
95,000 USD, with annual
profits ranging between
4,000 and 55,000 USD.
Profit is less dependent on
the initial investments than
on the number of clients
that the company serves
each year.
In many cities of the South, the possibility of connection to a sewerage system is either remote or
non-existent, especially in the rapidly growing
peri-urban areas. A recently conducted study in
West Africa estimated that 75% to 100% of families living in six cities either rely on on-site sanitation (pits) or they have no access to sanitation at all.
Getting rid of the pit sludge is the responsibility
of the families. To do this, people increasingly
depend on the relatively costly services of pit
emptying trucks. The cited study from West Africa
indicates that an average household pays
between 15–30 USD per year to pump out these
operators. Many of these private service
providers are small and medium enterprises.
And, according to the cited study, they are
apparently overwhelmingly profitable.
In West Africa, the private sector occupies
between 40–100% of the market share, depending on the city and the country.
A delicate cost structure
The cost structure of such an enterprise has
recently been analyzed. For example, a typical
small company may register around 4–6 journeys per day to a dumping site. The average
costs for emptying one truckload (4–6 m3) at a
dumping site are between 22–32 USD.
Private service providers
A growing number of families rely on an
increasingly structured private offer for pit emptying services. One of the factors behind this
trend is the under-performance of the public
Mechanical pit emptying (West Africa)
Factors influencing pricing include: the location
of the house in relation to the dumpsite, the type
of pit (e.g. whether faeces are mixed with solid
waste), ease of site access, and the financial
capacity of the client.
Not surprisingly, a truck breakdown has a severe
impact on the profitability of the business. The
relocation of a dumping site may have a similarly
strong impact.
Cost structure of a small service
provider in Bamako (Mali)
Dumping, treatment, or re-use?
To compete for business, private operators
sometimes fly-dump their loads illegally in
undesignated areas around the pit site. This
opportunism can lead to severe health risks and
pollution of the environment.
Gasoline, oil for the truck
maintenance of trucks and equipment
payments to the police
Governments are increasingly challenged to
identify adequate institutional and economic
solutions and/or mechanisms to ensure that faecal sludges are disposed in a meaningful way.
Re-use of treated sludges is one of the options.
Challenges for
– Bolomey, Sven, 2003: Etude economique de la G.I.E. S. S.
dans le cadre de l’ouverture d’une station de traitement de
boues de vidange (STBV). EAWAG/SANDEC, CH–8600
Duebendorf, Switzerland.
– Collignon, B. and Vézina, M., 2000: Independent water and
sanitation providers in African cities. WSP. Washington.
– Collignon, B., 2003: Enterprises providing mechanical
emptying of on-site sanitation systems in major African cities.
Illegal dumping of faecal sludges (Ghana)
In: PDM, PS-Eau.
– PDM, PS-Eau, 2003: Sustainable waste management and
urban sanitation. Cotonou.
– Steiner, M. et al., 2003: Towards more sustainable faecal
EAWAG/SANDEC, Duebendorf.
– Strauss, M. and Blumenthal, U.J., 1990: Human waste use in
Public action should focus
on the current bottlenecks
in the sector. Specific tasks
include sector planning;
building disposal sites;
treating sludge adequately;
neighbourhoods, particularly where road networks
are inadequate; licensing
of private entrepreneurs;
guaranteeing competition
between service providers.
A good mix of incentives
and sanctions will have to
be applied to ensure that
sludges are delivered to
formal treatment or discharge sites.
agriculture and aquaculture. EAWAG/SANDEC, Duebendorf.
New Strategies for Sanitation – It Can Be Done
The fear of the rich
The fear of cholera was
commonplace in many
European cities of the 19th
century. As soon as the
rich and powerful families
started to fear for their
lives, they paved the way
for a sanitation revolution
to take place.
Sanitation strategy
and property rights
Property rights have to be
incorporated in a demandoriented sanitation strategy.
Failure to resolve this issue
can discourage poorer residents from investing in
housing improvements.
Public support to
sanitation plans
Poor families know that a
connection to water and
waste water services is a
good investment, because
the value of the property is
likely to increase substantially.
Correspondingly, resources
of the whole family and
clan are mobilized to make
sanitation happen.
Objectives should be: rapid increases in latrine coverage, sustainability, and the rapid
growth of a sanitation sector that offers employment. Confidence that this state of
affairs can be achieved, and consensus that market forces and the private sector are
important, encourage national Governments to draft forward-looking sanitation
strategies. Implementation of these strategies will occur once customized sanitation
plans have been drafted under the leadership of local Governments.
Consensus, vision and political will
Out of the shadows: the end of hypocrisy
As demonstrated by the case studies from Asia
and Africa, it is possible to meet the sanitation
challenge if economic forces can be leveraged
with the commitment of Governments. In this
sense, building consensus and political will are
starting points in the process of achieving results
in sanitation and hygiene. This will not be possible
without strong leadership, and it is absolutely crucial that strong political leaders – in alliance with
economic leaders and strong NGOs – put the
topic of sanitation back on the agenda. The fact
that the Commission for Sustainable Development
(CSD) is giving sanitation and hygiene such
important consideration is a big step forward.
It should not just be silently accepted that 2 million
people are dying of diarrhoea every year. This
situation must be publicly “outed”, just as the
HIV/AIDS situation has been brought into the open
after having been taboo for far too long. There are
considerable similarities between sanitation/hygiene and HIV/AIDS – both topics are closely connected with intimate behaviours and attitudes and
poverty, both topics are overshadowed by taboos.
This brochure shows that sanitation and hygiene
can be viable long-therm business proposition. Over
1 billion poor customers are currently waiting for
innovative and affordable products and services.
This is a huge market, if it can be tapped properly.
National sanitation strategies
A new brand for sanitation and hygiene
The preparation of a national sanitation strategy,
driven by the highest political level, is a good
opportunity to reach a consensus. Whenever possible, such plans should be part of the National
Poverty Reduction Strategy Programs. Top-level
involvement is needed because it is likely that different ministries will have to be involved in the
process. Examples might include the ministries
responsible for housing, rural development,
health, water resources, and finance. But developing top-level strategies does not mean developing
top-down master plans: civil society should
strongly endorse these plans. Popular artists,
sports heroes, top models and other well-known
persons should be recruited to back such strategies from the beginning.
Even in poor areas, sanitation can be successfully
branded as “providing comfort”, “improving prestige”, “adding value to real estate”. The case studies show that astute branding is a major success
factor underpinning the “business paradigm”.
Once embarked on the “business paradigm”,
Government will distance itself from the role of
direct service provision and will instead become a
facilitator and conductor in the overall process.
The private sector, NGOs and civil society must be
recognized as fully-fledged partners in a much
broader response to needs.
This process can be effectively supported by “gentle coercion”, under the leadership of Governments and civil society. Sanitation and hygiene
can easily be integrated into large-scale good
governance programs, especially their decentralisation components. Examples of coercion include:
the definition of standards for new houses, the
enforcement of building regulations, the promotion
of programmes that integrate drinking water and
sanitation into one package (e.g. combined tariff).
Local sanitation plans
The elaboration of local level sanitation plans is
a suitable vehicle for implementing a national
sanitation strategy. The need for capacity building
(e.g. in the private sector) may more easily be
approached from a practical perspective.
Fresh partnerships for sanitation
To meet the challenge of sanitation and hygiene calls for a multi-stakeholder approach
with concerted efforts, requiring an active involvement of Government, civil society and
the private sector. Leadership of the national Government will be important to bring
multinational companies on board whereas local Governments play a role in coordinating with the small and medium enterprises, civil society, and NGOs. This is a new
challenge for many institutions which still have to learn the art of multi-stakeholder
National partnerships
National level partnerships can be formal (e.g.
task forces, consultative groups, national committees for sanitation) or informal. Either way, national
Government will take the lead as facilitator.
At national level, the private sector partners are
likely to be larger companies, interested in pairing-up with Government for the sanitation and
hygiene campaign. Small and medium enterprises
should be involved whenever possible.
As seen in the Bangladesh case study, NGOs,
international agencies, and the media can play
an important role in organising and mobilising
communities. They are important players in
national plans for sanitation and hygiene.
In complex transitions where national public
sanitation bodies or programmes have to be
dissolved, it is important to include labour
unions as partners.
Local partnerships
Local platforms play an important role in transforming national sanitation strategies from
abstract notions into tangible action.
Local governments must play a key role in organizing such decentralised partnerships for sanitation. Frequently however, local governments and
municipalities are institutionally weak. Whenever
dealing with local institutions, the need for training and other capacity building support must
be evaluated, and appropriate measures should
be bundled with strategy implementation.
How to involve the private sector
Private sector know-how (about the market, pricing issues or the establishment of supply chains) is
central to meeting the challenges facing the sanitation and hygiene sub-sector. The private sector
will only participate actively if it sees an incentive
to do business.
Multinationals and
large companies are
potential partners
Examples include: soap
industry, cement industry,
water and wastewater
service companies. Other
potential partners include
food and restaurant chains,
or NGOs that recover the
costs of their services as a
matter of principle.
Public-private partnerships expose a number of
challenges for the public sector, which call for the
formulation of rules. Key issues include:
1. How to deal with the problem of competition
between companies that show an interest to
participate, and how to ensure that the partnership for sanitation does not distort the
2. Public collaboration with large private companies carries the risk of churning out lip service
instead of generating true commitment. Codes
of conduct are needed that spell out the rights
and duties of every partner in a PPP. NGOs
can act as regulators or “watchdogs”, but
they can also spoil a partnership with unfair
3. Much has still to be learned. Experience with
PPP in handwashing represents current best
practice and provides valuable material for
shaping future alliances as they continue to
evolve all over the World.
– Camille Saadé et al., 2001: “The
story of a Successful Public-Private
Partnership in Central America –
Handwashing for Diarrheal Disease
Prevention, Washington.
Biogas production in community latrines (India)
(see: www.globalhandwashing.org)
Intelligent and Effective Subsidies
The MDGs in water, sanitation and hygiene can be only achieved by involving the
private sector in the overall strategy, but market forces will not spontaneously
guarantee the interest and participation of private enterprise. Subsidies, either from
Governments, from donors, or from NGOs (or cross-subsidies levied on water), play a
crucial role in meeting the sanitation challenge. But subsidies should be applied with
great care and in a sustainable way. Public support for market creation or supply
chain development is a lot more effective than subsidising the basic transactions.
Desires and dreams as driving forces for
sanitation and hygiene
As shown in the case studies, better sanitation
and hygiene can be built around common
desires for a better life in general. This is the
spark that intelligently subsidised programmes
must harness, in order to develop the potential
for sanitation and hygiene markets up to the
point where critical mass is attained – and
markets become permanently established.
Increasing the motivation of people who lack
access to sanitation is always effective, using
measures such as social mobilisation. Methodologically, social mobilisation works through
advocacy with champions and leaders, publicity,
the building of alliances with partner organisations and, where needed, household visits. The
social dimensions of sanitation and hygiene
should not be underestimated – the case of
Ouagadougou shows this clearly. Here, 75% of
the project participants felt that they acquired a
better image and an improved relationship with
their neighbours after completion of on-site
sanitation systems.
The development of Government capacity, at
national or at local administration levels (e.g. to
enforce building or sanitary regulations) requires
public funding. Through such capacity building
modules, sanitation initiatives become vehicles
to reinforce political and fiscal decentralisation.
Pricing, affordability and cross-subsidies
The cost of products and services is absolutely
crucial and their affordability must be in the centre of any strategy. “The rural poor have only
ever encountered two types of latrine”, says
Chandan Sengupta from UNICEF New Delhi.
“The first are septic-tank latrines that they know
exist in the homes of the rich villagers – latrines
that cost ten or fifteen times more than a poor
man’s entire house. This has created the impression that a latrine is a luxury that will always be
far beyond reach. The only other latrines that
villagers know are the filthy, smelly, badly
Collaboration with larger private companies
(e.g. soap industry) on communication campaigns is effective where public and private sector partners share common interests, particularly
for larger campaigns.
Enforcement of sanitary practices
Social mobilisation takes more than just motivation and encouragement (the “carrot”). Campaigns also need “gentle coercion” (the “stick”),
pressuring people to change sanitation practices
and behaviour patterns. Social pressure is important.
Demonstration latrines for social mobilization in Bangladesh
involving the cement, ceramics and tile
industries, they can become even stronger in the
Other programmes as entry points
Hygiene is more than just sanitation hardware
Various case studies demonstrate how infrastructure programmes can act as entry points for
launching a sanitation campaign in partnership
with the private sector. Subsidising and coordinating such campaigns can add significant
leverage to public spending.
maintained ones they have seen in railway
stations or public institutions. And they don’t
want those anywhere near their homes!”
Investments are needed and should be
Affordability can only be managed through less
expensive designs, not through subsidies. Due
to the sheer numbers involved, the idea that
septic tank latrines could be subsidised to an
affordable level for the poorest sections of society is a non-starter. The only alternative is a
less expensive product that is made for the poor,
but which is not a poor product. Design innovations and correspondingly flexible policies
are essential if the daily lives of the poor are to
be influenced by any sanitation and hygiene
We must not forget that reaching the MDGs
in sanitation will consume very large quantities
of money. However, expenditure in water, sanitation and hygiene is a highly beneficial form of
investment. Placing clean latrines in schools
will educate children, instilling the next generation of adults with the desire for clean latrines in
their own homes. Encouraging children to wash
hands will also pay dividends in the future,
as will all kinds of hygiene education, social
mobilisation and physical investments in better
housing and in infrastructure.
Supply chain development
Subsidies can be crafted so that they establish
and strengthen supply chains. Providing financial
support for training masons, shopkeepers and
traders can be an effective way of using subsidies to develop the sanitation sector. The RSM
(Rural Sanitation Marts) are a good way of
making supply chains more viable. If they can be
supplemented with public-private partnerships
At the macro-economic level, these investments
will save on costly and largely unproductive (curative) medical treatments. They will also boost
productive capacity and stimulate economic
growth. A society where the majority is sick with
diarrhoea and allocating significant amounts
of disposable household income on curative
medicine is losing ground in an increasingly
competitive world.
Social mobilization
responds to the call
for greater donor
The State implemented
latrine production programme of Bangladesh,
which ran until the mid1990s, cost more than
double the social mobilization campaign for
sanitation. Yet it was the
latter that brought about
a doubling of the rural
sanitation coverage.
Sources of Pictures (with ©)
Bolomey, S.: page 32
Datta, S. (Unicef India): page 23
Hartmann, A.: pages 5, 12 (right), 30, 37
Heierli, U.: titlepage (below), page 7
Hindustan Lever: page 25
IDE Vietnam: page 13
Inchauste, F.: page 29 (right)
KEYSTONE®: titlepage (above), page 15 (right)
McClean®: pages 8 (right), 19, 20 (both)
ONEA: page 31
Sandec/EAWAG: page 33
Schrader, M.: pages 9 (both), 10, 14
Sulabh: pages 2, 16 (both), 17, 35, backside cover
Walther, P.: pages 4 (both), 8 (left), 12 (left), 21, 22 (both), 28 (both), 29 (left), 36
WSSCC: pages 6, 26
WSP: pages 24, 27
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