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Published on 07/12/2017

Social marketing for sanitation

In order to provide access to sanitation for the largest possible number of people, GRET is developing social marketing approaches. These sanimarkets, which have been operating in Madagascar for a number of years now, were recently introduced by GRET in Burkina Faso…

The deplorable situation regarding access to sanitation in the world is widely known: over 2.5 billion people have no access to adequate sanitation and over one billion people practice open defecation*. Although some progress was recently observed following efforts made to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there is still a long way to go to reach the objective set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to “achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situation” by 2030 .

* source : World Health Oganization

Social marketing: a pertinent approach to sanitation

GRET has been using a market and social business approach to improve access to sanitation since 2010. The use of social marketing tools for sanitation, which are suited to the needs and expectations of populations, has significant benefits. GRET supports shops producing and selling toilets – called sanimarkets – enabling a greater number of households to be equipped with sustainable hygienic toilets, while also strengthening the local economy. This system makes households stakeholders with an active role to play, taking ownership of the sanitation equipment they have invested in.

This market approach does not mean that grants for equipment have become obsolete. Although marketing increases the participation of households and therefore decreases the grants necessary per equipment, the latter remain essential to fill the gap between the price of sustainable quality toilets and households’ capacity to pay for them, in light of their income. Because the key issue remains equipping as many people as possible over a relatively short time span.

Supporting the launch of Yilemd-Raaga in Burkina Faso

In the spring of 2017, Eau Vive and GRET launched a participative funding campaign entitled “Toilets, a job for the professionals! (in French)” to support the launch of four toilet shops in Burkina Faso – called Yilemd-Raaga – enabling them to reduce the sales price of their products. This initiative was aimed at helping Burkinabe families become equipped, while facilitating the launch of activities by local businesses.

The latter provide equipment that allows inhabitants in rural communes to improve their health, safety and cleanliness with hygienic toilets that protect the environment, minimize odours and ensure privacy. In order to equip the greatest possible number of people, the prices practiced are as low as possible, because in this region, 80 % of families have purchasing power of less than 45 euros per month.

Thanks to the support of those who contributed to the campaign, small businesses were able to develop their activity and achieve financial stability (see interview with one of these below). Over 1,000 latrines have been built by these businesses, significantly improving the living conditions of populations in the communes of Poura and Fara. 10,000 people now have access to quality sanitation that is hygienic and sustainable, i.e. almost one sixth of the population in these two communes.

Boosting the activities of the Diotontolo in Madagascar

While the sanimarkets in Burkina Faso are a recent development, in Madagascar they were first opened seven years ago. To date, the network of Diotontolo shops has sold over 8,000 toilets to Malagasy households, including the most disadvantaged. Having been very successful in terms of access, the Diotontolo are now expanding their activities to evacuation, providing a sludge emptying service to their clients for maintenance of their toilets.

Video on the Diotontolo and hygienic toilets in Madagascar (in French)

GRET is also using social marketing in Mauritania and Senegal. In both of these countries, sanitation marketing is a part of national policy. In Senegal, as well as in Myanmar, social marketing is also a tool that is used to encourage households to become connected to collective sanitation networks. The context in which this approach is used is therefore highly varied for GRET, but the objective is always the same: respond to the issue of public health via universal access to improved sanitation.

Ibrahima Barry, one of the Burkinabe entrepreneurs supported by GRET, answered our questions about his Yilemd-Raaga’s activity.

Why did you embark on this adventure?

I was already familiar with the area of sanitation and toilets, as I had worked on school latrines in the past. Opening a Yilemd-Raaga was an opportunity to improve sanitation in my commune and the well-being of my neighbours by helping them to acquire a quality toilet.

Where did you build your first latrine?

Having received technical training on toilet construction, I immediately put it into practice to build a toilet in the house I was constructing for my family. So you could say I was my own first client! I am totally convinced of the usefulness of the toilets I sell in Fara.

How did the participative funding campaign impact on your activity?

Selling toilets takes time. I have to explain the principle of toilet shops and the prices we practice to households. Because even though our toilets are not expensive, they nevertheless necessitate a significant investment for people in Fara. With the special offer prices I was able to practice thanks to the funds collected, people who would never have been able to afford toilets at the normal price were able to place an order. I increased my sales, and I quickly became well known in Fara.

What future do you see for your Yilemd-Raaga?

The solidarity shown by those who donated to the campaign encouraged me to continue taking a dynamic approach to my business. I intend to build up activity with my team, to make operations at my Yilemd-Raaga sustainable and prove the usefulness of the support I received. I hope I will be able to sell many more toilets to the inhabitants of Fara, to equip the largest possible number of people.

More information on the projects (in French):

More information on GRET’s activities on Water and sanitation.