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Published on 18/04/2017

Toilets, a job for the experts! Development is everybody’s business

Since the beginning of the 2000s, GRET has been taking a social business approach using marketing logic for fair development. In 2010, it tested the concept of “sanitation marketing”. This approach is based on the establishment of a low-cost, local, quality toilet offer for all, distributed in local shops. This innovative approach has been successfully tested over the last two years in Burkina Faso, and will be highlighted over the coming weeks via a crowdfunding campaign entitled “Les toilettes, c’est une affaire de pros !” (Toilets, a job for the experts!) (in French only).

In rural areas of Burkina Faso, toilets are a rarity and poor in quality

Goal 6.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015: “by 2030, 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 situations”. In 2017, in Poura and Fara, two localities in the south-west of Burkina Faso, the objective seems far from being achieved…

In these rural zones where inhabitants live mainly off agriculture and gold mining, only 40 % on average have latrines. This figure could decrease to as low as 11 % in some villages! The prevalent practice remains open defecation in the “bush”, which leads to a number of complications and adverse consequences: insecurity related to long walks to the bush at night; pollution of the environment, especially water consumed by inhabitants; risk of snakebites and scorpion bites; lack of dignity, especially for older people, etc.

When they exist, latrines are “traditional”, i.e. a simple hole in the ground from which bacteria directly contaminates soil and water, a wooden base that can easily collapse, an installation that allows little or no privacy, seepage of odours and rudimentary comfort. In many cases, these latrines are the products of large “latrinisation” operations encouraging inhabitants to build latrines within very short time frames in reaction to shock tactic campaigns: these practices are neither long term nor integrated; constructions are “home-made” and the results are neither sustainable nor sufficient in quality in terms of hygiene, security and environmental respect.

This is why GRET, Eau vive and Ide have been implementing the Sanya Kagni project since 2015 in 10 communes in south-western Burkina Faso, for the benefit of 100,000 people. The programme builds ventilated single pit latrines using two methodologies: a subsidised approach on the one hand, and a sanitation marketing approach on the other. The latter is implemented and defended by GRET.

Toilet professionals are central to sanitation marketing

pro_et_son magasinSince 2010, GRET has been developing projects for access to sanitation in several countries (Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Mauritania) using a “sanitation marketing” approach”.

This approach differs to that of the dominant methodologies in the sector – i.e. Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and 100 % subsidised latrines – by focusing on social entrepreneurship in close proximity with the user-consumer. It consists of providing a local offer of toilets via small businesses that build them on-site, recruit staff from among inhabitants, apply quality criteria (that meet standards in terms of hygiene, environmental protection and security), and sell products that are financially and geographically accessible to all, with shops installed in village centres. In Burkina Faso, these shops are called Yilemd Raaga.

In concrete terms, this concept does not intend to sweep aside dominant approaches, but rather to enhance them by compensating for their main shortcoming: sustainability. Sanitation marketing places the preoccupation with sustainability upstream by materialising innovative development concepts in the field.

  • Rather than unilateral mass awareness-raising based on social pressure, sanitation marketing considers inhabitants as enlightened user-consumers. Drawing inspiration from the “Base of pyramid– Bop” concept, this approach facilitates integrated changes in practices rooted in investment by families. This requires proximity micro-marketing campaigns in synergy with mass awareness-raising.
  • Rather than self-building, the approach defends the right to dignity via quality goods and services: no discount products for poor people! It is not because a person has low income that they do not have the right to decent living conditions. Self-built latrines can be dangerous: collapse of pits, ground pollution, non-hygienic bases. Here inhabitants are offered safe, quality, affordable toilets built by professionals.
  • Rather than staking everything on the non-professional community and on “intravenous” assistance, sanitation marketing focuses on making the service economically efficient and creating a sustainable model that considers the subject as a stakeholder in itself, taking a social business stance. Public resources for development are limited: with a view to making assistance effective and a public-private partnership approach, public subsidies become a boost to support small businesses and a complement for poor families – without relying entirely on official development assistance.

Would you like to participate in the project in Burkina Faso: you can!

As explained above, sanitation marketing is based on installation and development by local businesses, toilet professionals providing a service to inhabitants. Four such businesses (in french only) are involved in the Sanya Kagni project.

It is difficult to start up a business, especially in contexts where inhabitants have very low purchasing power (80 % of families live with less than 45 euros a month). To set up, businesses need to be supported with a real sustainable development rationale. Official development aid does of course have a role to play, but everyone can contribute! GRET and Eau vive are proposing a “crowdfunding” campaign making it possible for all those who so wish to support this project by pre-ordering half a toilet for a family, thus securing the economic model of small businesses for several months!

Apart from helping – without being a substitute for – families acquire their first hygienic toilet and thus contributing to the health, security and dignity of inhabitants in a very concrete manner, your participation will make it possible for small businesses to secure their economy, propose keen prices to poor families and extend their activities to an increasing number of villages. Development players all agree: development is a question of territory. By starting with these four communes, with participation from as many people as possible, these best practices can spread, develop and attempt to finally reach the SDGs we collectively set ourselves. Providing toilets is a job for the experts… But development is everybody’s business!

See the campaign (in French only)
More information on the Sanya Kagni project (in French only).