Developing Markets for Sanitation: A Blog Series

In response to the growing prevalence of market-based approaches to sanitation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation convened a meeting between three leading sanitation development practitioners—iDE, PSI, and Water for People—to discuss their experiences in building supply capacity and demand for sanitation products and services, and possibly develop a joint understanding of the process.
Achieving Sustainability: Two Approaches There are many facets to the concept of “sustainability.” To focus the discussion, the group examined sustainability by asking, “How would you explain market sustainability to your grandmother?” To which, the group provided the following possible answers: “The children’s children of the people who buy a latrine today should be able to buy a latrine for their new homes using the supply chains originally initiated by the intervention.” “Something that lasts a long time.” In the case of market development, the “something” refers to the ability to access desirable, affordable sanitation solutions, be it a pit latrine or a more sophisticated product.
These definitions indicate that market development efforts aim to develop supply chains that last, and to influence users’ perceptions and behaviors so that they reflect a priority for sanitation products and services.
iDE acknowledges that overall market activity will drop if and when iDE pulls out.
iDE also anticipates that at about 100% coverage of improved, hygienic latrines, the overall market activity would drop anyway, since demand will drop given high coverage.
Like a lot of questions in development, the answer usually starts with “It depends…” In this case, it depends on the theory of change and the primary objective, whether it is to rapidly increase latrine coverage (and use), or develop independent, sustainable latrine supply chains.
For example, how do health outcomes change when moving from 60% to 80% coverage?
For example, are other businesses who were not directly engaged by the intervening organization entering the market as a result of observing the success of the engaged businesses?
Evidence-based decision-making often does not require RCT-level rigor in order to make the right decision.
PSI uses a market development approach to deliver sanitation and fecal sludge management products and services in a sustainable manner.

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