Access to Sanitary Toilets Still Rising in Vietnam Communities Years after Project Ends

In the 1990s, Vietnam formulated a new policy, strategy, and program to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and national targets to improve rural water supply and sanitation. While progress in water supply increased rapidly, progress in sanitation lagged behind. By 1998, just 24 percent of rural Vietnamese households had sanitary toilets, placing the achievement of MDG targets for sanitation by 2015 at risk.
To test whether a sanitation marketing approach could improve access to toilets in rural Vietnam, International Development Enterprises (IDE) conducted a rural pilot project from 2003 to 2006 in 30 communes in the coastal provinces of Thanh Hoa and Quang Nam. This pilot trained local leaders and small providers (shopkeepers, producers, and masons), who in turn promoted sanitary toilets and helped households to build the type of toilets they wanted and could afford. After 3.5 years, average household access to improved sanitation grew from 16 percent to 46 percent.
Recognizing the approach’s potential application for sanitation projects worldwide, the WSP collaborated with the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre and ADCOM, a Vietnamese consultancy firm, to investigate the sustainability of sanitation marketing introduced during IDE’s pilot project.
A new WSP Technical Paper, Case Study on Sustainability of Rural Sanitation Marketing in Vietnam,co-authored by Christine Sijbesma, Truong Xuan Truong, and Jacqueline Devine, presents findings and offers recommendations that can be applied to other sanitation projects. The report assesses the:
  • Sustainability of sanitation marketing activities and outcomes three years after the cessation of IDE’s pilot project
  • Evidence of scaling up, spill-over, or parallel market developments
  • Lessons learned that can be applied in Vietnam and elsewhere
Among other findings, the authors conclude that access to sanitary toilets in the pilot areas had continued to increase after the pilot, crediting the continued involvement by promoters and providers, even without incentives. The case study also reveals that after the pilot, one district had used its own funds to scale up sanitation marketing activities across its communes.
While these signs are encouraging, the study suggests sustainability could be further bolstered with the support of additional strategies. “Long-term sustainability of the sanitation marketing approach in Vietnam—and elsewhere—seems to depend on several factors,” observes report co-author Jacqueline Devine, senior social marketing specialist at WSP. “These factors include providing ongoing budgeting for market research, production of promotional materials, and institutionalized promoter and provider training; adding Community-Led Total Sanitation to eradicate open defecation; and developing a more poor-specific marketing strategy.”
Research for the report was conducted from June through August 2009 in communes located in the two pilot provinces. Research methods included collecting local sanitation statistics; conducting focus group discussions with households both with and without access to sanitation; interviewing promoters, providers, NGOs, donors, and government authorities; and observing installed toilet quality and hygiene.
Additionally, a PDF summary for this publication can be downloaded here: English or Vietnamese 
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