Sanitation Marketing Takes Off in Cambodia

The Sanitation Marketing Project was launched in Cambodia in early October 2009, aiming to have over 10,000 toilets installed by households in rural villages over a period of 18 months through market force and demand creation activities. Unlike conventional approaches to sanitation improvement, which usually provide hardware subsidies to households and overlook the market as a driving force to sustainable sanitation, the current approach focuses on market-based solutions and the sustained behavior change of sanitation practice within communities.

As part of the market-based solutions, an affordable and simple latrine core was designed and branded as ‘Easy Latrine’, and introduced to the market through local producers. The innovative pour-flush latrine sells for as low as US$25 in villages and producers are receiving training in sanitation and hygiene education, latrine production, and basic business and sales management.

This process leverages the local market while at the same time making low-cost sanitation solutions available to communities. Producers are asked to invest a minimum of US$500 and produce three latrines per day. Five producers have participated in the project and there is a backlog of other producers waiting to be trained as the sanitation marketing concept moves forward.

A local mason—having seen his monthly income jump from US$50 to nearly US$400 in a matter of weeks—decided to invest more by purchasing another trailer for his motorbike in order to deliver more latrines to villages. He has also begun to sell his latrines to supply shops in the region as a secondary means of distribution. One supply shop is even selling the latrine core without making a profit, as they expect to earn their profits from the above-ground components that they will sell in conjunction with the core.

Experience shows that the sanitation marketing approach is more successful in villages where demand has been developed through the no-subsidy CLTS approach than in villages which have received hardware subsidy in the past. People in a CLTS village are more receptive to sanitation and hygiene messages and more willing to invest in sanitation than those in a non-CLTS village.

At the start of the project, 67 Easy Latrines have been sold, and another 150 orders have been placed to producers. The sales and orders of Easy Latrine have experienced an increasing trend week after week, and it is expected that the target can be reached by the end of the project in April 2011.

In addition to the demand and supply, the enabling environment is also vital in the process. The government’s support to sanitation marketing, specifically the Ministry of Rural Development has been strong, and the governments at all level become increasingly convinced that market can play a major role in sanitation improvement.