Achieving sanitation for all by bridging the gap between households and the private sector

Man who is a village sanitation promoter smiles at the camera while behind him toilet materials are being constructed

Village sanitation promoter shares appreciation for the one-stop-service sanitation package. (Outhikone Souphome In, Sanitation Marketing Advisor, SNV Lao PDR)


"We wanted to have a toilet for a long time, but we did not know how much it costs, where to buy the materials, or how to construct it," says a villager in one of the three districts where SNV work.


Almost 60% of rural households in three districts of Savannakhet province in Lao PDR do not have a toilet. To better understand the reasons behind this figure, our partner, SNV conducted a supply chain analysis in 2019 which identified some key barriers that prevent households from building a toilet:


  • limited technical knowledge,
  • its (perceived) high cost, and
  • a time-consuming and cumbersome process; starting from the purchase of materials to actual toilet installation.


In Lao PDR, the sanitation market works on a supply model, whereby most suppliers of sanitation materials are located in district towns and only sell what they make and/or what is in stock. Their business relies primarily on walk in customers. Individual households wishing to build a toilet often have to travel long distances to buy construction materials, find a skilled worker, and arrange for the transport of materials (and skilled worker) back to their village. It is a daunting exercise, especially for those households that live in remote areas.


To overcome these barriers, SNV and the district water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams identified the various suppliers of construction materials and invited them to attend sanitation demand-triggering events. During these events, the suppliers were able to interact directly with villagers, and jointly developed a range of costed toilet designs to meet consumers’ different preferences and budgets. Through these meetings, several suppliers expressed an interest to become sanitation entrepreneurs that provide a ‘one-stop-service’.


Under this arrangement entrepreneurs would deliver a complete toilet option, selected by the consumer, for a fixed price. Often, consumer demand for safe toilets has been triggered by village level sanitation promoters. Due to the economies-of-scale arising from these sanitation campaigns, it has become possible to obtain significant price discounts.


By involving sanitation entrepreneurs in community consultations, sanitation products and services have become more accessible, affordable and suitable for most households, including poorer households.


"Today, when I receive orders from households, all I need to do is coordinate with one sanitation entrepreneur (referring to the one-stop-service) and they will deliver and install the toilets. It takes only 1-2 hours from delivery to completion."

Deputy chief in Nanokkhien village and village sanitation promoter


Supported by the Australian Government, through their Water for Women project, SNV have seen very promising initial results. Within three months of the sanitation marketing campaign’s launch, 430 new toilets were built, and another 410 orders have been placed! On top of that, newly installed toilets in neighbouring households are also inspiring other households to aspire to better sanitation conditions.


"My wife and daughter wanted the same convenience and safety as other families who had built a new toilet in my village" said a resident in Nanokkhien village. "After speaking with the village sanitation promoter, I was convinced to order a pour-flush toilet, at a reasonable price, without having to worry about the quality of construction. I like it that I can build the walls and roof of the toilet myself with local materials, as I cannot afford bricks."


By engaging the private sector and the villagers in this process, SNV are bridging the gap and addressing the barriers that have prevented people from building toilets in their home. Not only is it a successful model, it is a sustainable model that supports local business, rural villagers and home grown ingenuity, which is beneficial to these communities in a multitude of ways and importantly, will help more households have a safe and accessible toilet to use.


That is something to celebrate this World Toilet Day!


World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19th.

On World Toilet Day, we celebrate the role of safe, accessible toilets as a building block of healthy and resilient communities.

But World Toilet Day is not just about toilets, it is also about the important role of the systems and people that surround and support adequate toilets to ensure they are sustainable and can withstand the impacts of climate change.

Water for Women partners are working hard to ensure all people within communities have access to safe and sustainable sanitation.


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