iDE WASH Markets: Learnings & Insights in Market-based Development

3111 IDECAM Team

Explore iDE’s WASH knowledge that dives deep into programs with impact and scale. 

iDE is excited to share our recently launched knowledge hub,, that brings together hard-won learnings from building WASH markets in poor, rural communities around the world and synthesized global insights on driving impact and scale. 

There is no operating manual for market systems development. We have learned from trial and error, and in the spirit of collaboration are sharing lessons learned with funders and practitioners alike. We hope that by contributing rigorous evidence and distilled insights to the global WASH dialogue, the microsite stokes productive debate and inspires even more ideas for innovation and scale.

We started with Cambodia, our first program to achieve scale. But we plan to add learnings from additional countries later this year and next. 


Below are some highlights that may be of particular interest to the WASH sector and other Water for Women implementers.

Reaching vulnerable populations

iDE’s experience shows that markets can be effectively leveraged to reach the poorest and most vulnerable populations, serving customers with disabilities, sociocultural minorities, and other marginalised groups. Explore how we’ve mainstreamed effective market solutions to reach these groups.

10 years of learnings

Iteractive, data-driven programming is required to keep pace with rapid market changes. With funding from DFAT and other donors, Cambodia was iDE’s first sanitation program to reach scale. The program is built on the idea that the product and business model design must start with a deep understanding of customer needs, and recognition that customers and their needs may change as the market evolves. Learn more about how the program evolved over the past ten years in response to on-the-ground experiences, market changes, and new analyses.

Reaching scale

Market-based programming has moved the needle for improved sanitation in relative and absolute terms. Since the beginning of iDE Cambodia’s sanitation marketing effort, we have facilitated the sale of 309,692 latrines (as of January 2019), reaching 8.7% of the population. Our 2012 baseline survey indicated that 29% of households in our targeted areas had an improved latrine. Just six years later, coverage had reached 67% of households in our program areas.

Driving impact

Despite the overall efficacy of the sanitation marketing approach, iDE recognizes that market actors are not necessarily incentivized to reach the poorest segments of the market. iDE and Causal Design deployed a randomized controlled trial—in which poor households in treatment villages were offered partial subsidies, financing and cash-only options, while control-village households were offered only financing or cash-only purchase options—to test which financing mechanism leads to the greatest coverage change among poor households, while having the least distortionary effect on the market. The study finds uptake rates among poor households that were offered subsidies increased by 14 to 16 percentage points compared to the control group, while there was no significant effect on non-poor households. This study provides compelling evidence for the impact and cost-effectiveness of well-targeted subsidies on latrine uptake among lower-income households in a market-based approach.

Improving health through sanitation marketing

To date, sector research on the link between latrine coverage and health outcomes has been inconclusive, and most analysis has focused on CLTS rather than market-based programs. A new study conducted by Georgetown University examined iDE’s contribution to latrine coverage increases between 2010 and 2014 when it sold its first 140,000 latrines. The study found that iDE’s first phase of its sanitation marketing program led to increases in latrine coverage by 19.9 percentage points as well as significant results that after iDE’s intervention, rural diarrhea prevalence in intervention areas decreased by 6.5 percentage points.

We encourage readers to explore the site and continue the conversation around effective approaches to market-based WASH.

This article was authored by Molly Goodwin-Kucinsky from iDE, a Water for Women partner. learn more about their project WASH-SUP2.

About Molly

Molly brings 10 years of development experience to her role at iDE, where she serves as Global WASH Knowledge Manager. She specializes in knowledge management, communications, and gender and social inclusion. At iDE, she supports project management, business development, and strategic planning for iDE’s global WASH portfolio. She holds a BA from Grinnell College and an MA from The Ohio State University.  

Photo: iDE Cambodia Team (iDE)

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