The Case for Marketing Sanitation

Submitted by jcravens42 on February 11, 2008 - 11:41am.

The Case for Marketing Sanitation

This 12-page field note, published in August 2004, from the publication Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) Field Notes analyses the social marketing of sanitation – the hygienic disposal of human excreta – as an approach to stimulate the market for private sector suppliers. WSP Field Notes describe and analyse projects and activities in water and sanitation that provide lessons for sector leaders, administrators, and individuals tackling the water and sanitation challenges in urban and rural areas. According to WSP research, "most progress in access has been achieved by the market – private suppliers supplying individual households. Marketing has been more successful than anything else in changing the behaviour of people when they can see direct personal benefits. The purpose of this field note is to explain the marketing."

The article reviews the health benefits of sanitation, linking poor sanitation to diarrhoeal diseases, which are a major cause of death, especially in children. Its dimensions include not only the household level of waste disposal, but the community sewage network or pit emptying service and the final treatment of waste products. Reasons are given for why sanitation is often not a household priority. First, it is of more concern to women and children than to men, who frequently hold the resources and make the investment decisions for families. Conflict of interest between tenants and landlords is another reason. In addition, there is frequently a lack of good home sanitation information, products, and services. In addition, appropriate technology is not always offered, and public enthusiasm may be poor due to experiences, sometimes in schools, of poorly maintained facilities, rumours that dangers outweigh benefits, and lack of cost information.

The article recommends: "...the marketing of sanitation offers a whole new approach to ensuring that people get toilets. This implies rethinking the role of the public sector, so that it harnesses the power of the market and helps it to do its job."

The field note lists strategies for communication of sanitation information that include multiple social marketing dimensions including the following:

1. Product: Latrine designs must respond to what people want, rather than what sanitary engineers believe they should have. Visits to existing latrines with research on why they are popular can help define which design will succeed locally.
2. Price: Keeping costs down and marketing a range of products with various price tags has been more successful than subsidising one kind of product, where the subsidy budget limits the number of installations.
3. Place: The supply chain must reach each home. Training local masons can achieve this potential. ‘Sanitation marts’ have been set up as local ‘one-stop shops’ selling a variety of sanitation products and services and providing handcarts to haul home the components.
4. Promotion: Communication with consumers about the product or service can include advertising, mass media, word of mouth, and anything in between - demonstration latrines, time-limited special offers, coupons and vouchers, competitions and prizes, door-to-door sales, credit sponsored by local traders, and mutual assistance schemes to help the economically poorest with the cost and the elderly with the digging.

Among the reasons to use the social marketing - private sector sales approach is that people are, as stated here, more likely to maintain and use what they purchase - a behaviour change. Secondly, unsubsidised programmes are financially sustainable and can be taken to scale. Third, the marketing approach reaches beyond provision of hardware to explain the value, use, and maintenance of latrines.

In a case study of social marketing comparing Benin and the Philippines, reasons for satisfaction with new latrines varied. In the Philippines, the following reasons were ranked in priority: lack of smell and flies, cleaner surroundings, privacy, less embarrassment with visitors, and less disease. In contrast, results from Benin are: avoid discomforts of the bush, gain prestige from visitors, avoid dangers at night, avoid snakes, and reduce flies. (Health considerations were 13th in priority in Benin.) Slogans for marketing in each country reflect their priorities.

The role of government, especially local government, as stated in the article, is stimulating demand, understanding and fostering development of appropriate products, and regulating transportation and final waste disposal. The article examines the appropriate use of subsidies to support the private sector effort. Examples are: low-interest loans for home improvements; subsidising a limited-duration sale to launch a social marketing campaign; and micro credit to support the development and expansion of small businesses which provide sanitation facilities and services.

Social marketing steps amplified in the article are:
* Win consensus - find a person to champion the social marketing approach and make it policy, including policy on subsidies;
* Learn about marketing - study the demand and test results, as well as suggest measures to create a favourable the business climate;
* Overcome barriers while promoting demand - replace restrictions in building with manuals on low-cost latrine building and advertise to create demand, as well as build and maintain a demonstration latrine park with costs and construction details of various models;
* Develop the right products - survey local latrine owners instead of bringing in outside designs;
* Develop a thriving industry - ensure capacity through training, credit, and other services for small businesses; and
* Regulate final disposal - consider employing a pit emptying service, which (particularly in urban locations) may be critical to the lifetime use of the latrine, and thus public sanitation, making the case for public subsidy and regulation of waste disposal services.

Submitted by wastetech on January 7, 2010 - 5:22pm.

Latrines are not the answer.
The technology already exists to design and build non-electric sewage treatment plants which produce very clean water suitable for irrigation.
If this technology was installed into tanks that were built out of local materials by local labour, the cost would be minimal and the grey water would be treated along with the sewage.
Faecal coliforms are also reduced to minimal levels by these units and the resulting irrigation water is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous for strong plant growth.

Submitted by ankhkare on August 24, 2010 - 3:39pm.

Since we are talking about marketing and shopping stuffs I just wanted to ask you what you think about the cheap electronics we got for sale right here? I'm sure these will help many more people than you can imagine.

Submitted by wastetech on August 27, 2010 - 2:23pm.

What about developing rainwater harvesting systems and tanks? This water is not contaminated by inadequate sanitation.

Maureen Webb

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