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A system solution for sanitation

Building a winning team of donors in Bangladesh

iDE’s mission is to increase incomes for poor rural households, not just during our project timeline, but well beyond it, enabling people to improve their standard of living for many years to come. To do this, iDE thinks beyond single projects to create strategies that significantly increase impact and success. For example, in Bangladesh, we proposed a portfolio approach to UNICEF and the Embassy of Switzerland, to rapidly scale up sanitation sales.

iDE Hero Bangladesh Solution For Long Term Success

Putting people at the center, we take a deep dive into the wants and needs of latrine consumers. Using visual cards, we can better understand what an aspirational latrine looks like to them.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and least developed countries. An estimated 39 percent of Bangladeshis lack access to an improved toilet, with thousands dying each year from preventable water-borne diseases. In recent years, access to sanitation has significantly improved and the practice of open defecation has decreased. But despite this progress, the country has not met the UN Millennium Development Goal 7 on sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation access, both of which are critical for health and well-being. 

iDE demonstrated, with funding from SDC, that the poor are ready to invest in more hygienic solutions if they are customer-oriented, affordable, and available in local markets. In a separate project funded by UNICEF, we established a unique training method for local entrepreneurs. While these projects each had impressive results, we realized that we could multiply our impact and greatly accelerate widespread sanitary latrine adoption by combining efforts. 

The new venture, Sanitation Market Systems in Bangladesh (SanMarkS), began in November 2015 and is jointly funded by SDC and UNICEF. iDE is leveraging UNICEF’s government relationships to build public-sector support, along with the flexibility of SDC’s monetary support to go deeper into sanitation product design and market research in order to meet Bangladesh’s sanitation goals faster and more effectively. 

Nurjahan Begum stands in the courtyard of her workshop, where slabs and rings come together to form latrines to be sold in the Bogra district. 

Nurjahan Begum is a local latrine business owner and producer. She lives in the Amtoli village of Shibgonj Sadar Union in Shibgonj Upazilla—Bogra district. A widow since 2000, she has struggled to provide for her three children, given rising living costs. She told iDE that she has no knowledge about sanitation business strategies, no connection to others in the private sector, and little knowledge balancing profit or ensuring quality services. After learning about the SanMarkS project, she wanted to learn these things and build linkages from her business to larger market channels. She is planning to lead awareness campaigns and provide quality services to customers at affordable prices. By working with the SanMarkS project, Nurjahan is pursuing her dream of entrepreneurship.

The product design phase will look at upgrading existing products, adapting existing solutions to Bangladesh, and designing new solutions. iDE will also apply design thinking in five strategic domain areas over the next four years: developing the capabilities of stakeholders; behavior change campaigns; product and service design; sustainable market linkages; and strategic partnership networks.

The team will be conducting two additional Deep Dives, focused on disaster resilience and inclusivity in regards to lifecycle, gender, and disability. iDE will host a staff member funded by Handicap International for two years to help make latrines inclusive to those with disabilities.

Project Goals

By 2019, 450,000 people (of these, 60 percent are poor, out of whom 40 percent are disadvantaged) in 90,000 households—particularly women, children, and youth—in at least six districts will benefit from increased and more equitable access to quality sanitation facilities and services, resulting in better health conditions and well-being.

  • Approximately 100,000 households in rural communities in at least six districts are reached with effective behavior change communication, and access satisfactory, improved sanitation products and services that meet the needs and desires of the poor and disadvantaged. Within these districts, 40 percent of unions are hard to reach. 
  • At least 500 latrine producers provide improved sanitation services to poor and disadvantaged households, based on at least three national-level business models.   
  • The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) has developed, endorsed, and launched a national sanitation marketing strategy supporting at least 90 Local Government Institutions (LGIs) that have established local coordination PPDP platforms and adequate guidelines favorable to sanitation marketing in the targeted districts. 

Read More

We’re making big waves

Celebrating a milestone: 200,000 toilets sold in just 18 months

Microentrepreneurs have sold 200,000 toilets in just 18 months. This is a major milestone—for iDE’s WASH team and for our partners, who dedicated two years to lay the foundation for this market system, and then a year and a half to catalyze sales.

Read more: Celebrating 200,000 latrines sold in Bangladesh in just 18 months