iDE Global
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We’re making big waves

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

Microentrepreneurs are selling latrines in rural Bangladesh, and have improved the quality of life for over 1,000,000 people so far. 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. We’re celebrating it now because it signals a proven approach capable of reaching scale in a cost-effective way.

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Microentrepreneurs are selling latrines in rural Bangladesh, and have improved the quality of life for over 1,000,000 people so far.

In Bangladesh, the government and other NGOs are heavily involved in sanitation, and are critical stakeholders in designing sustainable solutions to the country’s sanitation challenges. 

The Bangladesh program encourages private sector service providers to produce high-quality products that respond to the sanitation needs and demands of rural Bangladeshis in collaboration with public sector actors and NGOs. From manufacturers to distributors to retailers to installers—iDE is engaging across the value chain to leverage quality and sustainability.

The project will yield social and health benefits for consumers and economic benefits for the entire market system, thereby ensuring that its results stay sustainable. By taking a systems approach, the program is able to drive impacts on a variety of levels.

Shoidul's Sanitary Shop

“I am the best seller of my products and I don’t want anyone else to sell for me,” Shoidul boasts in front of his female employees. They all stand around to chat with iDE's WASH team and drink coconuts after a small focus group discussion on women’s work with sanitation businesses. Shoidul's Sanitary Shop is located in Paikgachha Upazila, Khulna District, Bangladesh.

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The women in the photo from left to right are: Piera (daughter-in-law), Karion (employee, brick chipper), Pari (employee, brick chipper), Hasina (employee, brick chipper), Reshma (employee, brick chipper), Salma (daughter-in-law). Sanitation is seen as a “man’s business” and is often perceived as shameful for women. But these women have taken out a loan from the latrine provider during a financial crisis caused by family illness and the daughter’s marriage. Now they are now working as laborers to pay it back.

iDE conducted this mini deep dive to understand how women are participating in the sanitation supply chain. This is one example of how the Bangladesh WASH team has built a robust process of questioning, learning, and exploring that keeps them nimble throughout the project. Improving sanitation at the last mile takes a willingness to learn, a flexible mindset, and the courage to shift course when necessary.

In comparison to the massive global need for clean water and sanitation, we still have a long, long way to go. But knowing how to connect key actors and understanding their incentives means together we can achieve ambitious goals.

Three examples of how we address supply, demand, and social welfare issues simultaneously.

  1. Customer Segmentation is the process of identifying different consumer profiles for the purpose of targeting specific groups within a broad market. This helps us employ smart subsidies that target poor households in a way that minimizes market distortion.
  2. Sanitation Business Associations are groups of sanitation entrepreneurs organized to strengthen the capacity of members through benefits such as training, bulk ordering, and representation to national manufacturers.
  3. Public Private Development Platforms are a collaboration of public, private, and development actors working together to establish standards, facilitate smart subsidy provision, and coordinate activities.

Now, after 3 years of investment and innovation, it costs iDE and our donors $11.00 to empower a family to buy a latrine.

200,000 is just a drop in the ocean of need, but we’re turning it into a wave.

Our next target is to reach 90,000 households by 2019 under SanMark Systems with 500 microentrepreneurs. Compared to the 7.4 million rural households with inadequate sanitation, this is truly a drop in the ocean.

If latrine producers keep selling at the current rate, however, we will reach 200,000 households by 2019. And creating solutions that work for the whole system—public, civil, and private sectors—is showing promise to increase that even more. 

Benefit to Users

  • Combined households who bought latrines paid an estimated $3.6M USD and saved an estimated $26.8M. This factor accounts for costs such as work or school time lost due to illness, time caring for ill persons, or money spent on treatment. By early 2019, households who bought latrines from iDE-connected enterprises (over a three year period) will have saved an estimated $50.8 M.  
  • Investment is shifting from iDE and our donors to latrine producers. According to our cost-benefit analysis, latrine producers have invested over $3.2M since 2013 in manufacturing and selling  improved latrines. Based on current sales trends, we also predict sales among latrine producers almost doubling by 2019 (87 percent increase compared to 2016 figures) following iDE training and coaching. 
  • Projected Profitability for Businesses  By 2019, we expect these businesses to have increased their profitability by 150% compared to 2016, earning almost $2.7M in profit. In 2016 alone, these entrepreneurs had an average of 49 percent increase in profit due to business coaching from iDE.