iDE Global

Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up (SMSU)

Timeline: 2009 - 2023 | Budget: $30.8 million | Country: Cambodia

In September 2023, iDE Cambodia successfully completed implementation of its flagship market-based sanitation program, known as Sanitation Market Scale-Up (SMSU). Rolled out across seven provinces, the program facilitated the installation of more than 410,000 latrines, delivering access to improved sanitation for one in five rural Cambodian households. In the areas where iDE worked, sustainable rural sanitation coverage has increased from 23 percent in 2009 to over 88 percent in 2022. With these improvements to sanitation coverage, the program has powered Cambodian businesses to promote healthier and more dignified lives for rural Cambodians.

What Did The Project Do?

With a focus on on evidence-based programming, iDE’s approach to SMSU was four-fold and focused on:

  1. Designing affordable and aspirational sanitation solutions to context using the human centered design methodology
  2. Using professional sales teams to generate demand and change behaviors for improved sanitation in rural communities
  3. Powering and strengthening local entrepreneurs to sustainably deliver resilient, inclusive sanitation products and services
  4. Building the capacity of local authorities to achieve Cambodia’s goal of reaching “open defecation free” status.
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  • Delivered some 410,308 latrines to rural households, equating to roughly one in five rural Cambodian households. 

  • Delivered over 22,000 alternating dual pit upgrades, enabling households to sustainably manage their latrine pit waste into the future.

  • Households personally invested $26.9 million in improved sanitation.

  • Supported 2,043 villages to declare “open defecation free” status

iDE PC Cambodia Wash Still 01

Building resilient markets

Entrepreneur support. 

iDE powers local entrepreneurs by providing technical training and business management support. Our team engages with these entrepreneurs weekly to build manufacturing and installation capacity and strengthen their financial and administrative skills for business sustainability. Under the program, iDE has supported 467 sanitation entrepreneurs in rural Cambodia since 2009. 

Generating demand and changing behaviors. 

iDE's sales team drives demand and behavior change by connecting with households and offering desirable sanitation solutions. They first establish a personal connection with customers regarding sanitation challenges and discuss the implications of open defecation. By highlighting the benefits of owning a toilet, such as enhanced safety, privacy, and dignity, and comparing the cost of a latrine to the costs of open defecation, they stimulate demand for latrines and shift customer behavior towards consistent latrine usage.

Building enabling environments for market sustainability. 

iDE facilitates networks between communities, sanitation entrepreneurs, and local governments. These connections allow for direct communication between communities and entrepreneurs, give entrepreneurs a voice in local government, establish referral agreements between entrepreneurs and authorities, and encourage community leaders to promote WASH awareness and improved sanitation. Additionally, through a training-of-trainers approach, iDE powers local authorities to educate their communities and increase access to safe sanitation.

Evidence-based programming

Human-centered design. 

In all research and product development, iDE employs a human-centered design (HCD) approach. HCD begins with empathy-driven exploration, followed by iterative design, prototyping, and testing phases, all with a focus on the end user. Products are only scaled in the market after rigorous testing and piloting confirm their viability, desirability, and affordability. iDE Cambodia has effectively utilized this HCD approach to design, test, and scale over 10 sanitation products and dozens of product iterations, ranging from basic latrines to shelters, fecal sludge management upgrades, and technical innovations tailored for challenging environments.

Real-time data collection. 

Evidence-based decision making is a cornerstone of the program’s operations. Real-time data collection through a custom, cloud-based Salesforce platform allows for all levels of management to effectively manage their staff, assess latrine business owner (LBO) performance, and ultimately improve the efficiency and quality of latrine deliveries to households. These tools allow for timely reaction and agile course correction when needed.

Rigorous research. 

To answer complex questions with conclusive answers, we conduct rigorous academic research. iDE has authored or co-authored 11 peer-reviewed journal articles, either published or currently undergoing review, with focuses on climate vulnerability, fecal sludge management, and gender and social inclusion.

Chin Sunly and Chey Vanna own a medium-sized concrete production business in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia. Through SMSU, iDE supported them to expand their business to offer sanitation products and services. Photo by Tyler Kozole / iDE.

A central focus on gender equity, disability, and social inclusion (GEDSI)

Powering women entrepreneurs and local authorities. 

In the private sector, iDE provides weekly coaching and has collaborated with local gender equity, diversity, and social inclusion (GEDSI) experts to bolster the skills and confidence of women sanitation entrepreneurs and foster supportive environments for women to thrive. In the public sector, iDE builds the capacity of female local authorities through training of trainers, enabling them to aid communities in achieving and sustaining climate-resilient open defecation-free status.

Products designed for people with disabilities. 

To meet the unique needs of people with mobility impairments, iDE designed an accessible latrine shelter that includes a sitting toilet, handrails, and a ramp to enter. By utilizing human-centered design to prototype, test, and design this product, we have ensured that people with limited mobility are not left behind and have equal access to safe, affordable, and aspirational latrines. 

Reaching the lowest income households without distorting markets. 

iDE ensures access to sanitation for the lowest-income households by collaborating with the public and private sectors. iDE advocates for increased public WASH funding and supports local governments in allocating social funds to subsidize latrine purchases for low-income households. In the private sector, iDE trains entrepreneurs to offer non-interest-bearing installment plans, assess household credit, and manage payment collection. Additionally, iDE has developed, rigorously tested, and deployed a method for providing targeted subsidies for government-verified low-income households without distorting the sanitation market. These subsidies discounted the price of latrines, enabling over 38,000 low-income households to own their first toilets.

Multiple donors and innovative program financing

Harmonized co-funding. 

Over the life of the program, SMSU received funding from 10 donors. The trust established between iDE and these funders allowed SMSU staff to adequately resource the program and plan for the entire duration of SMSU, which spanned 14 years. This funding enabled SMSU to expand and adapt to meet the evolving sanitation market’s needs, achieve cost effectiveness through leveraging economies of scale, and ultimately improve the lives of over two million rural Cambodians. Additionally, iDE ‘s market facilitation approach leverages household investment in sanitation. Over the duration of SMSU, donor funding contributed $30.8 million to the program, while households invested an additional $26.9 million in their personal WASH infrastructure. LBOs are leveraging profits generated from these investments to further expand their sanitation businesses.

Innovative program financing. 

Along with the Stone Family Foundation and USAID, iDE pioneered the world’s first Development Impact Bond (DIB) in the WASH sector as part of the SMSU program. This pay-for-results model improved donor value for money and program efficiency by linking investor returns to predefined performance targets. The outcomes-based nature of the DIB provided flexibility for iDE to evolve and adapt to the needs of a dynamic sanitation situation, ultimately, supporting local authorities to make claims in 1,780 villages for “open defecation free” status.

What’s next?

While Cambodia has achieved significant increases in sanitation coverage in the last decade, the work is not yet finished. There is still a disproportionately marginalized and climate-vulnerable portion of the population that does not have access to basic sanitation. For those who own a latrine, pits are filling up. There is still limited access to safely managed sanitation, including pit emptying and other fecal sludge management products and services. 

iDE Cambodia is continuing work toward the goal of  reaching universal sanitation coverage, with a focus on climate-vulnerable populations, in the EU-funded GREEN Project (East Tonle Sap Lake region) and the Australian Aid-funded Climate Resilient WASH Project (Siem Reap). To achieve safely managed sanitation and further protect the health, environment, and livelihoods of rural Cambodians, iDE is also building on the success of our sanitation marketing work by piloting market-based projects for fecal sludge management and solid waste management in rural areas in early 2024.

Download SMSU's Key Resources:

SMSU In The Press:

Entrepreneur Spotlight

  • I De Ex Art Kh Luong Sophea 21X8 Rh
    Luong Sophea, Toilet Business Owner

    Ms. Luong Sophea grew up in a rural community where it is believed that women cannot run businesses by themselves, especially ones that require the use of power tools and concrete. But the 23-year-old single mother proved to the community that they were wrong.

    August 21, 2023
  • I De Ex Art Kh Loeurm Barang 21X8 Rh
    Loeurm Barang, Toilet Business Owner

    Contrary to traditional gender roles, Loeurm Barang took a leap of faith and became an entrepreneur producing concrete rings for the toilet market in Cambodia. Now she proudly provides for her family, including her children's education and her parents' care.

    June 12, 2023
  • I De Ex Art Kh Muth Kosal 21X8 Rh
    Muth Kosal, Toilet Business Owner

    Muth Kosal is a father of two children who lives along the eastern Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. His community faces unique sanitation challenges as many households are seasonally flooded for six months of the year and others are flooded year-round, with houses permanently floating on the water.

    May 15, 2023


  • Stone Family Foundation


  • DFAT


  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Grand Challenges Canada

  • World Bank Global Sanitation Fund

  • Tripadvisor Foundation

  • Manitoba Council for International Cooperation

  • World Bank Water and Sanitation Program 

Technical Partners

Amplify, Causal Design, Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development, Engineers Without Borders - Australia, iDE Innovation Lab, IDinsight, SHE Investments, Whitten & Roy Partnership, 17 Triggers, Noble Pursuits, University of Colorado Boulder, Georgetown University, Six Degrees, Social Finance, University of Technology Sydney

iDE PC CAM Che Chemm 3X2

Che Chemm, Cambodia

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