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Building markets in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector

Increasing health outcomes and building resilient communities


Latrines. Water filters. Handwashing options. All products that improve people’s lives because clean water is key to improving health. For more than two decades, iDE has shown that selling people products that improves water quality results in better health outcomes, adds to their dignity, and increases their ability to earn an income. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of handwashing when it comes to reducing the spread of disease.

Since we began building markets for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) products, more than five million individuals in six countries have gained access to improved sanitation, and learned how to protect their health and their families.  Hydrologic, iDE's social enterprise in Cambodia, has sold more than 500,000 water filters, providing access to clean water for more than 2.5 million people. And our pioneering work in fecal sludge management in Ghana and Cambodia is showing people how to safely treat waste.

We use the market to deliver solutions that people need and are able to afford. To do so, we try to understand what drives the existing market. Then we look for opportunities to make it more robust. We use human-centered design to inform our implementation approach, product designs, and business models. For example, we discovered customers wanted more than just a simple latrine in Bangladesh. Sales lagged expectations (based on our sanitation sales in Cambodia and Nepal) until we added the option to add decorative tiles to the area around the toilet pan. Even though it added additional costs to the purchase price, it proved to be an element that Bangladesh customers wanted and were willing to pay the extra cost to have.

SMART SUBSIDIES

For years Va Sophe and her daughter had to use their neighbors’ latrines or the field beside their home in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia. At the same time, Sophe’s health problem meant she had to quit her job as a construction worker.  While she made a little money doing odd jobs, the family struggled and the government ended up classifed her as “IDPoor.” So she was thrilled to learn from an iDE sales agent that her iDPoor status qualified her for a subsidy, which enabled her to buy a latrine. She is one of 15,000 IDPoor households which received targeted subsidies, providing toilets without distorting the local sanitation market.

iDE PC CAM Va Sophe 3X2

Va Sophe, Cambodia

Access to high-quality and affordable WASH products and services is key for achieving iDE’s global objective of increasing incomes and improving livelihoods for the rural poor. For example, between 2011 to 2019, iDE facilitated the sale of 340,000 latrines in Cambodia, contributing to an increase in sanitation coverage in programme provinces from 29 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2019. We are now working to achieve 85 percent rural sanitation coverage in target areas by 2023, with 1,600 villages claiming open defecation free status.

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Technical Knowledge Platform

WASH Markets

Want to dive into the details? Our microsite has information about lessons learned in developing WASH markets in Ghana and Cambodia.

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Every family deserves a toilet

For the 40 percent of the people on the planet who do not have a toilet, acquiring one would mean keeping your one-year-old child from developing diarrhea and possibly dying from it.


Read more: Building markets for sanitation

Infiltrating the market with clean water

iDE’s social enterprise, Hydrologic, won the 2018 Unilever Global Development Award!

Having safe water improves the situation of women and children, who are often responsible for fetching and boiling water.


Read more: Ceramic filters are a cost-effective way to meeting the need for clean drinking water

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Clean hands, better lives

Designing handwashing solutions

The biggest barrier to handwashing is not always the availability of water or soap, but rather knowledge. Making the connection between dirty hands and disease is the first step.


Read more: Handwashing solutions could help reduce several chronic diseases