Sanitary Latrine and Filter Sales: Bringing Sanitation and Clean Water Products Together for Rural Cambodian Health

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Made For Life consults with an iDE latrine business owner in Prey Veng Cambodia.

Background

In Cambodia, untreated water and lack of sanitation facilities cause up to 10 million cases of diarrhea and 10,000 deaths per year, mostly in rural areas among children under the age of five.[1] Open defecation is standard practice in rural Cambodia and drinking water from untreated open sources is accepted. The combination of these contributes to wide-spread diarrhea and other preventable diseases. This problem imposes a heavy economic cost on rural communities in terms of healthcare expenses and lost labor productivity.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) encompasses hand washing, latrine facilities, and access to clean water. With these three pillars, individuals, families, and children have remarkably better health outcomes and improved lives. Through MBAs Without Borders, I am an Advisor for Amplify Markets, an organization dedicated to providing market-based solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges.  In Cambodia, I am working with Amplify to support iDE Cambodia, an organization that produces and sells Super Tunsai, a ceramic water filter, through their subsidiary Hydrologic to combat the issues mentioned above. They also provide consulting services to latrine-producing businesses and manage an independent sales force for latrines.

Through my assignment, I am working to help make their business more efficient and effective. I will be piloting a new sales model that will provide much needed WASH services and products to those in need. Follow me through some pictures of our work in action to understand our new model and solutions.

The current situation

Current practices of open defecation and drinking from untreated water sources have a number of negative consequences in terms of health, community, family, time, and effort for those in rural areas. Open defecation is especially problematic for women, the elderly, and children and is more difficult at night and in adverse weather conditions. Consuming untreated water leads to outbreaks of preventable diseases like dysentery, typhoid, and diarrhea.

[1] UNICEF. 2014. Water, sanitation and hygiene: Cambodia
photo 1.1
Families store their water in holding pots like these to cool the water and allow sediments to collect at the bottom. Untreated water in these pots is less turbid but remains untreated/unfiltered. Water stored in this fashion is prone to contamination from outside sources. (See: the dung nearby)

While many Cambodians see these issues as problems, there are significant barriers to changing their behaviors and achieving their buy-in to sustainable sanitation solutions. For rural Cambodian families, while they might have assets and savings in terms of possessions, consistent cash flow is a challenge as harvest season is only once or twice a year. Yearly incomes might be able to support a significant WASH product purchase, but cash availability makes sales difficult and depresses demand.

 Goals and Model

Our first goal is to create an independent sales organization for WASH products that will not be dependent on outside support or funding. Our second goal is to pilot the sales of WASH products, latrine ground parts and a Super Tunsai, in a bundle. Through bundling we hope to provide a holistic solution sales model that can eventually sell a complete WASH solution at one time with sustainable pay for sales agent.  A third goal of the project is integration with Cambodian micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to provide credit services for the purchase of WASH products. Bundling products together for a loan increases the borrowed principle and the interest of MFIs.

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A new Made For Life Wash Advisor conducts a community sales meeting for the purchase of latrines and water filters

To meet goal number one, Made For Life was established as a social enterprise with the dedicated purpose of selling/providing rural households access to healthy and socially positive products. Made For Life will start with latrines and water filters but will be branching out into small gas cook stoves in the future.

To bring the benefits of WASH products to rural Cambodians in a sustainable way, the market needs solutions to problems of behavior, production, sales, and cash availability. Made For Life will provide solutions and sustainability to put WASH products in the homes of those that need them and create better and healthier communities.

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Made For Life talks with households in Prey Veng to understand their knowledge of the benefits of ceramic water filters.

Ceramic water filters

Super Tunsai is a significant improvement to most families’ current water-use practices. Drinking from untreated water sources is extremely common and leads to high levels of preventable diseases. If a family treats their water, the most common method is boiling; however, families often don’t boil due to the cost and time associated with gathering firewood along with the general bother of working with hot water and cooling the water back down to drinking temperature. Super Tunsai is simple, durable, easy to use, requires no fuel, creates no smoke, reduces turbidity, and filters out the vast majority of pathogens and water-borne illnesses.

Latrines

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LBO working hard 2.3
Latrine businesses in and around Prey Veng build a generally standardized model of latrine with help from iDE Cambodia. They create the pan and the concrete rings that form the containment rings.

Latrines reduce or eliminate instances of open defecation for a family and also serve as a sign of wealth and social status within the village. Currently, Made For Life is selling the underground parts of latrines and professional installation from established local latrine producers. In the future, Made For Life would like to add a simple concrete shelter along with the latrine purchase. iDE has been working for years to establish latrine production companies in the region and their designs are simple and efficient. The iDE design (offset seepage latrine) allows liquid waste to seep out of the containment rings slowly enough that pathogens are consumed and deactivated by natural microbial activity in the surrounding the soil. The containment rings are offset from the latrine to make removal of solid waste easy and avoid contaminating local water sources.

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LBO working hard 3.3.1

Completed rings are installed on household grounds and an offset shelter is constructed.

Financing

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A Made For Life WASH Advisor takes down sales information and original loan documentation for delivery to the local MFI branch office. This clerical work is simpler at point of sale and saves time for the micro-finance partner.

By offering micro-loans for the purchase of WASH products demand increases. Most rural poor want access to these products and can afford small monthly repayments but not lump sum investments to pay for them. Made For Life works with VisionFund, a respected Cambodian MFI, to increase accessibility. WASH loans are typically quite small, however, and thus not particularly profitable for MFIs. Made For Life looks to alleviate this concern by bundling WASH products together to create a larger principle. Families that want to purchase a water filter and a latrine can do so at greater value to the entire market system. Made For Life hopes that this solution will eventually be able to provide holistic WASH solutions (hand washing, clean water, and sanitation) in one purchase.

How does one sell two products at the same time?

Through research, interviews, and experience the Made For Life team has developed a sales strategy that works on the principle of bundled value. Two or more items together are more valuable than 1 and 1 sold separately. We say 1+1=3. The Made For Life salesforce is trained in highlighting not just the single benefits of a given product but the total and expanded benefits of the bundle of products purchased together. The positive externalities of latrine ownership are high in terms of comfort, privacy, ease of life, and community. The positive outcomes of water filters include improved health and ease of life. Together potential customers see these items as requisites to a happy family and an aspirational social status.

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Owning a latrine like this with tile floors and sturdy concrete walls is aspirational to many families. These facilities show that a family has privacy, comfort, and good community habits. They also make for a happy family that can meet the needs of children and the elderly.

The Made For Life sales team trains in how to highlight the joint value of the products to customers and thereby meet their needs for WASH solutions and an easier life. The beauty is that this brings with it health for their communities, families, and children.

 

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