Building Demand for Sanitation Marketing

Building Demand for Sanitation Marketing

Publication info

Allen Clinton, CARE

Most rural villagers in Ghana’s Upper West region had never considered installing a toilet. In fact, many people say they didn’t even know about toilets until three years ago, when CARE began the USAID-funded West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation & Hygiene (WA-WASH) program in 22 communities. While Ghana on the whole has been struggling to meet its Millennium Development Goal for sanitation, there are now successes found in those WA-WASH villages -- a pit latrine at every household and motivation of all families to never again go to the bathroom out in the open. The combination of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and sanitation marketing has helped households stop open-defecation practices and quickly move up the sanitation ladder.

“Proper sanitation is a foundation for better health and a cleaner environment,” says Peter Yabepone, WA-WASH community mobilization officer. “It involves helping village chiefs and people realize a deep disgust for open defecation, the benefits of a pit latrine and then connecting them to products and services. The reasons for building a toilet have to far outweigh the alternative. It has to be their choice.”

Getting a household to build a pit latrine for the first time can be a complicated process. The CLTS approach is used upfront to trigger a community’s desire to change sanitation behaviors. Community members then decide together to create a clean and healthier environment. Once a family makes that choice to stop open defecation and becomes motivated to take action, they still face constraints. Ghana has a “no subsidy” sanitation policy, meaning that an organization like CARE can’t provide materials or build the latrine for them. So, how can a very poor farming family afford the cost? How do they build something they’ve never seen before? Where should they build it? How deep should the hole be? What materials are needed?

To help people generate income and address the cost issue, WA-WASH organized village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) in the targeted communities. Nearly every household now has a family member in one of 147 VSLAs who received training on financial management and also learned about other topics like hygiene and nutrition. VSLA members collectively save small amounts each week; individual women and men access credit to invest in improving their crop and vegetable production, for example, so they can in turn sell surplus food for profit. Typically, within a few months, families had saved enough to pay for a traditional pit latrine as well as other unmet expenses like school fees and health care costs. They created the demand for sanitation themselves. The supply – affordable products using local materials and technical know-how – had to be developed to meet that demand.

The WA-WASH sanitation component started in January 2014. CARE trained a volunteer latrine artisan in each village to build and make latrine repairs. Over the course of 10 days they learned, for example, how to make four different designs and ensure the pit is dug and/or lined correctly to prevent cave-ins. A basic unlined pit latrine is usually 6 feet deep with a concrete slab, vent pipe, mudbrick walls, door and roof. Placed next to the latrine is a low-cost handwashing station, known as a tippy tap. In June 2014, CARE opened the first-ever sanitation market in the district, where community members can come to see different latrine designs and tippy taps, learn about the cost of materials and find contact information for latrine artisans. In coordination with the District Assembly, the sanitation market was strategically placed in the town of Tamale, for easy access to  participating WA-WASH and other surrounding communities. It is here that VSLA members and other locals have come to learn about their sanitation options, selecting products that fit their household budget.

“The Standard Mozambique Ventilated Pit Latrine has been the most popular and is the cheapest [at $65],” adds Peter of WA-WASH. “Latrine artisans have also developed their own unique models with community input.”

Dery Noureru is the CARE-trained volunteer latrine artisan in Tabier, a 44-household village that’s a 20-minute drive from Tamale. Until last year, no one in Tabier had a latrine. “Anyone who wants a latrine contacts me,” Dery says. “You must have patience to be a latrine artisan, so you can guide community members the right way.”

With Dery’s help, the latrines started going up one by one. Everyone in Tabier rallied to dig holes and ensure defecation could take place without shame, behind a closed door. Within three months, every household in the village had a latrine. “We’re now able to grow vegetables around houses, because there’s no feces there,” he says. “Women used to walk in the rain and squat near snakes. Now they are safe.”

His wife, Beborb, a VSLA member and mother of seven, couldn’t agree more. “I was so excited the first time I used my own latrine,” she says. “If no one had knocked on the door, I would have stayed in longer!”

The key target for WA-WASH is for every participating village to be certified as “Open Defecation Free.” On Aug. 20, 2015, Tabier and 23 other communities received that honor.

Times have changed, says Saabom Sebastanin, the village chief in Tabier. “Before, it was hard to mobilize the community to do anything,” he says. “Now, we are implementing our own community action plan. Today, our village is clean and united.”