Market-based solutions are increasingly seen as having an important role in filling gaps in public services provision and bring increased efficiency to humanitarian assistance. UNHCR partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to investigate waste-to-value sanitation solutions for areas with difficult ground conditions in protracted refugee camp settings in East Africa. In response to a call for sanitation solutions for difficult ground conditions in refugee settings, Sanivation introduced an innovative market-based solution with a waste-to-value component to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
This report examines the business model and financial model that Sanivation developed during the project and illustrates some of the real world challenges and opportunities for waste-to-value sanitation. It is hoped that the insights from this research will provide a useful reference for potential investors and entrepreneurs, as well as humanitarian practitioners looking to design self-sustaining waste-to-value sanitation services in refugee and low-resource settings in the future.
Webinar on Designing Effective Sanitation Enterprises
Date: September 26, 2018
Time: 8–9:30 a.m. EDT (New York time)
The USAID-funded Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) Project invites you to a presentation and discussion on sanitation enterprises and design considerations.
An interview with sanitation entrepreneur Mayank Midha.
Stainless steel GARV Ttoilets and Mayank Midha
As a child, Mayank Midha remembers how his mother and sister suffered during long distance journeys in India. They had to “hold themselves up” because there were hardly any decent public toilets on the way.
There is still a shortage of well-maintained public toilets in India, says Mayank. This affects women and girls most. Men can more easily urinate or defecate in the open.
On 7 September 2016, Mayank Midha won the Sanitation Innovation Accelerator 2016, a search for an inclusive and sustainable solution for rural sanitation in India. The judges praised Mayank for developing an indestructible smart toilet, which is much cheaper than comparable models without comprising on quality.
Mayank has been in the manufacturing business for the past seven years. As an engineer with a post-graduate degree in rural management, he is interested in technical solutions for the poorest people at the “Base of the Pyramid” (BoP). After completing a project to manufacture telecom enclosure panels, he saw three spare panels lying in the factory. Their structure made Mayank think, why not change some specifications and use them to construct Portable Smart Toilets?
After a year a prototype was ready in 2015 and in 2016 the stainless steel insulated GARV Toilet was born. Solar panels power LED lights and exhaust fans inside the toilet. Using stainless steel for the superstructure, toilet pans, and washbasins has multiple advantages: the units are vandal-proof, easy to clean and they don’t rust. This means a higher shelf-life with lower operating costs.
A scaling up rural sanitation program in Champasak and Sekong provinces was the first government-led Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and sanitation marketing pilot in Lao PDR. The program has stimulated considerable interest in, and support for, the approach within the National Center for Environmental Health and Water Supply (Nam Saat) of the Ministry of Health.
A short advocacy video, “Latrine Makes Good Business”, aims to encourage potential entrepreneurs to explore the sanitation business. It highlights a market opportunity for an aspirational and affordable sanitation product that provides customers with a one-stop service. The video briefly introduces sanitation marketing interventions that are being undertaken and collaboration with the public sector to facilitate connections between suppliers and consumers.
In the past few years, governments and the development community have seriously stepped up their efforts to tackle the sanitation crisis.
Two emblematic initiatives are the launch of the Clean India mission (‘Swachh Bharat’) by Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2014 – which aims to provide 560 million people with a toilet by 2019 – and the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started in 2011, which led to key technology innovations in the sanitation and waste management space.
Yet, are these efforts sufficient? The 2015 sanitation target of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals was missed by nearly 700 million people – the largest gap among all MDG targets – and there are still a staggering 2.4 billion people globally who do not have access to improved sanitation, with dramatic consequences on health, life expectancy, educational opportunities, environmental quality, and economic growth.
One piece in particular that has been critically missing is the lack of profitable business models for developing countries. These could make a significant difference by ensuring sustainable growth of sanitation markets, attracting investments to the sector, and ensuring a better match between products and demand.
A number of pioneers have started to develop innovative market-based solutions. Hystra has mapped and reviewed over 100 of these efforts, and visited 12 of the most promising initiatives. We are sharing some insights of this research here.
In dense urban areas, practitioners agree that sewer networks are the desirable long-term solution. However, the reality is that municipalities are not managing to cope with fast-paced urbanization. The toilet options for slum dwellers are often limited to poorly maintained collective toilets, or open defecation in the gutter.
In 2013, a team of innovators – from the design firm IDEO, the UK non-profit WSUP and Unilever –designed a new ‘portable toilet’ solution for dense urban areas. The latter consists of a modern-looking home toilet with a sealed container, which needs to be emptied every two to three days by a dedicated service team.
A social enterprise, Clean Team, was launched to promote and run this service in Kumasi, Ghana. Similar projects emerged in Peru (X-Runner) and Haiti (SOIL), and all came up with the same finding: families are ready to pay high fees (up to $10 per month) for the service, which therefore has the potential to be turned into a profitable business opportunity.
Waste not: How businesses can turn a profit from poo | Source: CGIAR, Mar 10, 2016 |
By Miriam Otoo, Krishna Chaitanya Rao, Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, and Marianne Gadeberg
A clean and private toilet is something a lot of us take for granted, but for thousands of people living in the slums of Rwandan capital Kigali, safe sanitation was long a luxury out of reach.
Rwanda Environment Care (REC) constructs eco-san toilets in public places in Kigali. Photo Credit: Eugene Dusingizumuremyi.
In the past, these communities had no other option than to use either pit latrines, often full and overflowing, or flying toilets, essentially plastic bags serving as single-use toilets and then tossed to the wayside. Naturally, the absence of proper sanitation was a daily nuisance, causing both pollution and disease.
From sanitation challenge to business opportunity
Many megacities across Africa and Asia are bogged down by similar issues, and while proper sewage systems would be the ideal solution, there is virtually no chance of realizing such systems in the next few decades. But what if sanitation and waste challenges in urban centers could be turned into profitable business ventures?
In Kigali, Rwanda Environment Care (REC), now a privately owned company, recognized that the high demand for sanitation in cities coincided with an equally high demand for fertilizer among farmers throughout the country – and that the two could be combined to make up a viable business.
Now, REC builds and operates public ecological sanitation (eco-san) toilets and uses the collected fecal sludge to produce organic fertilizer and compost for sale to farmers. The revenue from sale of compost is complemented by fees paid for use of the public toilets, rental income from kiosks and shops nearby, and consultation services on how to construct eco-san latrines offered to other entrepreneurs. In total, the revenues are great enough to cover routine repairs and staff salaries.
REC’s new eco-san latrines in Kigali have not only improved quality of life for local people, they also contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment. As an added benefit, the increased supply of organic, environmentally friendly compost is expected to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, furthering sustainable farming.
Billions of people lack access to a decent toilet. Attempts to address this gap through direct-subsidy models have often been proven unsustainable as, given resource limitations, they are unable to provide desirable toilets that families are likely to use and maintain over time. Based on private sector success in low-income markets, business-based approaches may be able to help bridge this gap through sustainable market-based mechanisms and associated incentives to meet the needs and desires of lower-income households.
Water For People is piloting sanitation business approaches and seeks to discover under what conditions these approaches are successful. Public sector influence is one condition that has the potential to facilitate or hinder private sector sanitation endeavors. This study aims to understand: (1) how the public sector enabling environment can facilitate or hinder low-cost sanitation enterprises; and (2) how NGOs can effectively engage the public sector to support sanitation businesses. Data were collected from Water For People staff and partners in nine countries and summary case studies were coded to discover prevailing themes.
Issue 163 | Sept 26, 2014 | Focus on Sanitation as a Business
This issue highlights some recent reports, conference proceedings, catalogs, and blog posts on sanitation entrepreneurs, sanitation markets, and other sanitation as a business issues. Included are summaries of a conference in Uganda; a Hystra report on household mobile toilets; catalogs of sanitation business opportunities; and blog posts from Sanivation, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor Enterprises, and others.
Designing the Next Generation of Sanitation Businesses: A Report by Hystra for the Toilet Board Coalition, 2014. J Graf, Hystra. (Link)
This report discusses two models that combine an aspirational value proposition for base of the pyramid (BoP) families with a strong potential for financial sustainability. In rural areas, the authors analyzed projects that activate local rural sanitation markets. In urban areas, they analyzed initiatives servicing mobile home toilets. Based on an in-depth analysis of both the best practices and greatest challenges from a pool of 12 representative projects, the report suggests strategies to overcome challenges to sustainability and scale.
Sanitation Business Catalogue: Let’s Rapidly Scale Sanitation Services to the Poor!2014. APPSANI. (Link)
This catalog contains 27 business propositions of sanitation sector entrepreneurs from all over the world. Together, they offer a variety of services, and all of them are looking to consolidate or expand their business and bring sanitation services to scale for customers at the BoP. This catalog was compiled for the Sanitation Business Matchmaking event at the first BoP World Convention & Expo in Singapore, August 2014.
Ready for Funding: Innovative Sanitation Businesses, 2014. Aqua for All. (Link)
This document was developed to give insights into promising prospects in the sanitation sector in small towns and peri-urban areas in upcoming economies. The sanitation sector offers long term, slow, and stable return on investments. The challenge of the sanitation industry is to access to the right blend of financial products.
Sanitation as a Business: Unclogging the Blockages, 2014. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Link)
This report summarizes a two-day conference in Uganda. One of the results was recognition among participants of the importance of business- and market-based approaches as keys to address some of the main barriers for scaling sustainable sanitation solutions. While there is still a long way to go toward universal usage of these approaches, participants were able to get a much richer understanding of the principles and key tenets of how sanitation as a business programming works; many participants intended to go back to their respective environments and apply the lessons they had learned.
Fortunately, a number of market-based models have emerged in both rural and urban areas to address the sanitation crisis. They all serve the Base of the Pyramid in a sustainable manner by offering improved solutions, at a price that the poor are willing and able to pay. In this Report, we analyze two models that combine an aspirational value proposition for low-income families and a strong potential for financial sustainability: projects that facilitate the creation of a local, sanitation market in rural areas and enterprises servicing home mobile toilets in urban areas.
Based on an in-depth analysis of 12 projects representative of these two models, the Report suggests strategies to overcome challenges to sustainability and scale. Finally, the Report explores how these models would benefit from corporate and industrial expertise and resources, opening up opportunities for large corporations to contribute to solving the sanitation crisis.
Perhaps one of the more ignored or misunderstood elements of water poverty by the general population and even the charitable sector is sanitation services. When you think about providing clean water, you conjure images of clear drinking water pouring out of a tap or buckets of well water used to water crops and serve livestock.
But then there’s the other stuff—the stuff that is not as pretty to think about or even to deal with, but is just as important—like unclogging toilets, and building latrines, and providing sanitary napkin containers and services for female students. That’s all sanitation.
The first Unclogging the Blockages conference organised by IRC, PSI, Water for People and WSUP Enterprises, took place on February 18-20, 2014 in Kampala, Uganda. More than 170 people from in and out of the sector and around the world came together to explore the various challenges for sanitation as a business (SAAB) and began working on short and long-term solutions.
Participants identified seven key components to SAAB: (1) public sector; (2) business models; (3) finance; (4) technology; (5) demand creation and behaviour change; (6) monitoring; and (7) intersectoral links.
For each component participants plotted out potential outcomes and ways forward based on their ideas and a 30-day challenge, for example:
• Blockage: lack of models that are pro-poor inclusive; lack of understanding of technology
• Desired outcome: Consumer understanding/happiness: Families say, “The toilet is my favorite part of the house.”
• 30-Day Challenge: Know your customers deeply for better service and success. —Advocacy through creative formats, get to the point and make it attractive, prove we have results.
Three articles published in the July 2014 edition of Waterlines emerged from the conference:
Mulumba, J.N., Nothomb, C., Potter, A. and Snel, M. 2014. Striking the balance : what is the role of the public sector in sanitation as a service and as a business? Waterlines, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 195-210. DOI: 10.3362/2046-1887.2014.021
Rojas Williams, S.M. and Sauer, J. 2014. Unclogging the blockages in sanitation : in1ter-sector linkages. Waterlines, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 211-219. DOI: 10.3362/1756-3488.2014.022