Sanitation marketing for a sustainable future

Abdulazeez Musa, Programme Officer, WaterAid Nigeria

WASH Matters

Since 2004, WaterAid Nigeria has been working on a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) project in Benue state. The project aims to provide long-term sanitation solutions.

CLTS helps communities to achieve open defecation free status. While this is an important first step, the approach does not support communities to improve their situation further than eliminating open defecation.

We have seen varying degrees of success with CLTS programmes. In Ekiti state, for example, people are more educated and have their own style of housing. As a result, they are reluctant to build the basic latrines used in CLTS programmes as they don’t match their housing or status.

At the moment, they have two options. They can build basic ‘unimproved latrines’, which the community does not like, or they can try to save or borrow the money to build a more expensive, improved latrine. But this is rare, due to other financial pressures.

Because households lack affordable choices to invest in improved latrines, WaterAid Nigeria is complementing CLTS work with the sanitation marketing approach to achieve total sanitation.

Sanitation marketing increases people’s desire for household facilities, which they have more long-term ownership of. Local businesses are also helped to supply this demand with durable, improved latrines.

This work will be done through the Sustainable Total Sanitation Project, which will run for five years and receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project aims to increase sustainable access to sanitation for low-income households, and research communities’ needs and preferences.

Understanding why households build latrines, what kinds of features they like, and how much they are willing to invest is vital to ensure that sanitation marketing projects get off the ground. WaterAid Nigeria has conducted ‘deep-dive’ market research to provide insights to these issues.

A 7-step ‘SanMark Framework’ has been created as a result of this work, outlining strategies to develop, resource, plan and implement sanitation marketing. This market research helps to drive a shift from seeing households as beneficiaries of programme support, to seeing them as knowledgeable customers. Similarly, sanitation providers should be seen as viable independent business-owners, rather than contractors.

These changes will mean that WaterAid Nigeria’s role will also change: from implementing a programme, to facilitating and supporting the market. As part of this shift, our exit strategy should be clear, enabling businesses to continue supplying products and services after our interventions cease.

The Sustainable Total Sanitation Project provides a unique opportunity for WaterAid to provide the necessary technical guidance and leadership to shape a robust sanitation intervention in Nigeria.

The framework is available at >