Skip to main content

Waterlines Journal | July 2020

Access to basic sanitation or meeting SDG 6.2 remains a critical challenge across the global south. Market-based sanitation (MBS) approaches have gained popularity in sanitation programming. But the sector lacks systematic evidence across projects and geographies despite a history of MBS implementation since the 1980s.

Under the remit of the USAID WASH Partnerships for Learning and Sustainability project, FSG collaborated with Dr. Marion W. Jenkins to review 1,253 WASH grants since 1980. We identified 103 projects targeting household sanitation supply using an MBS approach, assessed their characteristics and outcomes (population impacted), and reviewed their strategies.

Top Takeaways

  • MBS and non-MBS sanitation supply projects have reached similar levels of reported end-of-project outputs and outcomes; however, stakeholders must also consider sustainability and longer-term outcomes and impacts when comparing MBS and subsidy-driven supply approaches.
  • Donors and funders should lengthen grant funding cycles from the typical 2-3 years to a minimum of 5 years, which allows implementers room to experiment and learn from interventions.
  • Implementers should address three key factors from the onset to help projects achieve scale: appropriate toilet products and sanitation business models; availability and viability of local entrepreneurs; and, consumer financing strategies to overcome liquidity and affordability constraints.
  • Per capita implementation costs for rural projects in the sub-Saharan Africa have been significantly higher than in Asia, and household investment leverage ratios considerably lower. Possible reasons range from insufficient project duration and the absence of direct sales and marketing strategies to broader contextual factors such as lower population density and challenging business environment.
  • Stakeholders need to significantly improve the availability, quality, and consistency of reporting project performance and impact metrics, which are needed to measure, track, and compare the effectiveness and cost-efficiency across programming approaches and geographies.