Vouchers and Sanitation Marketing in Timor-Leste

WaterAid | Tim Davis from WaterAid, on 21/12/2017 08:17 AEST

In Timor-Leste, Open Defecation Free (ODF) sustainability studies have previously identified the financial burden of building good quality latrines and the additional time burden of regularly needing to repair or rebuild a simple pit toilet, as major barriers to sustaining ODF status for households.1 To address these barriers, WaterAid Timor-Leste trialled a voucher scheme to incentivise vulnerable households in ODF communities to upgrade their toilets.

A Wellbeing Ranking method was developed to identify vulnerable households eligible to receive the voucher. Qualifying, interviewed households received a voucher. When presented at a participating local shop along with the purchase of sanitation products costing at least $6 USD, the voucher-holder would be eligible to receive bonus building materials (one sack of cement and one bar of reinforcing steel, average value $9.50) which could be used to improve the durability of the toilet construction. Households typically had between a few weeks and a month to redeem their voucher before it expired. This approach was chosen because it could be tied to use for sanitation products only, while keeping decision-making power about the type of product purchased within the households.

Smart subsidies delivered via vouchers, appears to be an effective way of driving purchase of sanitation products by vulnerable households, and putting people on the path to having improved sanitation. Across 14 target communities, 119 vouchers distributed, and 90 (76%) were redeemed during the trial period. 100% of vouchers redeemed were used in conjunction with purchase of the SaTo Pan introduced through WaterAid's sanitation marketing initiative.2 This was despite people being free to redeem the voucher against purchase of any sanitation product of their choice. Observations from follow-up visits to a sample of households showed 94% of households that redeemed vouchers had installed the Sato pans.

Ideally, this voucher system will be replicated on a larger scale. However, to move forward, the scaling-up of the vulnerable household targeting processes and the percentage of households nationwide that would qualify as vulnerable require further investigation. Though the Wellbeing Ranking methodology used in this pilot proved effective and supportive of community processes, it should be adapted into a ‘clear and objective national criteria for subsidy eligibility’, as per the Timor-Leste National Basic Sanitation Policy, in collaboration with national leaders and sanitation sector stakeholders.

1. ODF Sustainability in Timor-Leste, June 2017, Partnership for Human Development, Dili, Timor-Leste.

2. The SaTo Pan is a lightweight, inexpensive and water-efficient pour-flush toilet developed by American Stand Brands as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet initiative.