A market for safe sanitation in Cambodia

iDE | Bronwyn Powell from CSWASH KALM, on 31/05/2018 19:23 AEST

Hang Kong owns a pit latrine in Moeun Chey commune in Cambodia. Built 10 years ago, the pit has filled and been emptied twice. Kong says at the time he didn’t know about the risks associated with handling the waste. He has recently has upgraded his family’s latrine by purchasing a second twin off-set pit from a local latrine business owner. 

“Without a second pit I poked a hole in the first pit and the water just leaked out. It smelt very bad and created a bad environment for my family,” said 76 year-old Kong. 

iDE Cambodia has designed and is trialling a twin-offset pit to upgrade existing pits and enable households to shift to safely managed sanitation. To measure how quickly pits are filling up iDE is undertaking a pit gauge trial in multiple sites. Mr Kong had a pit gauge installed 3 months ago and hopes that it will help him monitor when the pit is close to full.

On a recent monitoring visit, it was clear that pits filling up is an increasing problem and there is a growing market for solutions. Latrine Business Owner Chin Sunly estimates that 10% of her customers have come back to her business seeking advice on what to do when their pit latrine fills up. Some households have already invested in a second pit, though when connected in series these only increase the storage without providing a safe sanitation solution. The latrine businesses supported by iDE and their team of sales agents (‘sanitation teachers’) are in an ideal position to meet the growing demand with a safe solution. Some challenges to the success of the technology remain to be addressed, particularly areas with high groundwater levels and high seasonal rainfall variability.

Overall iDE Cambodia’s project in is one of the stand-out success stories of the CS WASH Fund Phase 2 for its sanitation reach. At completion the project will have helped over 500,000 people access improved sanitation. iDE’s sanitation marketing (SanMark) model has built the capacity of 112 latrine business owners which are likely be sustainable businesses providing sanitation products well into the future. As coverage increases demand creation through sales teams and house-to-house visits is becoming more and more resource intensive and iDE continues to innovate and explore options for improving their ability to help communities become open defecation free. 

Photo: Hang Kong with his household’s latrine in the background. Credit: CS WASH FMF/ Bronwyn Powell