Building Futures: USAID Empowers Masons to become Sanitation Entrepreneurs in Ethiopia


Khaleel Ahmed stands next to some concrete rings used in latrines in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Khaleel sells and installs these rings, among other affordable toilet upgrades, using sales techniques he learned from a USAID-supported training.
Photo Credit: PSI/Ethiopia

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, Khaleel Ahmed vividly recalls when his kebele–a small administrative unit–selected him to participate in a Decision Quotient (DQ) Sales® training program offered by USAID. It became a turning point for his masonry business – transforming him from “just an ordinary mason” into an entrepreneur. 

Equipped with masonry and his newfound business skills, Khaleel established Taayo Mason Business, a company dedicated to selling and installing sanitation products and manufacturing concrete rings for homes and businesses. “You only need two important skills to run a good masonry business, manufacturing and entrepreneurial,” says Khaleel.

The DQ Sales approach

USAID’s Transform Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (Transform WASH) project in Ethiopia has adopted the DQ Sales® techniques as part of its broader efforts to increase access to safe and sustainable sanitation services through market-based approaches. Its market-based approach entails: (1) making high-quality, low-cost WASH products locally available; (2) increasing the willingness and interest of communities to purchase these products and services; and (3) broadly improving the enabling environment for a vibrant, private market.

Increasing willingness to purchase sanitation products and services

Using the DQ Sales® approach, individuals like Khaleel, who sells sanitation products such as materials used to affordably upgrade toilets, are trained to seek out potential customers through door-to-door household visits and engage them in meaningful conversations about the problems they face and the associated financial costs. Khaleel is then able to tailor their marketing pitch to the unique needs of each customer. Monte Achenbach, the Chief of Party of Transform WASH, explains: “Sellers may ask: What health issues are you facing? What is the status of your toilet, and what problems is it causing for you and your family? Inevitably, people will say that their kids get sick once or twice a year, particularly with bouts of diarrhea that require expensive health clinic visits. They complain of the smell and flies in their toilets. Then the seller helps customers calculate the financial costs of those problems.”

Embracing the skills gained through his participation in the Transform WASH training, Khaleel’s masonry business is thriving. Instead of passively waiting for customers to come to his shop, Khaleel proactively brings his products and expertise directly to potential customers’ homes. He connects with his customers on a deeper level, understanding their challenges and needs and providing them with the most appropriate solutions. 

“Since I started using DQ Sales, our sales have increased dramatically. In the previous two years, I sold 200 sanitation products, but this year alone, I have already doubled that number and sold 400 products,” Khaleel says proudly.

Khaleel’s ingenuity and commitment to sustainable practices have made him a respected figure in the local community. Through his hard work and dedication, he has managed to save over 50,000 Birr ($900) helping to secure a sustainable future for himself and his family. “It’s more than just a job now, it’s my passion and my lifeline,” Khaleel says. 

Khaleel’s remarkable journey is a testament to the potential of individuals to leverage their skills and expertise into thriving businesses while creating a profound impact in their communities.

About Transform WASH

Since 2017, USAID Transform WASH has helped over 500 local businesses to sell over 100,000 basic sanitation products. Through steady and concerted efforts in the region over the years, USAID has helped nearly over one million Ethiopians gain access to safely managed sanitation services since that time. Learn more about Ethiopia Transform WASH

This story was adapted from PSI’s story on Harnessing Potential: Khaleel Ahmed’s Triumph with DQ Sales®, authored by Mekdim Hailu, Project Communication Manager, PSI Ethiopia.

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