Rural Sanitation: USAID Water and Development Technical Series


This brief is part of USAID 's Water and Development Technical Series, which provides guidance on important topics for developing and implementing water and sanitation activities in support of the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and USAID’s plan under the strategy.

The purpose of this technical brief is to provide an overview of the important factors to consider in USAID rural sanitation programming. Drawing upon the latest evidence, it provides guidance for developing and implementing rural sanitation activities.


  • Aim for area-wide geographic coverage. Go beyond the household and community levels to invest in area-wide (district or county) or market systems-level approaches to support impact and sustainability.
  • Address governance, financing, markets, and behaviors. Successful sanitation programmingmust include interventions on governance, financing, markets, and behaviors and move away from an exclusive focus on direct service provision. The mix of approaches should be in direct response to the context.
  • Targeted subsidies can be effective. Subsidy is not a dirty word. Targeted sanitation subsidiesshould be considered when seeking to reach the extreme poor and most vulnerable and can besuccessful when carefully combined with, or as a complement to, other approaches.
  • Leave space for failure and learning. There are and will continue to be failures in rural sanitation programs, and there are not proven strategies/methods for all contexts (e.g., reachingthe ultra poor). Plan for space and time and for staff to fail, iterate, assess progress, and adapt plans to ensure progress and sector-wide learning.
Technical Brief
Publication Date
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13 pages
Population Focus