Small Entrepreneurs Pave the Way for Sanitation Improvements in Benin


Blockmakers at a workshop making blocks and sanitation products.
Photo credit: James Winter, USAID

Improving household access to safe latrines is crucial, especially in areas like Avrankou, Benin, where open defecation rates are alarmingly high, and individuals often have to travel long distances to find a toilet. 

To address this issue, USAID is implementing the  West Africa Municipal Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (MuniWASH) Activity. As part of this initiative, USAID is training local entrepreneurs on how to build, promote, and install latrines. The training includes not only technical guidance on latrine construction but also  workshops on marketing strategies, attracting customers, and maintaining business records. This approach aims to increase the availability of high-quality latrines in communities while providing income opportunities for local small businesses.

Toussaint, sanitation micro-entrepreneur, and Jules Hountondji, WASH Lead for USAID/Benin.
Photo credit: James Winter, USAID

“Before MuniWASH, I was already a blockmaker. When the program started, I received training on how to build and sell toilets. This has increased my overall revenue and profits and has given me opportunities to increase my client base. If someone buys a toilet, I offer to also sell them the cement blocks needed for the superstructure.”
-Toussaint, a sanitation micro-entrepreneur in the Avrankou municipality.

As the number of sanitation micro-entrepreneurs increases, there is an opportunity for the municipality to accelerate progress by helping to identify households without toilets and connecting them with latrine providers. “The road is long to get sanitation facilities and we need to work with the municipality to get there.” shares Emile, an entrepreneur in the Avrankou municipality.

Jules Hountondji, WASH Lead for USAID/Benin with a sanitation entrepreneur.
Photo credit: James Winter, USAID

Government officials are proud of the improvements made in communities. “Today, thanks to MuniWASH, we have lowered the open defecation rate. But, it’s important to continuously promote and encourage individuals to adopt proper sanitation practices,” shared Gabriel Ganhoutode Sena, Mayor of Avrankou.

With the increased number of small businesses operating in the sanitation sector, latrines are more widely available in the community. Says one community member that received a toilet, “Now, my family doesn’t need to openly defecate and walk long distances. That was a challenge. Now, it is much more convenient.”

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About The Author

Dr. James Winter

WASH Adviser at USAID in the Bureau for Global Health with 10 years of experience studying water supply, sanitation, and hygiene. James began working in the water sector as a volunteer at a local NGO in El Salvador, conducting water quality tests, distributing clay pot water filters, and assisting local hospitals with basic data analysis. After returning to the U.S. (and after a few detours), James began his PhD at Stanford University in Civil & Environmental Engineering, focusing on the role of rural piped water supply in time allocation, water quality, and food security in Zambia. He has spent almost two years living in Zambia, including a year pursuing a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship.

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James Winter
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