Global: Applied Sanitation Research Influences Both Practice and Policy

A sanitation enterprise offers affordable ready-to-install toilets in Enugu, Nigeria. Photo credit: FSG
A sanitation enterprise offers affordable ready-to-install toilets in Enugu, Nigeria. Photo credit: FSG

USAID conducts research and learning activities that expand what is possible in the WASH sector, both globally and locally. Through operational research, small grants, and technical support, USAID’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) project collaborates with governments, key sector donors, and implementers to fill evidence gaps related to rural sanitation and behavior change. WASHPaLS’ applied research and learning activities influence both policy and practice so that sector stakeholders can more effectively and efficiently invest resources where they are needed most.

The project’s foundational research on market-based sanitation has not only made an important contribution to the sector, but it has also already started to impact USAID programming on the ground. For example, WASHPaLS research sought to understand the viability and sustainability of small sanitation businesses. Through fieldwork in India, Cambodia, and Nigeria, WASHPaLS conducted a careful financial analysis of small enterprises to understand the drivers of their profit, viability, and sustainability. One cement manufacturer in Cambodia thatWASHPaLS studied quadrupled his customer revenue when he started to offer one-stop shopping for toilet products and sanitation infrastructure, such as bricks and doors.

“I sell all construction products, including toilets, so that the customers buy from me instead of going to different shops for different items,” says Thom. With a full understanding of what drives small business success and failure, USAID is better able to foster and support sanitation businesses.

WASHPaLS research and learning feeds directly into guidance that sector organizations are preparing on rural sanitation approaches to help make these entrepreneurs more viable and sustainable.

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USAID Center for Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene