Neither Mrs. Kim Y nor her husband, Pach Norn, had any experience running a business. She was a farmer and a homemaker, and for 13 years he had been a seasonal construction worker, who also provided labour for building toilets. Naturally, at 46 years old, she never envisioned herself starting her own sanitation business.
But in September 2015, Integrated Nutrition, Hygiene, and Sanitation (NOURISH) project (funded by USAID) invited Kim’s husband to participate in a training on producing latrine components. After returning from the training, Kim and Pach decided to start their own sanitation business in their village, Boeung Chak, in Sya commune, of Pursat province, using initial capital of USD $500 that Kim had saved.
NOURISH takes a unique, multi-sectorial approach to reducing malnutrition in low-income, rural districts of Cambodia’s Battambang, Siem Reap, and Pursat provinces. The project integrates innovative approaches to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) with strengthened nutrition services within the health sector in order to address key causal factors of chronic malnutrition.
The trainings that Kim and Pach received were part of the project’s strategy to build up private sector sanitation providers in order to expand and improve the supply of affordable, high-quality WASH products and services that are available to low-income communities. Through NOURISH, they received training on producing latrine components, and business skills including product pricing, and basic sales and expenses record keeping. Kim also participated in workshops and exchange visits in and out of her province to help her gain technical knowledge and insight on how to successfully run a business.
After the trainings Kim and Pach launched a business constructing and selling toilets in September of 2015. Since then, it has grown remarkably. Initially only selling 2 toilets, the business has grown to now sell around 20 toilets per month. These toilet sales contribute to an overall increase in sanitation coverage of the targeted communities. Improved sanitation helps these communities avoid devastating diseases, like diarrhoea, caused by human waste contamination, and thereby improve their overall nutrition and health. The growth of Kim and Pach’s business is also reflected in the growth of their assets and capital, including production equipment like moulds, transportation facilities, a concrete mixer, and materials like sand, cement, and tiles.
Kim credits the growth of her business to her and her husband focusing on producing high quality toilets. As Kim notes, “by producing high quality products we develop a relationship of trust with our customers”. The quality of her products is also well known among local government actors involved in the project, and among nearby communes. “Kim’s toilets are of very good quality and I trust her products,” said Mrs. Tan Sinat, Commune Council Woman Chief (CCWC) of Sya commune. Mrs. Sinat is also involved with the NOURISH project through its WASH vouchers programme.
Along with relying on the high quality of her products, Kim actively promotes their business by participating in events hosted by NOURISH, including Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) events, and first 1,000 days village fairs.
CLTS is an innovative methodology to mobilise communities to improve their sanitation and completely eliminate open defecation. CLTS begins with a triggering event, which often involves showing communities how open defecation and poor sanitation can cause diseases, negatively impact health and nutrition, and contribute to childhood stunting. After the triggering, SNV works with communities to create and sustain demand for improved sanitation and to self-monitor instances of open defecation to encourage change from within their own villages. As part of CLTS events, private sector companies like Kim’s demonstrate the options for well-built, sanitary latrines, and their proper use.
By building up the demand side through working with communities through methods like CLTS, and building up the supply side by supporting businesses like Kim’s, NOURISH is creating a market for improved sanitation. Because this new market is beneficial to both the supply and demand sides, the market for improved sanitation and the benefits it brings to rural communities are expected to be sustainable and last long after the project has finished.