Bringing sanitation products closer to communities

Sanitation store

In 2016, the government of Rwanda through the Ministry of infrastructure (MININFRA) released the national sanitation policy together with the national sanitation policy implementation strategy. In the strategy, is the concept of a district sanitation center (DSC) aiming to primarily market and inform households about the available sanitation solutions in their local market.

DSCs visualize different technical sanitation options and hand-washing facilities to visiting households and professional builders. As any other shop, the center informs visitors and customers about techniques, construction methods, prices and conditions of use.

In line with the objective of USAID Isuku Iwacu Activity to promote access to sustainable household sanitation products and facilities, USAID Isuku Iwacu promotes DSCs as a powerful sanitation marketing tool. In March 2018, the Activity in collaboration with MININFRA translated the sanitation policy and its strategy into Kinyarwanda to ensure that they reach a wider audience especially in the grassroots where the main language of communication is Kinyarwanda and continues to support MININFRA to disseminate these documents at the grassroots level to support local authorities buy-in for DSCs.

To date, USAID Isuku Iwacu has established seven district sanitation centers in collaboration with MININFRA and local district authorities across its target districts. On December 10, 2018, the Activity in collaboration with Nyanza district authorities organized a sanitation fair to mark the opening of the DSC.

Nyanza district sanitation center supplies various sanitation products including latrine products, handwashing stations and sanitation and hygiene products for use at home such as detergents and cleaning materials. While some of the products can be procured in Nyanza, majority of the products are procured from Kigali. USAID Isuku Iwacu facilitates linkage between DSC operators and Kigali based suppliers

Various latrine prototypes on display outside of Nyanza DSC

Various latrine prototypes on display outside of Nyanza DSC

John Munyambonwa, managing director of Nyanza engineering and construction organization (NECO) was selected by the district and the private sector federation chamber (PSF) to operate the center under a public-private partnership. With a professional background in construction, John viewed his entry into the sanitation market as an organic expansion as he was already constructing latrines as part of the construction package he offered while constructing public buildings, estates and homes.

"I am enjoying being in the sanitation business and know that I have the potential to grow in it,” said John enthusiastically. As an engineer, John is already experimenting with developing sanitation products. This year he started production and sale of a new kind of hand washing station that is a hybrid of two existing handwashing stations in the market. Going for RWF 15,000, his new innovation is hygienic, long-lasting and easy to maintain. (See photo on the left). Recently, John sold a number of hand washing stations to Nyanza district that are now placed in public spaces to encourage the population to wash hands with soap and water at critical times as part of government efforts to avoid cases of Ebola virus infection in Rwanda.

John admits that the business has been slow in growing but is quickly gaining momentum as more people find out about his specialized sanitation products and services. “People passing by are very curious about the latrine prototypes displayed outside and they always come in to find out more,” said John. According to John, Ecosan and twin-pit latrines are the most inquired because they can be emptied. The population in Nyanza district largely depends on agriculture and widely uses fecal as manure or soil improver hence the emptiable nature of these type of latrines are economically attractive.

John Munyambonwa demonstrating how his innovative hand washing station works.

John Munyambonwa demonstrating how his innovative hand washing station works.

John behind the counter of the Nyanza DSC.

John behind the counter of the Nyanza DSC.

Although new sanitation business is profitable and entrepreneurs such as John are venturing out to the grassroots to provide sanitation solutions to communities. In June, John secured a list of about 300 people that are committed to construct or upgrade their existing latrines using their own finances. “This gives me a lot of confidence in the future of sanitation business,” said John.

To save on transportation of construction materials and ensure that communities pay reasonable fees for his services, John plans to mobilize the communities so that construction can be done at the same time for most of the 300 households. Additionally, USAID Isuku Iwacu’s pioneering partnership with the association of microfinance institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) will provide access to sanitation loans to ensure that more Rwandan households can afford access to quality standard sanitation facilities.

Under the partnership, microfinance institutions will partner with private sanitation entrepreneurs such as John, to provide households with tailored sanitation solutions.

Written by Minnie N. Karanja.