Enabling supply chain actors to meet rising demand for toilets in the terai

Enabling supply chain actors to meet rising demand for toilets in the terai

When awareness on sanitation is raised and interest piqued, demand for sanitation facilities increases. However, as we had observed in the districts of the terai in 2014, although the private sector was active, it was ill-equipped to meet the surge in sanitation demand. What seemed like a ‘sanitation win’ for the terai districts of Banke, Mahottari, Saptari, Siraha and Sarlahi was fast becoming difficult to sustain.

In 2014, as per NMIP data, sanitation access in most of the terai districts was well below the national average of 70%. To address this, district line agencies and development actors had started working together through the District WASH Coordination Committees (D-WASH-CC) to raise awareness about sanitation. As demand for toilets began to rise, development actors were quick to act. iDE Nepal, for example, started promoting the ‘easy latrine’: a standard toilet package for households. In other areas, some organisations invested in training masons on toilet construction and providing moulds for ring production.

But efforts were scattered. Many people who wanted to make a toilet did not know how to go about it. Clearly, something had to be done.

In 2015, under the leadership of the Water Supply and Sanitation Division Offices (WSSDO) of the five districts, SNV Nepal partnered with the government in searching for ways to strengthen the capacity of supply chain actors to deliver to the heightened demand and different needs of consumers. A stepwise process was undertaken.

Firstly, we carried out a study to understand consumer preferences for sanitation and analyse the existing supply chains in the districts. Different consumer segments, including latrine users and non-users, and different supply chain actors including wholesalers, retailers, ring-producers and masons, formed as the study’s subjects.

Secondly, a one-day sharing, analysis and strategising workshop in the format of an interactive sanitation café – based on the study’s situational analysis and other district data – was hosted by the WSSDO in all five districts. Gathering a broad range of stakeholders – local government agencies (district line agencies, VDC secretaries, etc.), small and medium entrepreneurs and private sector (concrete ring producers and hardware suppliers), cooperatives and micro-finance institutions, and development partners – strategic action areas to strengthen supply chains were identified. These strategies were subsequently endorsed by the D-WASH-CC and incorporated in their respective district sanitation strategies.

Finally, identified strategies were transformed into tangible activities and outputs. Mapping of sanitation supply chain actors working in the districts commenced. Together with the DWSSM, local masons, and Disability People’s Organisations, we produced and disseminated guidebooks on technical toilet options to suit people’s diverse needs (e.g., people with disabilities) and realities (e.g., affordability, geographical context). We developed training materials for masons on quality toilet construction (video, construction guidebook). We supported sanitation entrepreneurs to enhance their capacity for quality construction, business and marketing skills, and outreach to the low-income status households. Linkages between hardware suppliers, ring producers, and masons were also developed.

As a result, sanitation supply chain actors gained a better grasp of the potential and scope of the sanitation market.

  • New entrepreneurs emerged. At the minimum, the number of concrete ring producers in each district tripled (from 25 to 100++ suppliers).

  • Some ring producers in Sarlahi and Siraha established satellite production units in rural areas.

  • Some masons, such as the mason in Mahottari (Sundarpur VDC-4) set up a ‘one-stop-shop’, providing complete services for toilet installation.

  • Multiple and tailored toilet packages emerged. For example, to also deliver a service to people with low-income status, transport charges were minimised, and some components were delivered free of charge.

  • The quality of masons’ construction steadily improved.

Without a doubt, supply chain actors in the terai effectively rose to the challenge of heightened and diverse demands for toilets. They were essential partners in helping districts turn their backs on open defecation practice.

Banner photo and footage: SNV/ Nico Hertweck