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Cousineau, D, 2009 –– Determining Demand to Sell Sanitation: A preliminary analysis of the potential of combining Community-Led Total Sanitation and sanitation marketing in Cambodia

Diane Cousineau (Canada) 

Diane Master of Integrated Water Management student

Rural sanitation coverage in Cambodia is amongst the lowest in the world, with coverage as low as 2 per cent in some provinces. Poor sanitation in Cambodia was responsible for roughly 9.4 million cases of diarrhoeal disease in 2005, and the economic impacts of poor sanitation and hygiene in the same year were calculated at USD$450 million, or 7.2 per cent of the country’s GDP (WSP, 2008).

Diane - final semester projectRural sanitation is not a government priority, leaving the sector with minimal support and little capacity. Sanitation interventions are therefore led by external agencies, working in an institutional environment that lacks strategy, planning, capacity, skills and experience (Robinson, 2007).

The typical approach used in Cambodia to improve sanitation often focuses on providing subsidised latrine hardware to households in exchange for a contribution of cash or construction labour. Consequently, only the better-off households who can afford to contribute benefit from the subsidy, which does not necessarily result in a change to their defecation habits, as years later hardware has been found unused and latrines abandoned once full or dirty (Robinson, 2007; Sok & Catalla, 2009), common when the end-user’s preferences or desires are not taken into account (Jenkins & Sugden, 2006).

The ‘Community-Led Total Sanitation’ (CLTS) approach has had success in mobilising communities to build latrines out of locally-sourced materials, but harsh biophysical conditions often destroy them in less than one year. Latrine owners become frustrated with latrine repairs and lack of affordable hardware options to upgrade, risking a return to open defecation.  

Sanitation marketing has the potential to resolve the inability of households in CLTS villages to upgrade by addressing supply-side deficiencies to improve access to affordable, sustainable hardware. Using a social marketing approach, sanitation marketing promotes desirable and affordable hardware, stimulates demand for these products, and facilitates the links between this demand and the supply chain. The approach is unique in that it is not a one-time intervention whose benefits or support end when external support ceases: the ultimate goal is the creation of a self-sufficient sanitation industry that will continue growing when project activities cease.

Approaches like CLTS and sanitation marketing challenge the usual paradigms that see non-users as beneficiaries, instead of people capable of making their own decisions to suit their needs. CLTS and sanitation marketing are strongly related demand-centred approaches that stimulate latrine adoption and use, but as they differ on many levels, many questions about their use in sequence have yet to be answered.

Diane Cousineau carried out field research to assess the potential for the combinatory approach of CLTS and sanitation marketing.  Her research raised key issues regarding project implementation and made recommendations for the best way forward.

Diane Cousineau's profile

Diane is a civil engineer by training, with a longstanding passion for sanitation and water.  The cultural, environmental, and political complexities in finding and implementing lasting solutions to the international sanitation and water crises have attracted her to leave Canada to learn in Africa, Asia, and Australia. Diane aims to use the skills she developed in the IWC’s masters program to find innovative solutions to sanitation and water service delivery by building mutually-beneficial relationships between industry, government, and communities.

> Read more about Diane's professional background



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