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Community Water and Sanitation in the Pacific: Fostering Sustainable WASH Marketplaces

Community Water and Sanitation in the Pacific: Fostering Sustainable WASH Marketplaces
Community Water and Sanitation in the Pacific: Fostering Sustainable WASH Marketplaces Australian Aid

Increasingly, market approaches are employed to generate demand for water and sanitation (WASH) services among impoverished communities. These market approaches have been met with variable success; with no systematic learning yet on what drives successful WASH marketing, there is no reliable guidance for policy and social organisations.

Project Category: Applied Research

Key Areas of Work: Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Project Date: Jun 08, 2014

The possibility of WASH marketing systems as an approach to achieve WASH outcomes for Melanesian communities of the Pacific, in particular informal urban or peri-urban communities, is unknown.

The possibility of WASH marketplaces that do not compromise the Human Right to self-determination, and are accessible by all in the community, is also unknown.

Acquiring this knowledge requires a multidisciplinary study of existing and emerging marketing systems in impoverished communities and their enabling environment. This needs to be underpinned by theories of marketplace dynamics and executed through participatory action research methods. This research will generate vital knowledge for Pacific WASH practitioners wanting to foster marketplace social action in communities. 

Key research questions

Through action research with informal communities in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, we plan to answer the following questions:

  • What are the main features and characteristics of established and emergent water and sanitation marketing systems in impoverished urban communities in the Pacific region?
  • What potential sustainable solutions exist within these markets? How can this potential be tapped and nurtured?
  • What role does the community and the local ecosystem play in contributing to the success of WASH initiatives?
  • How can WASH sector stakeholders develop and leverage established and emergent water and sanitation markets and experiences?
  • What can WASH sector stakeholders do differently in the Pacific region to deliver sustainable water and sanitation markets?

Expected outputs

WASH in the Pacific 1This project will deliver a number of outputs targeted to CSOs, communities, national and provincial governments, water and sanitation private sector actors, and other development partners (such as donors). These are designed to share the best approaches to fostering demand-led marketing strategies for achieving WASH outcomes for Melanesian communities of the Pacific. Outputs will include:

  • 'Guidebook for fostering WASH marketplaces in Melanesian Pacific communities’, describing approaches for working with communities and enabling actors, to ensure community WASH marketplaces are responsive to local demand, are sustainable, and provide the desired results for communities and enabling actors.
  • Community and household level analysis of WASH situations and priorities in informal urban/peri-urban communities
  • Analysis of existing policy and institutional activity in the WASH enabling environment, particularly relating to informal urban/peri-urban communities
  • In each of the four study countries, two water, sanitation and/or hygiene marketplaces will be fostered, in informal communities
  • Review of WASH marketing exchange systems: market-based, command-based marketing, culturally-determined marketing systems and non-market based marketing systems.

In addition to the Guidebook, these findings will be shared through policy briefs, training workshops for WASH practitioners, peer-reviewed publications and conferences. These resources will be available from the project website (see below) and the Australian Government CS WASH Fund Website.

WASH in the Pacific 2

Project benefits

Informal communities face unique challenges in establishing safe water sanitation and hygiene. These communities are typically impoverished, with low incomes, and with insecure land tenure; this means they have more limited options to connect with formal service providers.

They are also often located in challenging environments, for example, flood-prone lands or landslide-prone hillsides and gullies. In terms of WASH governance by national, provincial and local governments, informal communities also often fall in the cracks between formal urban and rural communities. Any WASH marketing system that is to be provide sustained wellbeing and health impacts, needs to consider these unique contextual factors.

This project will explore different WASH marketing systems, with different technologies suited to local demand and environmental conditions and different governance arrangements suiting the capacity and responsibility of different actors (communities, governments, private sectors).

WASH in the Pacific

Frequently Asked Questions: WASH Marketing Exchange Systems

In recent years, many WASH practitioners have advocated for the use of market-based approaches to stimulate the demand for improved sanitation amongst buyers. There are many forms of WASH provision which may move seamlessly between formal and informal market-based transactions, but these approaches are not the only forms of WASH exchange present around the globe. It is useful to consider the different models of WASH provision through the lens of marketing exchange.

These Frequently Asked Questions provide an overview of the four different types of marketing exchange and explain how they occur in current and emerging WASH marketing systems.


The project team draws together researchers from Australia, the Pacific, and the United States from the fields of marketing systems, governance, environmental science and engineering. The project is led by Principal Investigator, Dr Dani Barrington (Monash University/IWC) and Project Manager, Dr Regina Souter (IWC) working with a team of academics: Prof Srinivas Sridharan and Dr Stephen Saunders (Monash University), Prof Jamie Bartram and Kate Shields (University of North Carolina), Professor Bill Aalbersberg and Semisi Meo (University of the South Pacific), and many staff of Live and Learn in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The project commenced in May 2013 and will be completed in May 2016.

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