Equity in Sanitation Marketing 

One of the major concerns of many practitioners is the ability of SanMark to reach and serve the poorest.  SanMark aims to better serve the needs of the poor by developing the market for affordable sanitation products and services specifically for the poor.  It invests in product design (Step 3) and supply chain and business model improvements (Step 4) to make improved sanitation more affordable and accessible.  Inclusion of households from the two lowest income quintiles in each step in the 7-step SanMark process will be important, and may require treating them as a separate market segment. Even after successfully reducing market prices and improving accessibility, some households - especially the poorest - may still find it difficult to purchase improved sanitation. 

Consumer financing options to enable poorer and poorest households to purchase sanitation

There are two distinct dimensions to the sanitation affordability problem: cash-flow and absolute cash-poverty problems.  Market-compatible consumer financing options, including savings up, credit/borrowing, vouchers, rebates, and new types of conditional cash transfers, offer alternative ways to address cash-flow and absolute cash poverty affordability problems for the poorest. All of these options try to keep incentives in place for others who can afford to purchase on their own. 

As a sector, we have some experience and success with microfinance and rebates for market purchase of sanitation (see examples and cases in the Resources section). But for socially subsidized vouchers and conditional cash transfers, we’ll need to learn more from other development sector experience, for example in education and health services.

Effective targeting is critical

No matter what options we use, we will need to effectively target financing options, especially ones that involve a social subsidy. Effective targeting helps us reach and benefit those households who truly need support. In the past, the sanitation sector has generally made little effort and done poorly at targeting subsidies. Much more effort and learning on effective targeting will be needed.

Tips for consumer financing options:

  • Allow time to see how the poorest households are responding to your market interventions before deciding what options are needed by whom.

  • Assess and understand who and how many among your target population are affected by the different dimensions of unaffordability and evaluate the effectiveness of new options and targeting methods by piloting them before going to scale.

  • Managing, targeting and delivering financing options can be quite complex and costly.  Consider strengths and limitations of each option in UNICEF Guidance Note 8.  Partner with skilled organizations and seek expertise from other sectors experienced in delivering a particular option to design and implement the approach. This is particularly the case for savings group and credit/borrowing options.

  • Before launching a subsidy financing option, seek sector and government commitment for long-term sources of funding to sustain the subsidy. 

  • For more guidance see here: 

  • UNICEF Guidance Note 8 Equity in SanMark UNICEF Guidance Note 8 Equity in SanMark (1008 KB)


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