Unilever is rejecting the latrine handout model in favor of a sanitation market sourced and supported wholly by local entrepreneurs.
It is estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. This is a widespread and long-term humanitarian issue that cannot be solved by simply providing latrines. That's why Unilever's Domestos Brand, which makes sanitation products, has been thinking about how to make this market work better for the poor.
On World Toilet Day this year, celebrated on Nov. 19th, Domestos began training programs in the Vinh Long province in Vietnam to teach local people how to source, supply and maintain community toilets for their towns. Currently many people don't have access to a clean toilet and have to practice “open defecation,” one of the unhealthiest methods.
The main goal of the program is for those enrolled to create their own businesses to maintain the hygiene and sanitation needs of their rural communities. This program also teaches about the importance of sanitation, so communities will understand the value of paying for the upkeep. While Domestos benefits because they sell the products necessary for toilet upkeep, they are also creating a self-sustaining business sector that benefits the poor. Many sanitation practices are new ideas to rural provinces in Vietnam, and Domestos is aiming to fill this void.
Why doesn't Domestos simply give a community a toilet? It would only solve the short-term problem. Instead, this model helps promote long-term solutions and eventually hands the project as a business over to the local entrepreneurs.
World Toilet Day is supported by Unilever, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Counciland the World Toilet Organization. By creating and encouraging favorable market conditions that will ensure effective, long-term provision of sanitation products and services that reach everyone, even the most vulnerable, nonprofits are working to eliminate local dependence on their service , and have begun building market-driven solutions that will be strong enough to respond to changing demands over time.