Connecting rural people to markets for WASH materials (RVWRMP’s focus on the WASH Supply Chain)
Demand and supply define all market relations, also for WASH products. Also in the rural communities there is a demand for WASH products and materials. However, the supply side and market linkages for these products are poorly developed. Since, access to water and sanitation are fundamental human rights, it is important for the duty bearers (Rural Municipality authorities) to facilitate markets for WASH materials and operation and maintenance services to avail affordable and sustainable WASH services to the citizens.
The interventions of RVWRMP developed was to create healthier WASH and Nutrition habits among the community people. New hygiene habits require new sanitation infrastructures as well as hygiene products and services. Sensitization messages stress the need for using clean water, proper tap operation, using washers, soap, sanitary pads, tooth brush and other sanitizing materials. When these materials are not available near to the people, the hygiene behavior cannot be changed as expected.
RVWRMP analyzed the local context and piloted a brainstorming event around the Supply Chain and markets for WASH materials and services. The aim of this workshop was to stimulate linkages among community people, local entrepreneurs and suppliers and/or producers. The specific objectives of the workshop were:
To identify the products/materials and services needed for water supply, sanitation, hygiene promotion and nutrition including school WASH and WASH in emergencies.
To assess the current availability of products and services, and existing market chains.
To explore opportunities to increase availability of all the needy WASH products near to the rural communities.
A focus group discussion was initiated among Local entrepreneurs/ suppliers, cooperatives and Rural Municipality (RM) representatives to define the need for WASH products and services. The outcome of the discussions was:
Knowledge and information
Products for personal hygiene –Soap, detergent, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, nail cutter, comb, mirror, sanitary pads, etc.
Hardware products for toilet construction and toilet cleanliness maintaining accessories.
School WASH products (Dustbin, dust keeper, water vessels & water filter, broom, sanitation and hygiene structures etc.)
For in-house use (Dust bin, broom, door mat, towel, kitchen rack, sanitation and hygiene structures).
Menstrual hygiene management materials (Sanitary pads, tampon, menstrual cup, homemade sanitary pad, disposal pits/incinerator)
Materials for water supply (Pipe, fittings, brass tap, tools, cement and other materials)
livelihood products and services (seeds, basic agriculture equipment, poly house, and other advance farming equipment, drips and sprinklers)
Service providing individuals or institutions
Currently, these products and services are only available at in larger regional markets. Absence of these essential WASH products is one of the key barriers for promotion of total sanitation and nutrition in remote areas.
The workshop furthermore explored ideas about how to develop linkages between rural communities and the regional market centers to make these products available at community level. The workshop also sensitized the key stakeholders and local level policy makers, the duty bearers, on their responsibility in to provide the population with access to water and basic sanitation. The open discussion of the issues among participants was a good sign.
Key ideas to improve the WASH Supply Chain, The “Sani-box shop” concept aims to establish a micro shop focused on sanitation and hygiene materials in the remote community where no other options are available. Local people will be encouraged to start their enterprise focused on WASH and their livelihood.
Another innovative development are the sanitary pad vending machines at schools. Proper communication is a major barrier between demand and supply of sanitary pads. The customers are shy to ask for the product and sellers shy to talk about the product. Even if there is a transaction, there often lacks a proper instruction on how to use the pads. Vending machines are expected to improve the easy access to support girls during menstruation. Several schools started installing this technology and RMs are providing subsidy for the sanitary pads in the beginning and schools promised to continue the subsidy afterwards. The school girls use the advance technology to get the sanitary pad for menstruation hygiene. It is expected that this will reduce the days that girls are absent from school due to menstruation.
Knowledge and information are an important input in the sanitation chain. Ignorance on the hygiene issues keeps people very vulnerable. Knowledge and awareness are key in the capacity development of the people and demand creation to attract suppliers. Hence, supply chain development and awareness creation have to be done simultaneously.
Generally, in the communities in Sudur Paschim there’s a concept that women are responsible for sanitary conditions at home. Hence, the supply chain activities not supports the accessibility to WASH products but also supports women to better manage the hygiene of the family.
It is important that men and boys are also sensitized about sanitary situation at home and dignity of women and girls during menstruation. Boys and men also have to become aware and learn about the harmful habit of the Chhaupadi that prescribes that menstruating women and girls cannot sleep in the house nor make use of the toilet or water tap.
Finally, the different trainings and workshops related to water supply and sanitation, have shown a change in behavior in the community. Menstruation materials are now frequently used and awareness on menstruation hygiene is raising. Male shopkeepers also sell sanitary pads and support spreading the female hygiene message to other community women. The workshop highlighted the need for joint action between community health volunteers, cooperatives, women groups and good hygiene promotion materials etc.