Finding Success in Marketing Water and Sanitation

By November 15, 2011 Healthcare, Kenya No Comments

So I’ve arrived in Kenya for another rotation with Nuru’s Water and Sanitation Program, and it’s amazing to see how much the staff has developed since I last left. As Nicole stated in one of her last blogs, our team has complete trust in each other. Even when constructing demonstration latrines in the community, passers-by note how our team loves each other. Yep, “loves”…that’s a direct translation. This, of course, has many great benefits, one of the most notable being the shift in perception of a woman’s role, as Nicole has noted. Thus, I’m very excited to be a part of this team as we approach the next phase of our program, which is to market and sell latrines and handwashing stations.

So far, we’ve been doing a lot of prep work which can be divided into two activities. First, we’ve done some focus groups with the community in order to understand what motivations and barriers they have in purchasing a latrine. Secondly, we’ve started equipping our field officers to be successful in marketing products (I know, a little vague, but I’ll expand on it later).

In order to have a successful marketing program, we knew that we would have to listen deeply to the community. We thought that one of the best ways, given the skillset that our field managers already have practice in, was to conduct focus groups. Furthermore, we got our grubby little hands on some pretty good material from the USAID HIP program which details their own experiences in focus groups and sanitation marketing. Although we’ve just finished the focus groups and are still compiling all the responses we’ve gotten, so far we’re seeing that our responses from the community generally align with focus groups performed by the WSP in Kenya. This is exciting for several reasons. For one, we feel we have a good pulse on what the community is thinking. Secondly, it also speaks to the field managers’ abilities as facilitators to quickly build trust with focus group members and get honest answers. Obviously, talking about feces and how one defecates is not polite conversation. Imagine the skill it takes to have a person speak to a stranger about private and often embarrassing practices.

Our second activity is to equip our field officers to sell latrines successfully. However, we believe that the foundation for our field officers to be successful in marketing is to be service-minded leaders in their communities. Although we just started these training sessions with our field officers, it’s clear that they strive to serve their communities. Here are just some snippets of our conversations during these trainings:

  • One field officer claimed that we should “be the example” to our communities and construct the slab latrines in our own homes. The field officers then put the training on pause in order to form groups to help each other finance and construct their own latrines. We have already built four of these latrines.
  • We were discussing how the demand for handwashing stations has outpaced supply. The field officers in charge of constructing them promptly ended that discussion by stating that they will work more hours in order to satisfy demand.

Of course, we recognize that we have a lot to learn still. As much as I love working with our team, we are by no means perfect and we want to make sure we’re always ready to learn from our mistakes. Nonetheless, there are some encouraging signs as we’ve recently snagged two latrine customers. Photo of one of the satisfied customers is included below.

A satisfied customer of a Nuru latrine

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