SEATTLE — Today, nearly 1 billion people still defecate outdoors, and of that number, 569 million of those individuals live in India. Open defecation is a practice in which individuals go out in public spaces such as fields, bushes, or open bodies of water to relieve themselves, rather than using the toilet. The efforts towards improving India’s sanitation crisis are numerous, but through understanding the causes of the crisis and appropriate solutions, India can see a brighter and healthier future.
Exploring the causes — Cultural and Social Biases
In India, publicly defecating is a well-known tradition practiced from early childhood. Because of the country’s historic caste system, India’s sanitation crisis was not a socially acceptable topic. Indians thought that if one owned a toilet it had to be very fancy and costly and so, as a result, sanitation became taboo and was not discussed.
Consequently, open defecation has continued to be a normal practice for many Indians. In addition to historical convention and communication taboo, the idea still exists mainly due to poverty. Many of these low-income communities do not prioritize in investing in toilets.
The lack of proper defecation facilities is a growing public health issue in India. Various diseases caused by bugs found in the feces of infected people have maneuvered their way to contaminate other human bodies through polluted soil, water and food.
These diseases — cholera, dengue, malaria, hepatitis and many more — can be stamped out with the implementation of an updated sanitation system. Practices like thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, cleaning fruits and vegetables in fresh water before cooking and consuming and carefully cooking contaminated foods, are certainly ways to reduce contraction of food-borne diseases in India’s sanitation crisis.
The toilet company Svadha, a social venture focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the rural area, has centered on incorporating a level of standardization through local entrepreneurship in India.
Svadha’s ideas circle around offering a solutions to India’s rural consumer – from proper buildings with latrines to sustainable waste management solutions.
The company establishes representatives in the villages, Sanitation Entrepreneurs or Sanipreneurs, who use Information Communication Technology interventions to engage with the local members of the community and offer them WASH solutions.
Most rural consumers in India do not want sanitation products that are cheap, but they do want affordable solutions. Which is where Svadha’s Sanitation Engagement & Analytics and Innovation teams step in; to conduct research and design solutions that will change according to consumers budgets and adapt to each individual’s needs based on a level of comfort, privacy, and social status.
Key Aspects of Svdha
Local sanitation producers in India offer a limited supply of materials and feature staggering prices from dealing with outside distributors that have used India’s sanitation crisis as a grounds to spike up prices, to local buyers sometimes have to bare these higher costs and often face being duped by poor-quality products. Svdha negotiates directly with manufacturers to secure a wide variety of high quality materials at affordable prices.
Svdha also offers delivery free-of-charge to its Sanipreneurs in order to eliminate the burden of high delivery fees that locals sometimes face.This allows entrepreneurs to make more manageable orders and keep more resources on hand, rather than making one large order.
By hiring employees within the community, Svdha has found a way to stimulate economic growth. They help their entrepreneurs grow by offering free business development services and marketing and consumer awareness assistance. With their premium Sanitation Ecosystem Services — a customizable assortment of business consulting and training resources — Svdha is able to create a capacity of sanipreneurs from beginning to advanced stages.
As of February 2016, Svadha has reached a stable production in a few Indian states (Odisha, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) with 120 entrepreneurs created and approximately 50,000 people served with high quality water, sanitation and hygiene solutions.
In the near future, Svadha proposes to expand all over India in order to provide opportunities for 8,500 sanipreneurs per year and touch about 150,000 households over the next three years. Svadha also accommodates global requests in Latin America and Africa for franchise affiliations.
By working continuously to reinforce the WASH ecosystem and establishing financial sustainability, India’s sanitation crisis will soon be no more.
– Zainab Adebayo