This field note provides an overview of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and health financing project that is being implemented in the state of Maharashtra, India – The Ecosystem Approach. The project integrates WASH behaviour change communication (BCC) with rural household microlending programs to drive household water and sanitation access through loans. This initiative aims to establish open defecation free (ODF) communities supporting the larger national programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission.
UNICEF’s BCC expertise, combined with Water.org’s experience in catalysing finance for WASH microlending, suggested a high potential for accelerated water and sanitation access when strategically combined. The two organisations played a joint leadership role in this project, which also required active engagement from government stakeholders across multiple levels, financial institutions and civil society actors. A critical component of this project was the co-development of WASH financial information, education communication (IEC) tools and collateral for use within BCC activities.
The Ecosystem Approach’s efficiency hinges upon harnessing thousands of field staff (those on the ground implementing the work like loan officers) – their deep reach – and building and utilising their training capabilities to create awareness and demand for WASH loans in the targeted areas.