Plastic latrine slabs can provide a simple option for upgrading traditional pit latrines in rural and low-income settings. So why did a big sanitation marketing project promoting plastic latrine slabs in rural Kenya between 2013 -2018 set up by the Gates Foundation, WSP, IFC, and private sector firms (notably SilAfrica) fail to make any real impact?
This is one of the few studies that clearly explains how a large and well-supported sanitation marketing programme went wrong, despite all the expertise and commitment put into it. It is important that failures, as well as successes, are shared in the sector as we can learn a lot from them.
Overview: The International Finance Corporation/World Bank Selling Sanitation programme estimated that plastic slabs would have a 34% annual growth, with a market size of US$2.53 million in Kenya by 2017. In this study, the authors examined the commercial viability of these slabs in rural Kenya by evaluating a financing and distribution model intervention, documenting household slab sales to date, and assessing consumer exposure and perceptions. They also determined household willingness to pay through a real-money auction with 322 households.
The study shows that no households in the study area had purchased the plastic slabs. The primary barriers to slab sales were limited marketing activities and low demand compared with the sales price: households were willing to pay an average of US$5 compared with a market price of US$16. Therefore, current household demand for the plastic latrine slabs in rural Kenya is too low to support commercial distribution. Further efforts are required to align the price of plastic latrine slabs with consumer demand in this setting, such as additional demand creation, product financing, and public sector investment.