Women’s entrepreneurship in the sanitation business


Neither Mrs Kim nor her husband, Mr Pach Norn, had any experience running a business. She was a farmer and a homemaker. For 13 years he had been a seasonal construction worker; also providing labour for building toilets. At 46 years old, she never envisioned herself starting her own sanitation business.

In September 2015, USAID’s Integrated Nutrition, Hygiene, and Sanitation (NOURISH) project invited Kim’s husband to participate in a training so that he could learn how to produce latrine components. After returning from the training, Kim and Pach decided to start their own sanitation business in their village, Boeung Chak, in Sya commune, Kandieng district of Pursat province. The couple used Kim’s savings of US$ 500 as seed capital.

The trainings that Kim and Pach received were part of the NOURISH project’s strategy to build up the capacity of private sector sanitation providers to expand and improve the supply of high-quality WASH products and services; while keeping these affordable for low-income communities.

Through NOURISH, entrepreneurs like Kim were trained on the production of latrine components and business skills, including product pricing and basic sales and expenses record keeping. With NOURISH’s support, Kim participated in workshops and exchange visits in and out of her province to gain technical knowledge and insights on how to successfully run a business. Latrine suppliers gained the business and technical know-how to improve the quality of their products, reduce costs, expand their product offerings and increase sales volumes. ‘Through the exchange visits and regular one-on-one business coaching and mentoring sessions, we have learnt a lot about WASH practices including technical update on latrine construction, quality control, WASH product business expansion strategies and diversifying WASH products and services,’ said Kim and Pach, SME from Kandieng district, Pursat province.

Promoting toilet technology options

NOURISH-CLTS triggering follow-up

In September 2015, Kim and Pach launched a business constructing and selling latrines. Since then, it has grown remarkably. Initially only selling two latrines every month, the business has grown to sell around 20 toilets per month in 2020. Improvements in toilet sales contributed to the overall increase in sanitation coverage of targeted communities and their overall nutrition and health. Increased access to latrines kept communities protected from the spread of devastating diseases, like diarrhoea, caused by human waste contamination.

As Kim and Pach’s business grew in demand, assets and capital – including production equipment like moulds, transport facilities, a concrete mixer, and materials like sand, cement, and tiles – they were able to participate in bidding opportunities organised by the public sector and other WASH NGOs. They were successful in securing contracts in producing, transporting, and installing latrine sets.

Kim gives herself and her husband equal credit for the growth of their business. According to Kim, ‘by producing high-quality products we develop a relationship of trust with our customers.’  The quality of the couple’s products is also well-known among local government officials involved in the project, and among nearby communes. ‘Kim’s toilets are of very good quality and I trust her products,’ said Mrs Tan Sinat, Commune Council Woman Chief (CCWC) of Sya commune. Mrs Sinat was also involved with the NOURISH project through the WASH vouchers programme. [1]

Along with the emphasis on quality products, Kim actively promoted their business by participating in events hosted by NOURISH, including Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) events, [2] which triggered community interest and demand for better sanitation.

By building up the demand side within communities and strengthening the supply side by supporting businesses like Kim’s, NOURISH has created a market for improved sanitation. Because this new market is beneficial to both the supply and demand sides, the market for improved sanitation and the benefits it brings to rural communities are expected to be sustainable and to last well beyond project completion.


Prepared by: Sunetra Lala with input from Sophorn Ngy/SNV in Cambodia

Photos: Him Pao/SNV in Cambodia

[1] NOURISH designed and launched a voucher initiative in 2016 for WASH products. To ensure safe drinking water at the point of use and sustainable and improved sanitation, NOURISH fosters the development and promotion of water filters and latrines by the private sector. Vouchers for water filters and latrines serve as incentives to expand safe drinking water practices and sanitation demand and are aligned to the National Guiding Principles on Hardware Subsidies for Rural Household Sanitation aimed at providing latrines subsidies for the poorest of the poor and requiring a minimum co-payment from beneficiaries.
[2] CLTS is an innovative methodology to mobilise communities to improve their sanitation and completely eliminate open defecation. CLTS begins with a triggering event, which often involves showing communities how open defecation and poor sanitation can cause diseases, negatively impact health and nutrition, and contribute to childhood stunting. After the CLTS triggering, NOURISH works with communities to create and sustain demand for improved sanitation and to self-monitor instances of open defecation to encourage change from within their own villages. As part of CLTS events, private sector companies like Kim’s demonstrate the options for well-built, sanitary latrines, and their proper use.