Applying Innovative Approaches to Improve Rural Sanitation at Large Scale

What motivates a community to end the practice of open defecation and sustain behavior change? What is needed to ensure that the supply of sanitation goods and services can keep pace with rising demand? What role should national and local government play to scale up and sustain lasting improvements?

In developing countries, access to improved sanitation has risen in recent years. Yet, there is a critical need to learn how to work at large scale, using approaches that are cost-effective and sustainable.  To learn what works across a variety of country contexts, the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) launched Global Scaling Up Rural Sanitation in India, Indonesia, and Tanzania, to scale up access to improved sanitation in each country and to additional countries over time. In less than four years, 8.2 million people have obtained access to, and use improved sanitation, and over 5,000 communities have been verified open defecation free. Thousands of masons have been trained to produce affordable sanitation products. And in each country, local and national governments are increasing their budgets for rural sanitation, spending a total of more than US$33 million to support scaling up rural sanitation. The latest Annual Progress Report covers activities conducted July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, reviewing both milestones and challenges.

Within the context of learning what works and why, a key area of focus has been to strengthen performance monitoring to support outcome-based management.  In Tanzania, WSP supported the government to roll out community-based registers to track sanitation and hygiene conditions (see Utilizing Community-Based Registers to Monitor Improved Access to Sanitation and Hygiene in Tanzania). In India, WSP worked with the Government of Himachal Pradesh to develop a five-step benchmarking process that the Government of India is now looking to replicate in other states (see Benchmarking Local Government Performance in Rural Sanitation). And in Indonesia, WSP piloted a system that uses cell phones, SMS-text messaging, and a computer database to transmit and store information reported from the field (see Managing the Flow of Monitoring Information to Improve Rural Sanitation in East Java).

Global Scaling Up Rural Sanitation’s innovative approach is now being adapted in World Bank projects in Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, and Tanzania, and in November 2010,  following a presentation on approaches to scaling up rural sanitation in Africa, World Bank Water Sector Manager for Africa Junaid Kumal Ahmad stated a commitment to end open defecation in Africa; the Global Sanitation Fund is replicating the programmatic approach in Madagascar, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Cambodia; and UNICEF is identifying opportunities to integrate WSP’s sanitation marketing approach into existing projects. 

For more information about Global Scaling Up Rural Sanitation and related publications, please visit,  or contact Eduardo A. Perez,