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Our3Q – WaterSHED, Cambodia

Julia – communication specialist in WaterSHED, which stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development. It has the objective to bring effective, affordable water and sanitation products to market in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Providing affordable and desirable water and sanitation products increases adoption and proper use rates among the poor.


Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?

We started in Cambodia in 2011, our key program is sanitation. We sold more than 125 thousand toilets. The average family is about 5 people so we reached nearly half million people. Together with another organization we cover 1/4 million toilets in the country. This helped Cambodia to jump in sanitation, although it’s still one of the lowest in the region. In Thailand more than 90% of population has access to toilet, Laos is 70-80%, Cambodia is lower than 50%, but if we go with this pace, we could soon reach their level. That’s the biggest dream. Better sanitation means less diseases and big improvement of the quality of life.


Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?

The first in my mind are funding. We always look for investors, in Cambodia that’s the biggest challenge. We are small, 100 people compete with much bigger organizations. In a sector which is difficult, you have to talk to people about poo. And getting them believe in your business idea. Another problem is that when we go to the village and 100 among 1000 villagers got free toilet from the government, the rest is waiting for the same. They don’t want to pay for one. But the government will not provide more. Plus, without a proper information about why defecating outside is not good, they see no reason to use it. Soon the free toilets becomes a shed. It’s so much more difficult to convince them to invest some money in toilet.


Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?

We want the social enterprises, the one we have in Cambodia and the one in Vietnam, to be completely sustainable and profitable. Right now they are supported by NGOs, but we hope within next few years to reduce their role. To achieve that we need some investors and a lot of effort in marketing: mass marketing campaign, commercials, radio, tv, banners, hiring enough people to sell products.


Would you like to add somehing more?

Important is that Water SHED was created by Cambodians and most of the people working here are Cambodians, which is not so obvious in this country. Actually there are many amazing, young Cambodian entrepreneurs working here, I’m truly inspired by them. And they work directly with Cambodian villagers, always asking them for their needs and designing the toilet and toilet shelter together with them. We also want to make the process of buying toilet as easy as possible. We work with small businesses, which sell all the pieces needed to install toilet, so customer can come to one place and get all he or she needs. At the same time we help those small businesses to grow. And if people pay for toilet, instead of receiving it for free, they value it much more so the probability of really using it also increase.


The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.


Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 21st November, 2015

ID: 019/100

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