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Extending sanitation in countries with developing economies: Examining market-­based approaches with case studies in rural and urban Malawi

Cole, Ben (2015) Extending sanitation in countries with developing economies: Examining market-­based approaches with case studies in rural and urban Malawi. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Toilets are a foundation of public health and a basic human right. Yet over 2.5 billion people do not have access to a safe and hygienic toilet in countries with developing economies. Both theorists and practitioners have argued that sanitation programs in countries with developing economies have failed to embrace the principles and tools offered by market--‐based approaches. Market--‐ based approaches to sanitation have predominantly arisen from the field of social marketing.

This thesis presents an integrated research process conducted in the sanitation sector over a three--‐year period in both rural and urban settings in Malawi. The core research components include; (a) formative market research of a sanitation program, (b) participatory design of sanitation technologies, (c) financial analysis of sanitation business models and (d) theoretical analysis using diffusion theory to examine the adoption of ecological toilets.

The research applied a pragmatic research paradigm accompanied with mixed methods. The formative market research identified two key market failures; i) a lack of suitable and affordable sanitation products and services and ii) a high awareness of government and donor subsidy programs that reduced consumer and supplier engagement in the market. In response to the market research findings the research validated the use of participatory approaches to engage users in the design of appropriate sanitation products. The participatory approach created a space for dialogue between home owners, builders and government representatives towards the design of sanitation products (and programs). Financial modelling demonstrated that low--‐cost sanitation options can support sustainable business models. Three components of diffusion theory (a) characteristics of innovators, (b) interpersonal information sources and (c) attributes of products were found to inform the design and analysis of market--‐ based approaches to sanitation in an urban setting.

The research shows that the application of market--‐based approaches to sanitation can present an evidence base to offer new insights into existing sanitation markets. The research also shows that the application of participatory methodologies can offer an innovative approach to stimulate the creation of appropriate sanitation products and to engage new suppliers and consumers in the sanitation market. The research offers a foundation for future researchers to utilise diffusion theory, and its extensive supporting literature, to design, manage and evaluate market--‐ based approaches to sanitation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Ho, Goen and Anda, Martin
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