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Safe Water And Sanitation To Households(SWASTH)

Posted on Mar 07, 2019 by annapurna

The idea of providing Safe Water and Sanitation to Households was conceived by the minds at Annapurna Finance in the year 2013. It was observed that in the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh, the clients had complained regarding water quality and poor hygiene. The staff conveyed the same to the management. There were various reported cases of diarrhea, cholera, and other waterborne diseases due to the use of contaminated water. Various research reports reveal that the majority of rural India has poor access to sanitation and many more are in the same plight.

Considering the health of our customers, we believed it was an issue that we could address, and hence began exploring the idea further. With this thought, we started doing our internal research for product development. When we thought of this intervention, there weren’t many options available for constructing a toilet. As we had no expertise in the water and sanitation segment, partnering with a technical agency was the next logical step. We did some research on choosing the right partner in this area and came to know about, which is a renowned international agency that extensively works in the areas of safe water & and sanitation across the globe. Finally, we started our partnership with in the year 2013.

The Government has been contributing significantly to making this country Open to Defecation Free in the present scenario, and various schemes have been launched to support the cause. But, at the time we thought of launching this product, the Government’s penetration was only about 10%. The gap between the demand from those willing to construct toilets or in need of funds for it, and supply from the government or other agencies was huge. This further gave a boost to our resolve to launch the product.

During that period, we came across some social ills that were still prevalent in our operational areas, especially when the cleanliness of a household was concerned, and concluded providing safe water and sanitation to households, thus launching our product, “SWASTH”, in the year 2014.

There were numerous problems faced during its implementation. Of the many problems, one was providing our staff with adequate training and capacity building, as the staff needed to gain experience in the field of sanitation, neither in theory nor in practice.

swasth1-001However, this was addressed by organizing practical, on-the-field, technical training for our staff. Another challenge that was difficult to address was dealing with the low level of awareness among people, i.e., changing our clients’ mindsets and making them understand the importance of toilet use. People were not ready to accept the change and needed to be more accommodating to the idea of spending INR 15000 on constructing toilets. They were used to the ample open space available for defecating, however unhealthy it was to them. It is true, old habits die hard!

Whereas most of the challenges were because of external difficulties, there were challenges from our staff. The similar inertia that our customers had was also reflected by our staff to work on something new. SWASTH was a social cause, and we aimed to send a social message and ensure the good health of our clients by providing them with better services. Our staff were reluctant at first to work on something new that they had no expertise in.

But unlike them, our means weren’t so rigid. We had predicted this argument would come up and knew that it could be a major hindrance to our program’s success, therefore we planned accordingly. A team of District Coordinators was made for product awareness, training, and support. These Coordinators would provide awareness to our clients across different villages, as well as provide much-needed handholding support to our staff for delivering this product. A detailed training program was designed for the trainers, under which 8 District Coordinators were responsible for providing on-field hand-holding support and training to staff. These staff, through IEC material, further made our clients aware of the ills associated with unhygienic living conditions. The process took a toll on our field staff, but it was worth the effort!

When we wish to make things better for someone, we are faced with many trials. These trials are further magnified when our beneficiaries are in large numbers. Along with the geographic expansion, another challenge was standardizing the construction cost, as the cost would vary based on the provision of masons in that area. However, it was addressed by providing different mason training to construct sustainable toiletries. Through this, we not only ensured the sustainability of the toilet constructed but also ensured the livelihoods of those masons who underwent training by providing them with the much-needed skills.

Operational challenges were other pebbles on our way to success, as in many of our operational villages, there was water scarcity that delayed the construction of toilets. The list of challenges went on and then came seasonal challenges, (as if we hadn’t had enough) that led to the unavailability of masons during the peak seasons when they either migrated to the neighboring states for labor or were engaged in agricultural labor. Construction during the rainy season was always a problem and led to unnecessary delays.

The list of challenges was long, and every difficulty was worth taking note of. Apart from the above stated, another trial was to determine the intent of our customers. It was often found that loans taken for constructing a toilet were utilized for other purposes by the customers. It was a challenge that we came across after the implementation of our product. It was indeed a serious issue and therefore, without delays in addressing it, we came up with the solution and made it mandatory for the customers first to get the pits ready for the toilets by themselves, and then avail of the SWASTH Loans. It was further checked by organizing our branch manager’s visit to the customers’ place for the process of Loan Utilization Check.

Our motive was to provide our customers with healthy solutions and better customer relations. Therefore, we kept the loan size for SWASTH quite economical, so that our clients could afford the monthly installments along with their existing loans. Another feature of loan customization was added to our product specifications. For this, we kept the loan size and its tenure flexible, based on the requirements of our customers. For instance, a Single pit cost them INR 12000 and a Septic Tank was available for INR 25000. Therefore, the loan tenure was dependent on the size of the loan. The higher the loan size, more was the more tenure.

Through SWASTH, we also ensured better quality of water at their doorsteps. Our clients used to spend a lot of time gathering water from outside, resulting in less efficiency. Therefore, another product offered was in providing them finance for constructing Hand bore wells in areas with adequate ground water level, and water pipe connection, for areas with government water supply. This brought the water to their doorstep. The next step was to improve the quality of the available drinking water. So eventually, we introduced a loan for purchasing water purifiers. Based on the water quality, we also suggest our clients choose the right category of purifier, i.e. gravity based, RO, UV.

If we talk about the impact of SWASTH, it has to be noted that apart from the usual better quality of life and other clichés, our clients felt a sense of security and pride. The pride was in feeling uplifted in their social status, as they didn’t have to go for open defecation, and in being treated as privileged by a company that offered them special loans based on their requirements. Having toilets at their home proved to be very convenient, and also less dangerous as there were multiple cases reported of snake bites during the time our customers used to go for open defecation. Apart from this, having a water supply at their home was very helpful in saving their time and effort. Clients now had more productive time per day to dedicate to their daily activities.

The benefits of SWASTH products were many. Each hurdle that we crossed made us one step closer to achieving our objective. As it is known, the more the trials, the more is our joy on being victorious!

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One thought on “Safe Water And Sanitation To Households(SWASTH)

  1. Mohammad Salauddin

    Very good


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