Gates Foundation Provides $5.6M to Water For People

Water For People, a nonprofit international development organization, has received a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support its innovative Sanitation as a Business program.

The grant represents a significant investment over four years in Water For People’s Sanitation as a Business work, testing possible sustainable sanitation services in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This groundbreaking program seeks to revolutionize the sanitation sector. The program will combine profit incentives for small local companies and income generation programs for poor households and schools, demonstrating a shift from unsustainable, subsidy-based sanitation programs toward sustainable, profitable sanitation services. By merging business principles of market research and segmentation with comprehensive community involvement and thorough evaluation of results, Water For People aims to create a truly scalable model, expanding affordable sanitation coverage in multiple locations worldwide.

“Water For People is honored to receive this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will allow us to test, improve and expand our entrepreneurial Sanitation as a Business program,” said Ned Breslin, Water For People chief executive officer. “Ultimately, we seek to do more than bring sanitation to millions of people in developing countries. We seek to do so in a way that fundamentally transforms the sector. This model will challenge subsidy-driven, loan finance and passive private sector approaches to the global sanitation crisis.”

“Identifying profitable business models that engage local communities is critical to creating safe and sustainable sanitation systems,” said Rachel Cardone, program officer with Water, Sanitation & Hygiene at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Water For People is developing and testing these kinds of models, which have the potential to scale up across regions and improve the health, economic, and social conditions of millions of poor people.”

Water For People first began experimenting with Sanitation as a Business principles in Malawi, Africa in 2008. Since then, sanitation entrepreneurs have developed ongoing maintenance relationships with households to service over 1,000 latrines.

Nick Burn, Water For People International program director, explains, “This program is promising because in many respects it is not just about sanitation. Rather, it is about profit and services, using businesses as a vehicle for reaching far larger numbers of people with sanitation than traditional approaches have been able to do.”