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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Samantha Passmore

Pathways to a Business Model for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education Services: A Case Study in Honduras.

For many centuries engineers have developed and improved techniques for moving and treating water. Despite the technical progress, 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation facilities and 663 million people lack access to improved drinking water sources. It is clear that technical solutions alone are not sufficient. Consistently, the sustainability of WASH projects is limited by a lack of education, and no planning for financial sustainability. By developing financially sustainable WASH education services the potential for holistic project success increases.
This study verified the effectiveness of education in the WASH sector, and possible income streams for WASH education services were identified through a willingness to pay study, using a case study. The case study was the newest in-country training centre established by The Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) in Honduras. Surveys were carried out with past participants of the workshops, community members, and decision makers in organisations.

Overall, the results indicated that there is some willingness to pay, albeit a small amount, for WASH education services by all interview groups. Community members, who earn just US$1-5 per day, were willing to pay a small monthly fee, if there was a product, such as a biosand filter, included. Individuals investing in their own professional development, and organisations training their staff were willing to pay ~25% and ~50% of the training course cost, respectively. Therefore, a social business drawing income from course fees can be developed, but fees can only account for part of the cost. A hybrid and diverse business model, including features from social enterprises, product service systems, public private partnerships, and charities, has the most potential for developing a sustainable business model. Working towards financial sustainability for WASH education services can increase incentives towards providing these services with the technical solutions, leading to better health and wellbeing of poor communities.