Buy, give, take and share: WaSH marketing exchange in the South Pacific.

Dani Barrington, Srinivas Sridharan, Regina Souter, Stephen Graham Saunders, Semisi Meo, Katherine F. Shields, Jamie K. Bartram

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


Stimulating access to and use of improved sanitation through market-based mechanisms has been very popular amongst WASH practitioners in recent years. Its success has been demonstrated in many regions of the world, resulting in more governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) showing interest in applying the approach in their respective countries. In particular, countries in the South Pacific such as Fiji, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands are interested in exploring market-based approaches to increase the uptake of appropriate WASH technologies, services and habits. Nevertheless, there is very limited evidence and guidance into the applicability of a market-based WASH approach to countries in the South Pacific region. In particular, very little research has addressed the WASH situations within informal impoverished settlements, a top urban policy concern for governments. To address this gap, our research aims to determine: • How current WASH exchange systems function in informal settlements in the South Pacific; • How these systems relate to individual and group WASH desires and behaviours; • How communities and the enabling environment (e.g. governments, community service organisations, utilities, private businesses) can nurture these systems and assist communities to realise their WASH aspirations. Our hypothesis is that working within existing patterns of economic activity, often emphasizing relationships and accentuating the role of historical time and events, has greater potential to be sustainable for long term WASH improvement than introducing unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable forms of market-based exchange. We employ a participatory action research (PAR) approach to engage informal communities in Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Within PAR community members themselves act as researchers through activities such as household- and community-scale systems mapping, transect walks, focus groups and in-depth interviews. The research findings show that there are many existing and emergent exchange systems that people use to acquire WASH in informal settlements of the South Pacific. Such exchange systems may be market-based (a willing buyer and seller enter into an exchange through a market pricing mechanism), but can also be: • non-market based (the supplier receives no explicit form of payment from the recipient when the good or service is provided); • command-based (an authority provides goods and services through a regulatory institution that pursues a provision motive rather than a profit motive); • culturally-determined (where a provider and recipient enter into an exchange relationship primarily sanctioned by social traditions and norms). There are variations of exchange systems used, from selling WASH goods as a small business, to providing them to neighbours in an act of community spirit, to charging the neighbours a fee to access services. The acquisition of some WASH devices and services is often being achieved through a hybrid mechanism containing more than one type of exchange system. Even within the same settlement, preferences of users are heterogeneous, meaning that there is unlikely to be a single type of WASH exchange system that will best enhance the situation of people throughout the community. We are using the knowledge developed through these participatory activities to work in partnership with the communities and local enabling actors to develop sustainable WASH exchange systems in these settlements. This is consistent with the sentiment that ultimately, markets are "ongoing processes of economic organising constituted by bundles of practices" (Lindeman 2012). We are also working closely with the enabling actors to investigate how this participatory methodology and its results could be adapted for use in other settlements, and how understanding exchange processes within informal settlements may influence future policy-making. This is consistent with a related sentiment about markets that they are the "practical outcomes of organising and shaping efforts by various market actors" (Araujo, Finch, and Kjellberg 2010).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventWater and Health Conference - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, United States
Duration: 26 Oct 201530 Oct 2015


ConferenceWater and Health Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityChapel Hill

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