Identifying and fostering WaSH (business) enterprises in the Pacific

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

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


Fostering business enterprises in Pacific Island Countries has been highly challenging due to its geographic isolation, resource constraints, small populations, strong social and cultural practices, and its reluctance to openly support for-profit business activities. Consequently, large-scale, market-based, WaSH enterprises are not a common feature across the region. Instead, WaSH enterprises are typically small community-led, socially- or culturally-sanctioned activities, which operate within a cooperative structure. The purpose of our research was to explore the various types of business enterprises that exist within informal settlement communities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, with the intention of identifying existing business enterprises that have the potential to support and sustain WaSH improvements. By engaging the communities in a number of participatory action research (PAR) activities we identified and documented a wide range of inconspicuous business activities and services, ranging from ‘survivalist enterprises’ to more formalised small enterprises. Central to these business enterprises was a reliance on human and social capital. Through a series of workshops we then facilitated the coming together of the communities with a number of enabling actors (e.g., government departments, water utilities, community service organisations, NGOs) to explore the possibilities of broadening these existing enterprises to better support and sustain participatory, inclusionary, and empowering WaSH improvements. We share some examples of the different types of WaSH enterprises we uncovered to highlight the importance of human and social capital within community business enterprises. We also present some of the lessons we have learnt from facilitating the PAR process, and provide some practical recommendations to both academics and practitioners intent on fostering and strengthening business enterprises in Pacific Island Countries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventWASH Futures - Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 16 May 201620 May 2016


ConferenceWASH Futures
Internet address


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