Loving the Loo – Part One of the Grand Challenges Canada Series


Innovate Development is pleased to present a weekly series featuring projects funded and supported by Grand Challenges Canada. Over the next four weeks, we will cover topics surrounding mothers and children in the Global South.

For more information about Grand Challenges Canada, please see the bottom of this post or go to their website, www.grandchallenges.ca.

Loving the Loo – New marketing strategy targets sanitation in rural Nepal

loving the loo 1iDE, a Winnipeg based non-profit organization that supports business opportunities in the developing world, will work with Nepali small business owners and local entrepreneurs to scale-up the production, marketing and sale of simple latrines using a novel approach successfully demonstrated in Cambodia and Nepal: marketing simple, low-cost toilets as a status symbol and sanitation as an affordable source of pride. “The traditional approach – standard public health messages coupled with giveaway programs that sideline local businesses – is not working,” says Stu Taylor, iDE’s Director of Performance Measurement. “Our experience shows that when you make sanitation affordable and desirable for users – and profitable for businesses – it just takes off.”

iDE’s marketing approach is complemented by training for small-scale local producers and entrepreneurs to produce and sell simple design, low-cost latrines, easily installed within a few hours. Profitability will encourage other entrepreneurs to develop new designs to attract even more customers.

“When people see the toilet’s attractive design and how easy it is to keep clean, this has become a product that people actually aspire to,” says iDE Nepal Country Director Luke Colavito. “We’ve already seen that, once a few people buy these toilets, their neighbours feel a need to keep up and buy one too, generating more sales.”

loving the loo 2With a $1 million Grand Challenges Canada grant, iDE has leveraged an additional $1.2 million through smart partnerships with UNICEF and other donor investments.

Over the next three years, iDE aims to facilitate the production and sale of 100,000 toilets, improving the lives of an estimate 500,000 people in Nepal while demonstrating a viable model to tackle this urgent public health crisis. Some 2.5 billion people worldwide lack adequate sanitation and hygiene, resulting in extensive health problems. Diarrhea, for example, is the world’s second leading cause of death among children under five — 1.5 million each year.

By fostering a network of strong international partnerships, such as those formed with our MNCH innovators in 2014, our initial work to align development innovation with science diplomacy will provide a powerful catalyst for solving grand challenges in global health. This is the future as we at Grand Challenges Canada see it for international development to overcome the grand challenges we face in the world today.

Additional images of the project can be found here.

About Grand Challenges Canada

In its latest round of grants, Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, has announced $12 million worth of funding for 65 innovative projects targeting mothers’, children’s and newborn’s health related challenges in Low Resource Countries

There are two words that perfectly capture Grand Challenges Canada’s approach: Integrated InnovationTM. Integrated Innovation is the coordinated application of scientific/technological, social and business innovation to develop solutions to complex challenges. This approach does not discount the singular benefits of each of these types of innovation alone, but rather highlights the powerful synergies that can be realized by aligning all three. It is about turning innovation into practice on the ground; about engaging the local community where a project is instituted from the outset.

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big impact in global health. The organization has invested in hundreds of projects in low- and middle income countries, coming from innovators from Canada or resource-constrained countries and is led by Dr. Peter A. Singer. His latest Annual Letter demonstrates how after four years, Grand Challenges Canada has evolved into a platform that nurtures innovative solutions in global health. How it offers opportunities for social enterprises and impact investors to generate measurable and sustainable social impact.

On the 22nd of May 2014, Grand Challenges Canada announced its latest round of funding: 65 innovations helping to improve and save the lives of Mothers, Newborn and Children in low-resource communities.

Of the recent grants announced, 61 are seed-level proof-of-concept grants in the Stars in Global Health portfolio, valued at $112,000 each, and four transition-to-scale projects collectively valued at $5.2 million. These projects run the gamut from mobile-device based Tuberculosis detection in India to a low-smoke multi-fuel cooking stove in Nepal. The hallmark of each of these projects is that the concepts all involve local community members to engage the population whose lives these innovations will seek to improve. Additionally we are supporting the scaling up of a project in Nepal (Loving the Loo; see project description below for images) that seeks to improve sanitation by producing and marketing simple low-cost latrines that can be installed in a matter of hours. The key being that the purchase and installation of a properly plumbed loo is a matter of pride for the rural folk in Nepal. This demonstrates an innovative approach to solving a health crisis that – to this day – claims the lives of many children under the age of five.

In the long run, Grand Challenges Canada is committed to scaling up its impact by investing in organizations with sustainable growth prospects. The articles in this series are examples of our latest round of scaling investments to innovators around the globe.

Shouri Bagchi

Shouri Bagchi

Shouri Bagchi works in communications for Grand Challenges Canada and is currently completing his IMBA in Strategy & Marketing at the Schulich School of Business.


  1. Great piece Shouri!

    I love how simple the idea is yet how instrumental it’s going to be towards promoting better sanitation. It goes to show how much potential there is for social enterprise to create win-win scenarios while remaining financially competitive. I noticed that the toilet lacks a seat, I assume that’s culturally appropriate to Nepal. Do you know if there are other model’s being developed for expansion into markets in different regions of the world?

  2. Arlene Fontanetti

    Great article and initiative.

  3. Pingback: Frederick

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