Innovations in Sustainable Sanitation in Bangladesh (BRAC supported by IRC, the Netherlands)


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Innovations in Sustainable Sanitation in Bangladesh (BRAC supported by IRC, the Netherlands)

Dear Susana Colleagues,

Please find below the project information for BRAC WASH, a BRAC-led Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant that ran from 2011 – 2015.

While the BRAC WASH programme had multiple funders there was one WASH approach throughout the programme area which was supported by the development partners: next to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, funding was received from the Dutch Government (DGIS), the UK (DFID), the Australian government (DfAT).

IRC is knowledge partner of BRAC and I was coordinating IRC’s support for BRAC WASH. I was involved in behaviour change communication, the monitoring, learning and training activities of BRAC WASH throughout the project as well as in documenting the programme’s progress in delivering sustainable rural sanitation and water services with a strong focus on empowering the poor.

Feel free to contact me or my BRAC WASH colleague Digbijoy Dey should you have any inquiries about the work of BRAC WASH and/or visit the project pages on BRAC WASH ( ) or IRC’s website ( ) for more information.

Best regards,


Title of grant: Innovations in Sustainable Sanitation in Bangladesh
  • Name of lead organization: BRAC
  • Primary contact at lead organization: Digbijoy Dey (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); David Bruschino (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Grantee location: New York, USA
  • Developing country where the research is being tested: Bangladesh
  • Start and end date: Oct 2011 – August 2015
  • Grant type: Other (Building Demand for Sanitation (BDS), integrated implementation and learning initiatives)
  • Grant size in USD: $17,208,219 (as per BMGF grant database )
Short description of the project:
This grant supports BRAC’s WASH II program, operating in 250 upazilas (sub-districts) across Bangladesh, covering around half the country. The Foundation (BMGF) sought to reach at least 1.2 million persons with the funds it provided; as of December 2014, BRAC had reached over 4 million people with hygienic latrines through loans, grants and motivation. The project used a community-based integrated approach and also provided financial subsidies for the ultra-poor and loans for poor households. The project sought to increase sanitation coverage as well as sustaining it by strengthening demand, supply, finance, and enabling environment. Foundation-specific components included reaching the poorest; emptying pit latrines and producing organic compost from the composted waste; adoption of the approach by government and other NGOs, cost analysis (WashCost); and using smart phones for monitoring.

Additional support for BRAC’s WASH II program (and for the earlier WASH I program) was provided by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN). The BRAC project aimed to bring sanitation services to at least 1 million people in the existing 152 upazilas, and at least 225,000 people in five new upazilas. In addition, targets were specified for sustainable sanitation use (measured six months after implementation); the design of a “waste to energy” component focused on handling waste from latrine pits; and the replication of WASH II project approaches by others.

In fact, the project exceeded “satisfactory” project target levels on almost every key indicator (reaching “excellent” on many), according to an independent verification study completed as part of the BDS grant incentive payment scheme. Some of the result areas have been supported by BRAC’s knowledge partner, IRC. IRC was jointly engaged by the Dutch government and the Foundation to focus on qualitative monitoring, strengthening the sanitation supply chain, hygiene promotion, and documentation and learning. IRC also was coordinating action research to address some of the key challenges identified in phase one of BRAC WASH, including low-cost sanitation technologies for high water table areas, business models for turning waste into energy, composting options for pit contents, and ways to simplify monitoring and reporting processes.

to increase sanitation coverage at scale with a special emphasis on reaching the ultra-poor, as well as innovation and replication of components.

  • Improved understanding of what it takes to reach the hardcore poor and greater effectiveness reaching them through the project
  • Improved understanding of long term sustainability and factors influencing it
  • Pilot-scale “sustainability” efforts to identify new solutions for pit emptying, including micro-production of organic fertilizer and producing energy from fecal sludge combined with agriculture waste
  • Availability of low cost latrine options for use in challenging areas
  • Adoption of components of the project model by local government and other agencies (e.g., use of twin pit latrines, copying of “sustainability” pilots)
Research or implementation partners: IRC Netherlands

Links, further readings – results to date: and

Two-page summary of the project in the BDS portfolio report by BMGF in June 2015 (similar content to this post but different format):

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Documents in SuSanA library:

This library entry contains so far:

1 - Dey, D. (2015): Presentation on reuse of faecal sludge as organic fertiliser. FSM3 Conference, Hanoi: Reuse of faecal sludge as organic fertiliser in context of Bangladesh : BRAC WASH Initiative: Digbijoy Dey, BRAC WASH Programme, Dhaka, Bangladesh

2 - Poster about this project at FSM3 Conference in Hanoi (January 2015)

Video of Digbijoy Dey at Hanoi conference (the link should take you to the point 44:30):

Current state of affairs:
  • Over the past eight years BRAC WASH has set new standards for large-scale interventions in low-income rural communities. BRAC has combined mass mobilization, community participation and leadership, and behavior change campaigns— facilitated by well-organized management strategies. BRAC also made substantial progress in monitoring hygiene practices at scale and in developing a unified monitoring platform for key program data including finance.
  • The Foundation’s project is almost completed, but reaching the ‘last mile’ still remains a priority, along with sustaining gains made during the project. This goes especially for the ultra-poor, who often find it expensive to maintain hygienic behaviors. Also, further research is needed to develop low-cost and sustainable sanitation technologies for challenging hydro-geologic conditions.
Biggest successes so far:

During the project, the coordination among different organizations (Govt. Institutes, INGOs, NGOs) increased considerably both at the National and field level. At the national level dissemination workshop, during discussion it was praised highly that for the first time the national level achievement findings in WASH sector conducted by Government and NGO are strikingly similar. Commitment to work in collaboration also increased during the project period.

Key Learnings from project:
  • Integrated approach to hygiene, sanitation and water can deliver long-term change. However, sustained behavior change requires time, patience and frequent interpersonal and gender targeted communication.
  • Strong staffing commitment to hygiene behavior change was a key to success—BRAC trained over 8,000 staff to improve their communication skills.
  • Strong political commitment, government support, and collaboration with NGOs, CSOs, and other partners played a crucial role in the project’s success.
  • Grants given to ultra-poor only after coverage reached 60% (demonstrating community commitment).
  • BRAC target was 90% coverage (achievement was 98%).
  • This high coverage figure was reached across all economic strata, and did not exclude the poor or ultra-poor (90% of all toilets resulting from the project reached ultra poor or poor households).
Main challenges / frustration:
  • Ensuring water service to maintain hygienic behavior
  • Behavior change requires more time, patience and frequent and intensive hygiene promotion
  • Continued political commitment, government support, collaboration of development partners is required for long term sustainability of the project
  • Innovative way of monitoring is needed to ensure higher accountability and better service delivery.

Ingeborg Krukkert
Lead Asia programmes at IRC
Sanitation and hygiene specialist | IRC
+31 70 304 4023 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. |
Skype krukkertirc | Twitter @ikrukkert

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Re: Useful resources to get to know more about sanitation and hygiene approaches by BRAC

Dear Susana colleagues,

In addition to my previous post, some of you may be interested to read a bit more about the large-scale sanitation programme carried out by BRAC in Bangladesh. The following resources could be added to the Susana Library:


From door to door
Every day BRAC WASH programme staff get into communities to organise group meetings and go from door to door to advance the concepts of hygienic latrines, safe water and cleanliness.

or check the page on the BRAC WASH web site with links to many other videos on BRAC WASH:



BRAC WASH : learning from WASH experiences in Bangladesh (2015)

This report documents the proceedings of a learning workshop that brought together donors, government, and national and international NGOs to examine the outcomes of the BRAC WASH programme second phase and emerging challenges.

The first part of the report starts with a review of the programme’s achievements and main challenges, with a special focus on the innovation and learning partnership between BRAC and IRC and what the sector should adopt from BRAC WASH. This is followed by responses from BRAC WASH staff to questions from the floor about issues including financing, sustainability and data sharing. In the next section there are short reflections from the programme’s donors including the Embassy of the Netherlands, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Splash, as well as the Bangladesh government, IRC, NGO Dustha Shasthya Kendra (DSK) and others.

Part two of the report documents discussions on three new areas of work that BRAC intends to focus on: sustainable integration of WASH in other BRAC programmes, WASH in urban areas and water security in coastal areas.


Three documents describing key elements of the programme: hygiene promotion, wash in schools and supply chain strengthening:

1) Hygiene promotion : the backbone of BRAC WASH : embedding long-term change in communities ( )
Hygiene promotion is most successful when it targets a few behaviours that have the greatest potential for impact. Because hygiene is personal, changing hygiene behaviour is complex and requires skill and care. The BRAC WASH programme uses multiple approaches with a persistent long-term strategy to encourage people to adopt safe hygiene practices and behaviours to prevent diarrhoeal and other infectious diseases. In the community context, hygiene as discussed in this paper is specifically linked to behaviours related to the safe management of human excreta, handwashing with soap, the safe disposal of children’s faeces as well as safe handling of drinking water.


2) School WASH programmes in Bangladesh : how much does it cost? : applying the life-cycle costs approach in selected upazilas ( )
This study applies a life-cycle costs approach (LCCA) to the sanitation and hygiene activities undertaken in 117 schools in six selected upazilas (sub-districts) out of the 245 upazilas in Bangladesh where the BRAC WASH in schools programme operates.
It uses a school service level framework to evaluate the water, sanitation and hygiene services provided using six criteria:
1. Access – The number of students per latrine, with separation for boys and girls.
2. Use – The safe use of latrines, water and soap available for handwashing.
3. Reliability – Clean latrines, availability of products for regular maintenance.
4. Drinking water available – Availability of safe drinking water.
5. Environmental protection – Faecal waste and wastewater safely disposed.
6. Menstrual hygiene management – Availability of pads for emergencies and facilities for disposal of used napkins

The study analyses expenditure data for capital expenditure (hardware and software), operational expenditure, capital maintenance expenditure and direct support costs.
It concludes with a review of:
• the methodology for assessing WASH service levels
• the life-cycle costs of WASH in schools and the relationship between investments and the services provided, and
• cost benchmarks for sustainable WASH services in schools
Recommendations are provided for the BRAC WASH programme and development partners.

3) Rapid assessment of sanitation demand and supply in rural Bangladesh : recommendations for strengthening the supply chain for rural sanitation ( )
Information presented in this briefing note is based on a rapid sanitation demand and supply assessment conducted by BRAC WASH with support from IRC in 2013. The assessment mapped demand for sanitation, against the capacity of supply chain actors to supply affordable products that meet consumer needs and desires, and examined current constraints and market development opportunities.

with kind regards,

Ingeborg Krukkert
Lead Asia programmes at IRC
Sanitation and hygiene specialist | IRC
+31 70 304 4023 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. |
Skype krukkertirc | Twitter @ikrukkert
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Useful resources to get to know more about sanitation and hygiene approaches by BRAC

Dear Ingeborg Krukkert,

The title of your post says: “Innovations in Sustainable Sanitation……..” Whenever I find the word “innovation,” I get excited.

I was trying to find out the innovations in your project, but could not succeed, perhaps, because, I may have missed out some parts.

Could you kindly help me out by pointing out the innovative parts of your project?
I must admit, your project is extremely interesting.


F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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