Basket of goods approach in Kenya
PATH tests the feasibility of adding durable water filters to a sales model designed for fast-moving consumer goods
PATH’s Safe Water Project recently launched its first pilot activity in Kenya to explore the potential for offering a ceramic water purifier (CWP) in a sales model designed for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs).
The basket-of-goods (BOG) model is a promising business model found in several African countries. The Safe Water and AIDS Project (SWAP) (www.swapkenya.org) in Kenya uses the model to ensure that households in remote areas have access to low-cost, high-impact health products such as sanitary pads, soap, condoms, and water treatment solutions. SWAP employs and trains local vendors to sell the products door-to-door or in village markets, and in exchange, the vendors earn a modest commission on sales. While SWAP vendors already carry chlorine tablets and other water treatment products, consumer research in Africa suggests that users might prefer durable products over chlorine treatment for several reasons including ease of use (Albert et al 2010), the absence of added chemicals, and better taste of the treated water (CDC 2008).
Chujio’s ceramic water purifier
The pilot will assess consumer uptake of a CWP made by Nairobi-based manufacturer Chujio Ceramics. Until now, the Chujio ceramic water filter has only been distributed for free or at significantly reduced prices to households by nongovernmental organizations. During the six-month pilot in several districts of Nyanza and Western provinces, PATH will test two different price points to assess commercial viability of the water filter in a low-cost market. Some study areas will offer filters sold at 1,100 KSH (approximately 14 USD) which represents a potentially sustainable price for local CWP manufacturers. Other study areas will sell the filters for 700 KSH (approximately 9 USD) which represents a subsidized price. In addition, SWAP will offer a “layaway” payment plan at both price points by which consumers can pay for the filter over a two-month period.
Our user research indicates that the CWP is well liked for its simple operation and its ability to cool water. However, the product is bulky and fragile to transport. The long delivery distances and challenging terrain found across the pilot area may present logistical challenges for distributing the filters. SWAP vendors normally carry their own inventory when selling products. For the pilot, however, vendors can also make use of custom-made bicycles and product carriers from Cycling Out of Poverty (www.cyclingoutofpoverty.com) to assist in delivery of the filters.
Expanding choice in the household water treatment market
This pilot also tests the feasibility of adapting an existing business model to accommodate a durable filter, thus increasing options for low-cost household water treatment. Although a number of products have been readily available and affordable to low-income rural households in Kenya, a durable filter has not been one of them. Research suggests that consumers tend to use fast-moving consumable products intermittently: they may choose to use them when they perceive their water is bad or a family member is ill. Also there is some evidence to suggest that taste of chlorine-based products may be a barrier to use for some users (CDC 2008). By offering a filter that is extremely simple to use, does not affect the taste of the water, provides safe storage, and has a long lifespan, PATH believes there is high potential for product acceptance and consistent use by consumers.
Success in East Africa may represent a larger opportunity
As with other Safe Water Project pilots, PATH is investing in a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation effort to assess commercial viability of the strategy at different price points, logistical viability, correct and consistent use, and user knowledge and attitudes. Our baseline and endline qualitative and quantitative survey data will help PATH understand the limitations, needed changes, and opportunities for replication for this pilot and the business model.
The CWP is one of the most ubiquitous water filters in developing countries and can be manufactured locally almost anywhere in the world. If consumer uptake shows promise in this pilot, the strategy has the potential to be expanded and replicated in other regions with basket-of-goods models in place, potentially scaling-up far beyond its current application.
Albert J, Luoto J, Levine D. End-User Preferences for and Performance of Competing POU Water Treatment Technologies among the Rural Poor of Kenya. Environmental Science and Technology. 2010 Jun 15;44(12):4426–32.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Household Water Treatment Options in Developing Countries: Household Chlorination [fact sheet]. Atlanta: CDC; 2008.