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In Tanzania, tens of millions of people lack access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities. This is a health crisis. It is also a market opportunity. Affordable, quality products exist for water treatment, hygiene, or simple improved latrines, but how can companies create feasible distribution channels that penetrate remote villages and towns, hours from any major city?

The USAID/Tanzania Water Resources Integration Development Initiative (WARIDI), is an ambitious five-year project led by Tetra Tech that seeks to improve access to clean water and sanitation in up to 20 administrative districts in Tanzania. WARIDI has engaged Resonance to explore private sector and market solutions that expand access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). As part of this, WARIDI and Resonance have been exploring the role of village- and community-based micro-enterprises in expanding distribution of WASH products.

Resonance has just completed a business training for approximately 200 Tanzanian micro-enterprises based in rural and peri-urban areas. The trained businesses are small – most have just 1-2 employees. They sell farm inputs, hardware, and building materials. Some are local pharmacies. But these community-based micro-enterprises could be a critical piece of the solution to extend affordable and sustainable access to water and sanitation products in Tanzania. In many ways, they are on the front lines of WASH product provision in rural areas; for most Tanzanians in small towns or rural villages, the local hardware store or pharmacy is the likely first stop for any WASH product. For WARIDI, the question then is: How do we actually get WASH products on the shelves?

On WARIDI, Resonance has worked with this first set of 200 micro-enterprises in 10 districts to build overall business capacity while specifically encouraging expanded marketing and sales of WASH products. The program involves training and on-site mentorship focused on business management; finance, accounting, and record-keeping; business modeling for growth; and marketing and sales. Throughout, the Resonance team also works with the micro-entrepreneurs to evaluate opportunities to expand or sustain WASH product lines or to consider how WASH products can be more effectively marketed to local customers.

Resonance and WARIDI are also working to connect these businesses to local, regional, and international suppliers of WASH solutions, to help get a range of WASH products and innovations into the hands of rural customers in Tanzania. Through the program, trained micro-enterprises have already been linked to several companies selling feminine and general hygiene products, improved latrines, and water filters. Resonance and WARIDI will continue to use its micro-enterprise network to help other WASH companies open new distribution channels in rural and peri-urban Tanzania. For example, a planned WARIDI roadshow for WASH solutions – expected to feature products from more than 10 different WASH companies – will soon be traveling from district to district, exposing WARIDI’s micro-entrepreneur network to a wide range of WASH products they could feature in their stores.

Resonance and WARIDI plan to repeat the program for 200-300 additional micro-enterprises in 10 new districts in the coming year.