By Kasey Henderson, Communications Assistant, PSI
In her first month as a SATO pan saleswoman, 26-year old Rebecca had zero sales.
Rebecca joined the Office of Environmental Health as an intern in March 2019, located in Ghana’s capital city of Accra. She originally leapt at the opportunity to partner with Total Family Health Organization (TFHO)—an independent network member of PSI on a sanitation project. At first, her task seemed achievable: promote and sell SATO (short for “Safe Toilet”) pans, an affordable way to cover open pits, and an effective way to provide a healthier sanitation experience by reducing the smell and numerous flies that go in and out of open-air toilets.
But when she arrived in Mumford, a small tight-knit fishing community in the Gomoa West district, she was faced with a challenge: how could she sell a product to people who did not see its value?
With only two public toilets to serve the nearly 20,000 residents of Mumford, many community members were forced to use the beach as an alternative. A typically idyllic oceanside community had been transformed as open defecation practices had left parts of the beach uninhabitable. Rebecca knew the risks associated: high transmissions of disease as well as the pollution of this otherwise beautiful area.
Something needed to change.
Still, four weeks went by with not a single SATO pan sold. Rebecca took her initial failure in stride, realizing that in order to sell this product, she needed to effectively communicate the value of the product and the problem it was solving for households.
Rebecca began knocking on doors, meeting with fishermen, families, and individuals throughout Mumford. She explained the importance of having a toilet in the home to reduce health and social costs associated with poor sanitation and conveyed the benefits – no flies, no smell, easy to clean – of incorporating a SATO pan into their toilets.
Through this tiring yet rewarding process, Rebecca slowly began to see the community’s mindset shift.
And finally—her sales took off.
Over three months, from June to August 2019, Rebecca sold so many SATO pans that she requested that Total Family Health Organization increase her supply ahead of schedule. The week after her request they sent her 15 percent more SATO pans to sell to Mumford residents. To date, thanks to the efforts of Rebecca and others working with them, TFHO has sold 7,000 SATO pans total.
“I am happy that the community sees the importance of the SATO pan and that people in Mumford are making an effort to build toilets,” she said. “It’s a ripple effect that benefits every resident with every (now covered) flush.”
Since then, Rebecca’s phone has been ringing off the hook with requests for SATO pans to be installed in their homes, and just recently, the community came together and made a plan to upgrade the two existing public toilets in the community to incorporate the SATO pan.
For Rebecca, her passion has only grown as she has seen the positive impact her work has made in the lives of the consumers she has reached. Using sales and behavior change communication techniques, she has broken through the misconceptions that surrounded open defecation in this community, and, in turn, made a profit—something that an intern working with the Office of Environmental Health is very rarely able to achieve.
For each SATO pan that she sells, she receives five cedis as a profit. Rebecca hopes that she can use this money to employ others who can support the installation of pans in community members’ homes going forward.
Banner Image: A young woman sits in a mahogany tree in Ghana.
© 2007 Yetsa A. Tuakli-Wosornu, Courtesy of Photoshare