By Mekdim Hailu, Project Communication Manager, PSI Ethiopia; Yoseph Haile, Associate Business Development Manager (WASH), PSI Ethiopia
Bayissa, a resilient entrepreneur in his early thirties, embodies the extraordinary potential that arises when resilience meets opportunity. As a determined entrepreneur, Bayissa stands as an example of what’s possible among the masons who have received training and entered the sanitation market through the opportunities made available by the USAID Transform WASH activity. His dedication is actively transforming not only his own life but those of his family and community, as well.
Bayissa grew up in the town of Muger in Ethiopia’s Oromia region and has faced numerous hardships since childhood. The weight of poverty forced him to make a tough decision at a young age; he left school to provide for his family. Soon after, he found himself shouldering even greater responsibilities when his wife became pregnant. Bayissa faced the daunting task of supporting his wife and newborn son as a day laborer with a daily income of just 80 ETB ($1.46).
A turning point arrived two years ago when a Transform WASH-trained health extension worker (HEW) named Mestu Dida met with Bayissa and his family. Mestu paid them a visit to teach them about improved sanitation and introduce them to an affordable sanitation product called SATO pan. Although Bayissa couldn’t afford the product, he expressed to Mestu his interest in upgrading his toilet and pursuing masonry work. Recognizing his determination, she recommended that Bayissa be trained as a mason installer under the Transform WASH (T/WASH) activity. This training aimed to provide local masons with technical skills in sanitation products installation, slab manufacturing, and sustainable business development models.
Through such training, T/WASH has been transforming lives and making significant strides in improving WASH outcomes over the past six years, using market-based sanitation (MBS) approaches. MBS is a proven model that empowers communities to effect positive change for improved sanitation by leveraging local resources and business. This is made possible by training business partners, such as mason installers, to conduct effective door-to-door sales activities within their communities, which promote installation of sanitation products.
Like the more than 470 other active business partners who are part of the T/WASH network, Bayissa underwent an extensive five-day training program to acquire essential technical and business skills required to do quality sanitation installations and run a viable business. With meticulous financial planning, Bayissa was able to earn and save enough to grow his business. These savings enabled him to purchase 20 SATO pans to start his sanitation masonry business immediately. Within a mere 15 days, he sold all the units, making a substantial profit of 20 birr per unit. In just one month, his installation profits reached an impressive sum of 5,400 ETB ($100), with each unit bringing in 250 ETB ($4.60). For Bayissa, this meant more than just a steady income. It became a catalyst for positive change in his life. This opportunity not only enabled Bayissa to install a SATO pan in his own home, but it created a life-altering job prospect.
Motivated by this initial success, Bayissa developed a plan to work eight hours a day (except for Sundays) on his new business to build trust with customers and retailers throughout the Adaberag Woreda. After a month, he received a loan to expand his business. Bayissa’s entrepreneurial journey even opened employment opportunities for his wife, who now works with him. Their business has expanded beyond their small village to large cities like Holeta and Addis Ababa.
In just one year, Bayissa’s vision began to take shape as his stable income helped him to pursue his dream of building a home. Bayissa said, “I slowly started buying construction materials, such as wood and roof sheets. My wife’s parents sold us a plot of land at a very low price, and a year later our dream came true, and we built and moved into our new house.”
According to T/WASH data, Bayissa has successfully installed 347 SATO units, complete with skirting and retrofits, in the last two years. These installations have generated revenue of more than 100,000 ETB ($1,833). Reflecting on his accomplishments, Bayissa humbly states, “The saying ‘killing two birds with one stone’ applies to me because not only am I profiting, but I am also making positive changes in my community. The upgraded toilets have improved the quality of life of children in Adaberag Woreda.” Challenges such as rapidly rising costs and cement shortages persist, but Bayissa’s success has brought newfound financial stability to him and his family.
“Transform WASH gave me the opportunity to develop my technical and entrepreneurial skills, and I am grateful that I was not left behind,” Bayissa said. Through T/WASH’s market-based approach to sanitation, health and livelihoods can be improved together, a true win-win.
About Transform WASH
USAID Transform WASH aims to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) outcomes in Ethiopia by increasing market access to and sustained use of a broader spectrum of affordable WASH products and services, with a substantial focus on sanitation. Transform WASH achieves this by transforming the market for low-cost quality WASH products and services: stimulating demand at the community level, strengthening supply chains, and improving the enabling environment for a vibrant private market.
USAID Transform WASH is a USAID-funded activity implemented by PSI in collaboration with SNV, and IRC WASH. The consortium is working closely with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, the One WASH National Program, and regional and sub-regional governments.