Lessons learned with Try and Buy approach in Ghana


Filtering water with Tulip water filter in North Ghana

Project reference: Scaling up HWTS in Ghana with an innovative Try and Buy approach

The use of water filters as household water treatment is not well known in Ghana, whereas it can be an affordable and effective way for families to control their own drinking water and to prevent waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and giardiasis. Therefore, bringing water filters to Ghana does not only mean that a new product needs to be introduced, but also a whole new method of securing safe water for households. The project, which was funded by Via Water, wanted to prove if a sustainable supply chain can be developed in Ghana using an innovative approach to reach and convince people.
The pilot was carried out with three partners in Ghana and one in the Netherlands. We were able to reach the goal of bringing 600 Tulip water filters to families in both South and North Ghana, in urban and peri-urban areas, by means of the so-called 'Try and Buy' approach. It was also the start of creating a sustainable supply chain for household water filters. The project created direct income for more than 40 women leaders and sales agents.

We would like to share with the community some lessons learned from this project. We are happy to receive comments and suggestions.

1. We have chosen to work with three different local organizations in Ghana. Each of these organizations had good networks in their community and very specific expertise in the field of distribution networks, Try and Buy approach for other products and drinking water knowledge. This has led to a tremendous amount of knowledge and new insights, which we could never have gathered when we would have worked with one organization only. Because all organizations worked together for the first time, we needed to learn during the project how to align and communicate well together.

2. In the Try and Buy approach, around 40 women leaders and chosen sales agents demonstrated the filters in their respective communities, such as women groups, church groups, neighbourhoods. People could try the filters, and pay back in installments (1-4 months). This worked very well in peri-urban areas and smaller towns, but was less effective in a city like Accra.

3. Demonstration, trust and positive testimonials were key. Also after sales service appeared to be very important - explaining the use of the filter, regular checks if people used the filter well, and the guarantee that spare parts could be replaced when necessary.

4. A drawback of this approach is the risk which the distributor or sales agent has to take, as recovery of payments can be slow and sometimes difficult. This can also influence the motivation of the sales agent to continue the business. Risk mitigation is therefore an important aspect to deal with in the following steps in scaling up.

5. The word 'Try' appeared not to be a well-chosen word for this approach as people would doubt the quality of the product and felt being treated as a test person. 'Demo and buy' or similar terms would have been more appropriate.

6. The water filters were well adapted by the majority of the people who started experiencing the product. People reported improvement in health for themselves and their children, being in control of their own drinking water quality and saving money because they did not anymore have to buy packed water. In addition, people recognised the reduction of plastic waste when using a water filter instead of sachet water.

7. Because water filters are practically unknown in Ghana, we feel that first introductions of the product in a community needs to be done by personal contact and intensive follow-up by a person trusted in the community (awareness raising and education). After reaching a certain critical mass, word of mouth and positive testimonials will make distribution easier.