Turning Shit into Gold


In October 2013 iDE was announced as the runner up in the inaugural Sarphati Sanitation Award during International Water Week in Amsterdam. The award recognises iDE’s dramatic impact in improving sanitation and hygiene in rural Cambodia by selling over 100,000 unsubsidised latrines to bottom of the pyramid customers through a network of local entrepreneurs.

AJP_20131105_0143Sarphatie Sanitation Award

The Mayor of Amsterdam awarded a certificate and flowers to Yi Wei from iDE Cambodia. The other two finalists, selected out of 22 outstanding candidates were ‘Mr. Toilet’ Jack Sim and SANERGY, the overall winners.

iDE was nominated for providing a remarkable sustainable business solution  for “turning shit into gold”. No, not literally…what this means that iDE have shown that it is not only possible to address sanitation and public health issues in developing countries – it is possible to make profit whilst doing so. Over the past few years interest has increased for new ways to address the Millennium Development Goals (MDG); especially the goal for sanitation which is one of the least likely to be achieved. Working through the market offers an exciting solution for reaching this goal quickly and sustainably. iDE’s innovative approach is evidence of this fact:


Watch Yi Wei’s pitch (which starts at 6:00 minutes in) to find out more about iDE’s approach:

The Sarphati Sanitation Award is a biennial international award honouring the outstanding contribution of an individual or organisation to the global sanitation and public health challenge through entrepreneurship. It is an initiative of the Municipality of Amsterdam, Aqua for All and the Netherlands Water Partnership, and is endorsed by the Dutch Government.

One of the most entertaining parts of the Awards ceremony was when the lights went out and the inspiration behind the award, Samuel Sarphati, dramatically took to the stage to explain a bit about himself and tell us why iDE was nominated. According to Wiki he died in 1866 so there was a general surprise and murmuring among the crowd and select panel which included Mrs. Uschi Eid, Vice-Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), Mr. Kulwant Singh, Regional Advisor of UN-Habitat Asia; Arno Rosemarin, Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute.


Samuel Sarphati was appalled by the bad sanitary conditions in the poorer quarters of the city and understood the importance of good hygiene. His compassion for his patients led him to initiate various entrepreneurial projects to improve the quality of life in the city and the health of its inhabitants.

In 1847, Sarphati linked the public and the private sector by establishing a company that collected the human waste of the city dwellers. Faeces and urine were transformed into manure for the agricultural sector. A true entrepreneur, Dr Sarphati applied the fertiliser to crops on his estate and brought fruit and vegetables back to Amsterdam for the benefit of his patients.

The projects he initiated included also a bread factory that produced wholesome, affordable bread. Both the city and the rural areas around it benefited tremendously from this initiative. He understood that improving sanitation was key to improving the public health situation. His efforts helped to eradicate cholera from Amsterdam before the end of the 19th century.

So Mr Sarphati demonstrated a keen entrepreneurs spirit and turned shit into something useful, profitable and beneficial.

In many parts of the world hygiene is as bad today as it was in 18th Century Amsterdam. In fact it could be said to be worse: according to the UN 2.5 Billion of the world’s population do not have access to adequate sanitation. At iDE we believe that part of the solution is to start seeing these 2.5 billion people not as victims but as customers or 2.5 billion opportunities.

Press/ Media




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