For most of us, a visit to the loo is not really worth mentioning, yet 4.1 billion people in developing countries have no access to adequate sanitary facilities. Alone 1.6 million children consequently die each year from diarrheal diseases.
We cringe when we have to pay 50 rappen for the use of clean lavatories at motorway petrol stations, but 8 million people in Kenya’s slums need to fork out 6 cents to access unhygienic and disgusting metal holes for toilets, where 90% of the waste flows untreated into nearby waters. These shacks are often located on the outskirts of slums, where lighting is sparse, but rape and robbery commonplace. Many people thus choose to “do their business” closer to home, using plastic bags as make-shifts, and disposing of them in alleys or the nearest ditch.
Setting up sustainable, sanitary outhouses in slums
In 2011, a group of young people set themselves the goal of changing these unhygienic conditions and founded Sanergy. In Kenya’s slums they look for “Fresh Life Operators,” who take on and run Sanergy toilets as a franchise. A cooperation with Kiva helps provide these small businesses with microcredits. The easily constructed, highly visible bright blue outhouses with a yellow sun cost approximately 600 US dollars, add to that circa 110 dollars per year for soap, paper, and cleaning. The investments are worthwhile, since one toilet brings in approximately 1,200 dollars annually. The outhouses are located centrally, at schools and public buildings, and also have an educational effect, as hand washing promotes more hygienic practices.
Where to with the faecal waste, if there is no sewage system?
Each outhouse is equipped with two plastic containers, which are exchanged daily by trained employees. The full containers are brought to large collection containers outside of the slums. A truck then brings them to a treatment facility where renewable energy or organic fertiliser is produced. The purchasers are industrial firms and mostly Kenyan farms, who use the fertiliser to increase their harvest. Furthermore, a R&D programme is involved in the conversion to biogas, biochar, urine nitrification, and animal feed.
Toilets create jobs and a clean environment
Currently 331 local operators are running 684 facilities in six informal settlements, whereby another 139 jobs have been created in waste removal. 27,000 inhabitants now have access to clean lavatories.
Sanergy is one of the ten most innovative businesses in Africa, and a great example of how social commitment and environmental protection combined with systems thinking can create a solid base for economic growth.
Read the original article in German in BILANZ