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Who Gives A Crap? Sanitation, Energy and Entrepreneurship in Kenya

Extract from an article in Forbes magazine (online) below on Sanergy work in Kibera slums. Full article here http://www.forbes.com/sites/elmirabayrasli/2011/05/23/who-gives-a-crap-sanitation-energy-and-entrepreneurship-in-kenya/

David Auerbach and Ani Vallabhaneni, two of Sanergy’s young entrepreneurs, didn’t need stats to know how the absence of toilets affected the poor. The two graduating MIT-Sloan of Management school students experienced first hand the challenges of no sewage or sanitation when they lived and worked in rural China and India respectively. “Going to the bathroom isn’t a popular topic that comes up at the dinner table in the West,” Auerbach, a former policy hand at the Clinton Global Initiative (and my former colleague at Endeavor), says. “It’s flush and forget for us. That’s not the case in much of the developing world.”

Children at a Sanergy toilet in Kibera slum

Auerbach and Vallabhaneni knew what they didn’t know. What they didn’t know was that they couldn’t draft up a sanitation solution in Boston – without the insights and input of those in the developing world. Committed to launching a start-up that would truly work for the poor, the two, along with a team of MIT classmates traveled to Kenya for the answers. Kenya, with eight million without access to proper sanitation but a university filled with bright and eager minds to help solve the problem, was an ideal testing ground. In January 2010 the team, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, conducted a user survey among Kenya’s urban poor, inquiring about their lives. “It was important to us that we found a solution that fit into their lives, not our imagination of their lives,” Auerbach says.

What they found was that Kenya’s poor were interested in having compact stalls that could fit into the tight spaces of their usually one-room homes, rather than large community outhouses. They wanted a “permanent” feel to the stalls rather than the flimsy feel of a porta-potty. As a result, Auerbach, Vallabhaneni and their Sanergy team that includes engineers, architects and designers drew up plans for a 3×5 toilet made out of thin shell cement that is locally produced for $200 per unit. Each toilet is designed for a 100 uses per day. They are units, which also collect waste in double-sealed 30L containers, rather than pits, or septic tanks “that are then drained into waterways.” It is this waste collection that is key.

More than where to go to the bathroom, how to dispose of human waste is, as Auerbach points out, a primary reason that no one touches the issue of toilets. That was Sanergy’s opportunity. Recognizing that, though “messy,” human waste can be converted through anaerobic digestion to produce fertilizer or electricity. It is also where the Sanergy team recognized that it could generate revenue.

Sanergy produces toilets that are franchised to local operators who charge around $0.06 per use. Currently the company has two toilets serving approximately 150 each day.  One is at Bridge International school (a for-profit school supported by the Omidyar Network), the other in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. These local operators keep all revenues. That, Auerbach says, is an incentive for them to clean, maintain and “market” the toilets. The operators then work with groups who collect the waste daily and bring it to facilities where it is converted to energy. “The waste from each toilet generates Sanergy revenues of $1250 per year.” The waste from 10 million creates a potential market of $178 million per year. Brown gold.


Sanitation training in primary school in Ngong Township

Posted by Leonie Kappauf on behalf of Moses Wakala

Barclays Bank Ngong branch Kenya is funding several projects in the surrounding of Ngong through their Community Project program. Sanitation is one of the projects that the bank is supporting in some schools around Ngong Hills in Kenya. The area is located on black cotton sticky soils that are unstable and therefore rather unfavourable for traditional pit latrines. The bank has therefore opted for UDDTs in some schools in order to test whether the community is accepting this technology.The UDDTs are constructed with fibre glass squatting pans and hydro form blocks for the superstructure, which has greatly reduced the cost of the toilets. 

Sanitation training in Ngong primary school
The biggest challenge for the bank's program is the lack of a training component within the project. Moses Wakala, a Kenyan sanitation expert from Ecosanity Ltd., formerly working with GTZ, observed that the toilets in the school compound were not used and the doors were locked. He learnt that the toilets were not in use since the school did not have the necessary knowhow about the technology. Consequently, Wakala initiated a full training for proper use of UDDT toilets at the school at his own cost. 

Moses Wakala explaining UDDT usage
The training covered usage, operation and maintenance, product recycling, hygiene and information on other types of ecosan systems. The training was successful and the school UDDTs are now in use.

For his contact please check the contacts page on this blog http://ecosankenya.blogspot.com/p/network-contacts.html


Double vault UDDTs for pastoralist communities in Narok South, Kenya

Posted by Leonie Kappauf (GIZ) with information provided by Richard Napper (Wherever the Need)

The British charity Wherever the Need and the Kenyan Rainwater Association (KRA) have constructed double vault urine diversion dehydration toilets (UDDTs) in Narok South Kenya. The UDDT construction is part of a project targeting a population of 3,000 through the provision of a large rainwater collection reservoir, a small livelihood opportunity, a tree nursery and improved sanitation facilities. The two combined UDDTs and bathrooms are located next to the reservoir as part of the auxiliary facilities. It is estimated that they will attract around 200 users weekly. 

Combined UDDT and bathroom under construction
The project location is approximately 140 kilometres west of Nairobi, where open defecation is common among the Ildungisho community.  Aim of the toilet construction was to reduce water contamination through open defecation as well as through bathing and washing clothes inside the households’ water source. Awareness creation about the relationship between unhygienic sanitation, water quality and the transmission of water borne diseases is part of the project. 

Urine diversion squatting pan
The project has taken into account the cultural beliefs and traditions of the Maasai community at the project site and has provided gender separated toilets and bathrooms. The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation will be involved in the community training, advocating improved sanitation and hygiene practices, which is expected to increase the projects sustainable impact on sanitation and hygiene practices in the area.

Access to bathroom (right) and faeces chambers (left)


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