From flying toilets to fertiliser…

November 19th, 2012

From The Guardian’s global development section an interesting advance in toilets in Nairobi.

Dennis Ochieng balances precariously with one leg on either side of a narrow trench running through a small alleyway in Mukuru, a network of slums around Nairobi’s industrial area.

“Before, this place was a mess,” he says, explaining that the trench used to be full of “flying toilets” – plastic bags full of urine and faeces. Today, those bags are nowhere in sight. “It’s great,” agrees Alex Wekesa, a 26-year-old businessman who runs two 3ft-by-5ft Fresh Life toilets in the alley.

The toilets are made by Sanergy, a Kenya-based social enterprise, and sold to individuals for around $500 each. A 14-strong “Fresh Life frontline” team collects the waste each day and takes it to a processing site, where it is turned into organic fertiliser.

The scale of the problem is revealed –

Around 60% of Nairobi’s residents live in slums, which occupy less than 6% of the city’s residential land. Services such as sewerage, piped water and rubbish collections are virtually non-existent here, meaning that the poorest people have to pay for things wealthier residents take for granted. There are privately operated pit latrines in Mukuru, which people pay around two shillings to use, but they are often dirty, smelly and have no paper or water.

And how personal safety links to toilets –

There is also a security issue, especially for women needing to go to the toilet at night. In a 2010 report, Risking rape to reach a toilet (pdf), Amnesty International surveyed 130 women living in four slums in Nairobi, including Mukuru, and found that: “The shortage of toilets (including latrines) and places to wash in the slums exacerbates women’s insecurity and heightens the risk of gender-based violence.”

Amnesty said most slum residents use pit latrines, with 50 to 150 people sharing one facility. There are also community toilets, but some are closed at night. “Many women have suffered rape and other forms of violence as a result of attempting to walk to a toilet or latrine some distance from their home,” the report said.

Amnesty said landlords in the slums neglect the sanitary needs of their tenants, preferring to maximise incomes by building more homes rather than toilets or bathrooms.

Read the full article