News / Africa

Non-Profit, Entrepreneurs Pair Up for Clean Toilet Micro Loans in Kenya

Fresh Life Frontline member Bernard Mutuku stands next to waste collection containers at the processing facility in the industrial area of Nairobi, Kenya, September 11, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
Fresh Life Frontline member Bernard Mutuku stands next to waste collection containers at the processing facility in the industrial area of Nairobi, Kenya, September 11, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
Jill Craig
In Kenyan slums, residents lack good sanitation options. In fact, they're typically faced with two distinct options: The infamous “flying toilet,” whereby people defecate into a thin polyurethane sack, tie it up and throw it outside, or the public toilet, which costs between four and six cents per use, and is usually overflowing with filth.
 
Either option, of course, has unique health and environmental consequences.
 
“In Nairobi, 90 percent of the waste is dumped into rivers," says David Auerbach, one of the co-founders of Sanergy, a manufacturer of low-cost sanitation facilities. "So what that actually means is four-million metric tons of waste every single year are going into open areas, which is a huge public health risk.”
 
While visiting the Mathare slum several years ago, Auerbach saw a local youth group running a toilet as a business. Although the idea was good, he says, the toilet needed improvements in terms of waste disposal.
 
This is when he and his Sanergy co-founders got the idea. “We build low-cost sanitation facilities, which we franchise to people in the community and they run them as businesses," he says.
 
Each Fresh Life toilet costs about $500, which includes training, marketing, branding, installation, demolition insurance and a daily waste collection service. The franchise owners are required to supply toilet paper, soap and a hand washing station for their patrons – amenities that are non-existent in public toilets. 
 
Then the Fresh Life Frontline, otherwise known as waste collectors, remove the waste on a daily basis and bring it to a centralized processing facility where it is turned into fertilizer. 
 
Given Sanergy’s close working relationships with its Fresh Life operators, and its emphasis on proper waste disposal, Kiva – a non-profit organization that facilitates microfinance loans for people in developing countries – took notice. The group has decided to partner Sanergy to release its first sanitation loans in East Africa.
 
According to Mac Parish, senior field support specialist for Kiva in Anglophone Africa, the group allows lenders to provide small amounts of money at zero-percent interest to designated projects.
 
“I think this story with Sanergy is incredibly compelling, [because] you really hit so many points on the value chain, of social value," he says. "You’re providing sanitation in slums; you are providing employment in slums; you’re sustaining entrepreneurship within these areas; you’re then collecting the waste, turning it into fertilizer, creating organic fertilizer and, hopefully, in the future, creating energy from this waste as well.”
 
In the slums of Mukuru, where the Fresh Life toilets are being introduced, residents are excited about the initiative.
 
Mercyline Atieno, who recently bought a Fresh Life toilet with the assistance of a Kiva loan, is a 42-year-old mother of eight and grandmother of one who also supports seven orphans. 
 
She wants to use the proceeds from her business to send the orphans – especially the girls – to school.
 
“You see, people prefer to go to [the] Fresh Life toilet and they offer to pay five shillings rather than pay three shillings to go to the dirty toilet," she says, explaining that her toilet is a noticeably better product than what is currently available, giving her confidence in its profitability. "This toilet will change [the] life of the slum people because even them, they want good things. They don’t want those bad things.”
 
While Parish says some Kiva lenders may be hesitant to support a toilet business, since Kiva is better known for providing loan access to farmers, shopkeepers and more traditional entrepreneurs, he thinks they will appreciate the broader community benefits.
 
“Sanitation is such a pressing issue," he says. "A toilet is not a sexy loan. It’s a toilet. Right? But the impact that that toilet can have and the ripple effect, because of the fact that that toilet is a Fresh Life toilet and Sanergy is the one operating it, I think it’s huge. What Kiva has to do as we restructure these profiles and we structure the content around Sanergy is to make sure that we’re giving the full story to our lenders.”
 
Sanergy has already franchised 86 Fresh Life toilets to 50 entrepreneurs in Mukuru, and the company plans to expand to other slums.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs