entrepreneurs are working together to improve waste disposal in their countries.
Better sanitation and water quality are among the U.N. Millennium Development
Goals, which were created to improve social conditions in the developing world
by 2015. From Washington,
reporter William Eagle has the story of three promising innovations.
Their work is
timely: The U.N. estimates that more than 5,000 children in Africa and
Asia under five die each day of diseases caused by dirty water and poor
hygiene. Almost 40 percent of people worldwide lack access to toilets and safe
ways of disposing of human waste In Africa alone, that rises to 62
entrepreneur Trevor Mulaudzi was originally a geologist. Today, he and the
staff of his company, called The Clean Shop, call themselves by other names: toilet
activists, motivators, educators and revolutionaries. They're also successful
One of his goals is
to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
"Dirty toilets are
hampering [efforts] by government to get sustainable good sanitation," he says.
Many share the blame.
Mulaudzi says students and even public officials who have never learned
differently clog toilets with newspapers and other refuse. Some school children
use articles of clothing in the absence of toilet paper. They also fail to wash
their hands. Then they bring the germs into the classroom and spread many types
of diseases. Some teen-age girls drop out of school due to a lack of clean and
staff clean up filthy and unusable facilities and then educate their clients to
about the importance of keeping them clean.
The clients then
motivate themselves and administrators to keep facilities clean, and the whole
sanitation system – from construction to education and maintenance - begins to
Mulaudzi and the staff
of his group, The Clean Shop, teach students to become what he calls toilet
angels, who are willing to learn improved hygiene and sanitation practices:
"We say the state of
your toilet reflects the state of your mind," he says. "So we give children a clean
environment and clean toilets so they can stay at school. We teach
children how to discard sanitary towels. They are clueless. We [explain to]
them where [waste] goes – we say that's what's causing little rivulets' in the
[open sewers] in the street.
children not to leave home without their own toilet paper, which he calls an
"admission ticket" to their schools' shiny new restrooms. Students appear
to be getting the message. At one school, they held a protest when his cleaning
contract was not renewed, causing the administration to reverse its decision.
Educating – and serving -
the public is also the successful strategy of David Kuria of Kenya
Ecotact, builds free-standing bathroom facilities called "toilet malls. " Besides
toilets, they often include a water kiosk and showers for men and women in poor
areas where people seldom have showers in their homes.
Kuria has used well
known public figures to spread the message of good personal hygiene and
sanitation, including Miss Kenya, a local Catholic bishop and even the country's
vice president. He's also hired comedians, whose light-hearted methods have
helped encourage reluctant members of the public to try the malls, with great
He's also increasing
business by adding other public and profitable conveniences to the malls.
"How do we increase
the [usefulness] of the [toilet malls] How do we attract more people," he asks. "We have
added snacks, soft drinks ,….[people to do] shoe shines, magazine sales, cell
phone charging stations… in the future can the banks install ATMs [there],
where you can withdraw your cash ? We are breaking the mentality that
[restrooms are always] dirty. Companies are now putting their advertising in
the [malls], because [over 30,000] people are using them each day. These are
revenue streams….With all these enterprises, we are able to recover the costs
[of building and operating the malls]."
Kuria says some of
the toilets even use the waste to create biogas for small generators that provide
Joseph Adelegan applies a similar idea at bigger scale for his project in
Ibadan, Nigeria. Adelegan, a civil engineer, has devised a way to turn waste
from a cattle slaughterhouse into fuel, cleaning up rivers and groundwater,
reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating sustainable jobs in the
process. He sees no reason why the idea can not be used eventually to process
human waste as well.
Adelegan calls his initiative
"Cows to Kilowatts." It uses a reactor to process large volumes of cattle waste into
biogas that is sold as an inexpensive fuel for cooking or for generators that
He describes how he
"The first thing we
did," he says, "was scientifically determine the impact of the waste on the people. In [our
part of] Nigeria, there are no potable water supply or distribution networks. People
extract water from hand dug wells and boreholes. There is leaching where [waste
penetrates] ground water and pollutes drinking water. Most of the pollutants exceed
WHO drinking water [standards]. There are also water-borne diseases."
Thanks to the Cows
to Kilowatts project, there's less untreated waste in waterways, drinking water
supplies are safer and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
The plants generate
over 1,800 cubic meters of biogas per day, providing affordable cooking gas to
over five thousand homes. The gas is cleaner than fuels used for cooking, and
reduces pollution inside homes. Furthermore, Cows to Kilowatts is now organizing
with six other African social entrepreneurs – including David Kuria and Trevor
Mulaudzi – to try to build similar plants in Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa.
Adelegan has used a
similar idea for producing biogas from refined cassava waste, which is also
dumped into waterways. The gas powers turbines that provide electricity for
thousands of homes.
These three leading
social entrepreneurs are now working together and with several others in Africa
on similar innovative solutions. They are combining ideas and helping spread
each others' work to new areas. They are all fellows of Ashoka, a global NGO
that recognizes and promotes social entrepreneurs, supporting them individually
and helping bring them together for even greater insight and impact. Ashoka now
works with over 2,000 such fellows in 60 countries, helping change the lives of
millions of people worldwide.