A Kenyan recycling company is improving sanitation for slum dwellers in Nairobi and turning the waste products into fertilizer for farmers.
Anita Mutinda walks to a small structure located inside the cluster of makeshift houses that she calls home, in the heart of Mukuru kwa Ruben, a poor neighborhood in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
The structure is one of the toilets installed by a company providing the much-needed service here. It is one of the reasons that Mutinda rented and has lived here for five years.
She says life where she lived before was hard because she had to pay five shillings every time she needed to use a public toilet, and it was far from the house. Here, she doesn’t have to pay a single cent to access this facility.
Her landlady, Deborah Kerubo, says the availability of the toilet facility on her property has become a major selling point.
She says tenants want a facility that has both day and night access. If they don’t get that, they will keep moving, she says, until they get what they are looking for.
No sewage system
Mukuru kwa Ruben, like many other slum areas in Kenya’s capital, is not connected to a sewage system. An estimated 60% of the population lives with this lack of sanitation.
Elijah Gachoki, a clinical officer at a local community health center, says these conditions are a major cause of communicable diseases. “We start getting water wash diseases, conjunctivitis, and skin diseases, so there is a need for proper safe and adequate provision of sanitation,” he expressed.
It is a gap that Sanergy, a company providing sanitation solutions, says it is bridging. Sanergy provides toilets that separate liquid and dry waste and help with waste management in the informal settlements.
Sheila Kibuthu, Sanergy Kenya’s external relations manager, says the company believes in not wasting any waste. On a regular basis, she notes “we make sure that we provide a waste management service where all of the sanitation waste is generated is then safely removed and transported to our organics recycling factory for processing along with other forms of organic waste.”
Turned into fertilizer
The toilet waste is collected daily and mixed with other organic waste from the community. It is then processed at Sanergy’s plant on the outskirts of Nairobi and turned into organic fertilizer and other agricultural inputs like high protein feed for livestock.
“One of the biggest challenges farmers are facing today is soil infertility, so what the organic fertilizer does is that it helps restore the soil fertility and that way farmers can improve their yields.”
Sanergy believes more and more farmers will be served as it keeps the cycle of turning waste into useful products going, while providing a necessary service.
Currently, the company has more than 5,000 toilets spread across 11 informal settlement areas in Nairobi, serving over 140,000 residents.