A Toilet Franchise that is Controlling Waste in Nairobi Slums

One of the largest risks for disease in the developing world is caused by a lack of proper sanitation. Inadequate sanitation affects over 2.5 billion people worldwide, and in Kenya, an organization called Sanergy is hoping to provide a solution starting in the slums of Nairobi. Slum conditions provide ample opportunity for human waste to contaminate the scarce water sources, spawning among other health concerns, the development of diarrhoeal diseases, which is the number one killer of children in the developing world. Sanergy have successfully begun to build an entire sanitation process around clean, and well-maintained toilets.

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Sanergy first began its operations in the slums of Nairobi, which hosts the largest slum in all of Africa. These densely populated communities provide the perfect setting for disease to spread quickly and for a single contamination to cause a widespread ripple effect. To dispose of human waste there are basically two options in Nairobi. The first, and the least dignified, yet most widely used solution is “flying toilets”, in which you defecate into a plastic bag that is then tossed onto the street, into the ditches, or simply as far away as your arm can throw. These bags can then burst open, clog drainage, and the waste generally ends up leaking into the houses, into the soil and ultimately into water sources. Women especially rely heavily upon flying toilets, as with few pit latrines available they face the risk of rape and attack while traveling to a latrine and this risk only increases at night. The other option is pit latrines, which are usually just a hole in the ground. Pit latrines are emptied only every several months in an uncontrolled manner by “frogmen” who must enter the latrine and empty the contents by bucket. The waste is then transported through the slum with contents spilling over the edges of the containers, and is taken to a location to be emptied. As a result of pit latrines, 4 million tons, or 90% of fecal sludge from Kenya’s slums are discharged into waterways and fields every year.


Through the installation of “Fresh Life Toilets” Sanergy not only sees more toilets available, but they are a hygienic and well-maintained solution to pit latrines. FLTs are developed in a modular fashion so each one is easy to assemble, and built with inexpensive but durable materials that are above all else, easy to clean. After the toilet is built, residents invest in a toilet and become the franchiser and operator of the FLT, known as the Fresh Life Operator. In this role they receive from Sanergy access to financing, business and operations training, and ongoing marketing support. In return, the FLOs are in charge of generating local demand, ensuring the toilet is kept clean, and collecting the money from users, while retaining all profits.

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The waste from FLTs is collected daily in closed containers called cartridges by Sanergy staff via wheelbarrow, cart or truck, and then replaced with an empty cartridge. The cartridges from the slum are then transported to the treatment facility. This is yet another stage in the process that provides employment and job opportunity for slum dwellers as Sanergy relies heavily upon local staff. At the treatment facility the containers are emptied and it is here that it can be dried and used as bio fuel or as a composting material and fertilizer, with 100% of the waste being safely treated.

Sanergy now has over 370 Fresh Life Toilets in operation, 15,000 users with daily access to affordable and hygienic sanitation and 2,145 metric tons of waste safely removed from the community and safely treated. Sanergy is an example of not only an innovative product but also an innovative system finding a solution to sanitation issues and lack of toilets, as well as providing a number of job opportunities and entrepreneurial empowerment for FLOs.



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