Team #13 // The Community Pees Project
No one should have to pay to pee – it’s that simple. Toilets cost money, however, and so in order to finance toilets for all, we introduce a community-run toilet-market. The toilets are a passive design that keeps costs (and smells) down via worms that process human waste into a low volume of vermicompost. The attached market promotes hygiene and entrepreneurship while providing income to maintain the worm toilets without charging for use.
There is a lack of access to clean, free toilets in the informal settlements in Kisumu, resulting in open defecation and people dumping waste on the streets. No one should have to pay to pee.
Target user / Customer
The target users for the sanitary facilities are residents in the informal settlements in Kisumu, especially people who do not currently use the available latrines (instead open defecation, “flying toilets”), but the toilets should also be open for public use by anyone in the area. The market also targets local entrepreneurs.
Your solution and how the concept is feasible
The solution is a community-run toilet-market system, integrating two previously successful systems, the “One stop shop” (implemented by the Red Cross in east Africa) and the Tiger Toilet (successful pilots in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India, and others). One pilot market can implemented (in an area apart from existing community pay toilets in order to avoid competition), and additional markets can be constructed according to local demand. An estimated 6-10 toilet units (split evenly by gender) would be built in the first pilot. Strong community engagement provides a long term solution; people care more about something if they build it and own it themselves, this is the “community pees” project.
Toilets: Passive, pour flush tiger worm toilets are a low-maintenance solution that can eliminate fecal waste and reduce the need for transporting waste around the city. The tiger worms consume feces, producing a denser and safer vermicompost that is only about 15% by weight of the initial waste, so it only needs to be emptied every 2-4 years. Water from a rainwater collection system or from the nearby lake can be used for flushing.
Market “One drop shop”: Additional hygiene facilities (i.e. showers), kiosk, and marketplace area linked to the toilet facilities. Recommend setting up a KIWASCO drinking water kiosk on location for users to purchase clean water.
Construction: The building can be constructed using local labor and materials according to provided specifications. Worms can be sourced from existing wormeries in Kenya (new wormeries in Kisumu could be a potential new entrepreneurial venture). Approximately 200g of worms are needed per person using the toilet; 1 kg of worms costs 2000 ksh. Materials for the drainage and bedding layers, as well as the structure itself, are flexible and can be adjusted according to what is locally available. A hatch should be included for monitoring toilet effectiveness.
Environmental considerations: Availability of free, clean toilets reduces the dumping of human feces into the local environment. The toilet construction needs to be of sufficient quality to prevent intrusion from pests or flooding (either from natural disasters or improper usage), which could impact worm health.
Toilets: The toilets are open to all, regardless of income, social status, religion, etc. Separate facilities are available for men and women. Lighting (powered by solar panel) and security guards provide a safe environment.
Market: The market provides a safe and well-traveled space for local entrepreneurs, especially women, to sell their goods and produce to other community members.
Construction: Residents should participate in every step of the planning and construction process, and management of the facility should be handed over to a local organization. Consideration should be given to making the facilities accessible to all, including those with limited mobility.
Advertisement/communication: NGOs, doctors, and church groups work with community members to educate about hygiene and the dangers of handling human waste. Communication should emphasize the reduced smell and cost associated with this type of toilet.
Stakeholders: The major stakeholders are the local residents, local and global NGOs, and the local government. Other stakeholders specifically affected by this solution are current pay toilet operators and waste collectors. By piloting the project away from current pay toilets, toilet operators have a chance to adapt to the competition and potentially adopt a similar model. Mechanical waste collection companies should not be significantly affected, as existing septic tanks, etc., will still be in use and require emptying. Illegal manual collection will be impacted, but the market will offer additional employment opportunities as well. Alternatively, there are opportunities for manual waste collectors to transition to collecting solid waste.
Risks: Changing toilet habits could be difficult, if people aren’t used to flushing, or if they wash with detergents or throw trash in toilets. Location selection is important to avoid impacting current pay toilets, as well as providing equitable and safe access to the toilets. There is also a risk that gangs will try to take control of the facility.
Four unique value propositions
- Our solution is an entirely passive process that effectively eliminates fecal waste.
- It empowers the community through self-sufficient local management of the shop and facilities.
- This project commits to the concept of universal free toilet access and the belief that everyone has a fundamental right to the most basic hygiene.
- The solution is unique in that it’s not unique – it’s comprised of technology and infrastructure that has been proven to work in other, similar locations and can be adapted and applied to other locations as well.
The business model is based on the One Stop Shop model as implemented by the Red Cross in east Africa. Income is generated from shower use, sales from the kiosk (small goods such as soap), and fees for sellers and entrepreneurs to set up shop in the marketplace. In the One Stop Shop model, there is a cost associated with using the toilet; however, using tiger worm toilets instead of traditional latrines eliminates most of the maintenance, which reduces overall costs and allows for toilet use to be subsidized by other activities at the marketplace. There is a risk that the income from sales will not be enough to cover maintenance, however, this can be addressed by increased communication and education and temporarily supplemented by donation and/or micro-lending.
Initial construction costs will be covered by donation through partnership with local NGOs such as Sana International, the local Red Cross in Kisumu, Umande Trust, and Engineers Without Borders.
– improves health and sanitation in informal settlements by increasing affordable access to toilets (SDG 6.2, 11.1)
– involves the community directly in managing their own sustainable sanitation (SDG 6.B, 11.3)
– promotes human dignity through universal access to basic hygiene regardless of income/social status (SDG 10.2)
– ends open defecation and reduces human waste pollution in the local environment (SDG 6.2, 11.6)
Our team has diverse backgrounds: experience in biomedicine, chemistry, sustainable energy, waste management, environmental engineering, design, innovation, and business development; perspectives from Denmark, USA, India, and Germany. We also have a shared vision: working towards sustainable development with a strong focus on social impact, as well as absolute conviction that no one should have to pay for basic bodily functions! We developed our solution using effective teamwork: we spent time evaluating the problem from each of our different perspectives, settling on our vision before brainstorming solutions. We also consulted with mentors from different sectors in order to address all aspects of the solution, even reaching out to local NGOs in Kisumu.