Updates on Sanergy in Kenya (public toilet business with urine diversion and composting)

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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Thanks so much for putting this together Elisabeth- I have been following Sanergy for a while, but it was nice to see all the photos and videos together in once place.

I've been doing some modelling for my own research about how a urine collection and transport system can be sustainable and regardless of the scenarios (that I run) I find very few ways in which the income exceeds the costs (especially considering increasing labour and fuel prices). (A brief summary is available on the VUNA website: www.vuna.ch )

I would be so grateful to find out more about the breakdown of your (Sanergy) costs (labour, transport, manufacturing) and how you cover those, in terms of franchise fees, nutrient sales, etc. If you're not operating at a cost-recovering point yet, but see that as the goal, how long do you think it will take to get there (measured in terms of toilets or nutrient volume, etc.)?

Many thanks!

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Tilley
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Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADEL)
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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Hi Liz,

Thanks for your email. We're in good touch with your team at EAWAG and would very much like to continue the conversation offline with you.

Thanks!

David

Sanergy is a social enterprise that is building healthy and prosperous communities through provision of hygienic, affordable and accessible sanitation in urban slums for everyone, forever - starting with Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information on Sanergy visit:

Our website: saner.gy/
Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Sanergy
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/Sanergy
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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Thanks David,

I can totally understand: I've written to you directly and look forward to learning about whatever results you are able to share at this time.

Best,

Elizabeth

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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Dear Elizabeth,

You raised some very pertinent questions in you post on 20 May 2014. From the answer by David I draw my own conclusion that there is no full cost-recovery with the Sanergy model in Kenya yet. It is on the one hand a bit disappointing but on the other hand not surprising, i.e. why should they be the only one worldwide who have found a way to make sanitation provision for the urban poor be able to support itself, solely based on fees, and without any government subsidies (or, in their case, external donor support or some other form of long-term investment)? I think it is simply not possible and need not necessarily be our aim either, as we are talking here about a public good - sanitation, public health (just like education).

You wrote:

I've been doing some modelling for my own research about how a urine collection and transport system can be sustainable and regardless of the scenarios (that I run) I find very few ways in which the income exceeds the costs (especially considering increasing labour and fuel prices).


What are actually these "very few ways"? I asume things like the scenario that fertiliser (phosphorus) prices go up a lot compared to now? That's actually the only one I can think of right now.

(Related thread to this is the VUNA project thread:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/98-res...mit=12&start=12#7350 )

Oh and there was also a post by Kris on Smart Sanitation Subsidies which nobody has picked up on yet:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/142-up...ation-subsidies#9033

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Dear Elisabeth, dear all,

with regard to the increase in prices for "P", a look onto charts for the last decades and price development does not show an abnormal increase in these prices; rather, speculation spin-offs might play a bit, as with other raw materials.

www.indexmundi.com/de/rohstoffpreise/?wa...hphosphat&monate=240

unveils a bit of reality as opposed to hopes one might have for alternative sources for phosphate. The chart linked-in above displays prices for Moroccan raw material. A geologist's point of view: Morocco is leading exporter for phosphate, but not the only one. Significant resources can be found, e.g., in Spain and some other (north) African countries.

We should remain realistic with expectations, please. Collecting, transporting, processing and using urine in agriculture will, for the foreseeable future, remain dependent on low wages and low income in remote areas in -for the processing purpose- climatically appropriate regions.

Best regards,

Jürgen

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable. (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Truth is what stands the test of experience. (A. Einstein)
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Re: Fresh Life Toilet in Kenyan slums - improved urine-diverting squatting plate (Sanergy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Good question!

I should have been more clear in saying that I am NOT trying to offset the costs with any sort of recovered value, but am rather looking into ways in which the costs are feasible, fair, and acceptable to all members of the system.

It wasn't correct of me to say "very few ways" because actually, in my particular context, there are "no ways". More correct would have been to say that I have not found any ways to make the system cost neutral, and very few ways to optimize the payments between the customers and providers, such that we can maximize use and minimize operating costs.

I will definitely keep you posted once my results are ready to share!

Elizabeth

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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

Consumer Insights on Sanitation ​– Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets

Hi everyone!

We wanted to share our insights on what we are keen to try out in 2015 to influence the uptake of hygienic sanitation in the communities that we work in.

At Sanergy, we provide hygienic, accessible and affordable sanitation in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya. Currently, our network of 620 toilets branded as Fresh Life, are generating over 26,000 uses every single day. We are the largest provider of hygienic sanitation in the areas that we serve.

We always want to raise the bar and serve more community members at each of our toilet locations. Designing and delivering improved sanitation is key, but not enough. We want to take a step further and ensure we provide effective interventions that change human behavior. How do we drastically reduce the number of individuals using unsanitary facilities or practicing open defecation?

In the last six months of 2014, we worked closely with Populist and GRID Impact, research and design firms, to help us understand behaviour change and a deeper grasp of our target audience. The team undertook extensive human-centered design research and identified several key consumer insights that we are keen to explore in our operations.

Fresh Life usage is a very addictive behaviour; once someone has a positive first experience, they will almost definitely become consistent customers. The challenge, then, is inspiring that first usage. We need to explicitly connect the brand to specific, tangible benefits that distinguish it from other options – especially at the moment of choice when someone needs to use the toilet – and motivate people to break their current habits in order to try Fresh Life.

click here

Another insight: the toilet does not speak for itself. That is to say, even though there is widespread brand recognition, non-users have their own perceptions of what it’s like inside or who the target customer is. For example, some think children are our main target because we have a growing presence in schools. While many can recall seeing the blue toilet or ‘Fresh Life’ logo, there is not an easily recalled understanding of what happens inside. Potential users are not armed with a concrete expected experience, and are therefore less likely to find Fresh Life a resonant choice. So how do we change preconceived notions among our potential customers to generate more demand?

A final insight: finally, we need to work with our FLOs to show them that actively recruiting new customers is just as critical as providing high quality service to their existing customers, and that shifting their focus just a bit will help their business grow. We need to come up with better, easier ways for our FLOs to feel comfortable as they promote their services.

We are excited to incorporate some of these insights in our work with the community in 2015. Watch this space for regular updates as we seek to provide hygienic, affordable and accessible sanitation for everyone forever. We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think!

Sanergy is a social enterprise that is building healthy and prosperous communities through provision of hygienic, affordable and accessible sanitation in urban slums for everyone, forever - starting with Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information on Sanergy visit:

Our website: saner.gy/
Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Sanergy
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/Sanergy
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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

Thanks, Edith for this update from Sanergy in Kenya.
I think it is fair to say that many of us are following your progress with great interest, holding thumbs that all will continue to go smoothly and being deeply impressed by your commitment and enthousiasm for the cause!

I was fortunate to hear Laura Kimani from Sanergy present about the resource recovery aspects from Sanergy's work at the recent FSM3 Conference in Hanoi.
David Auerbach has sent me her presentations for sharing. Please find them attached below.
It is mainly photos only, so if you have questions for Laura or David, please put them here.

For the second presentation that I have attached below (overview of Sanergy's process), I think we will get also the video of Laura's presentation. For the first presentation (resource recovery) there is no video as it was presented at a smaller workshop.

Some of my notes from the workshop*:
  1. They have recently begun to sell their fertiliser "Evergrow Organic Fertiliser" for 500 USD/ton which is a high price but people are willing to pay it. She said the fertiliser is very popular, it is adding organic matter to the soil which is important for the Kenyan soils, at least in that area.
  2. I think it is important to keep in mind that unlike fertilisers made from faecal sludge this fetiliser is also so much purer as the incoming ingredients are only faeces, saw dust, toilet paper and some urine (I am not sure if all the urine is added to the compost heaps?). But no garbage, no heavy metals from small-scale industries, no chemicals being dumped in the toilets etc. These toilets are well looked after semi-public toilets with an attendant who makes sure that they are used properly.I say "semi" to distinguish them from large public toilet blocks which are used in an anonymous fashion. These ones are only 1-2 toilet cubicles in one location.
  3. The black soldier fly work that you can see in the pictures is still experimental only.
  4. Pathogen kill is achieved by the high temperatures achieved in the composter, and is being closely monitored (I cannot remember exactly what she said about helminth analysis, only that it was difficult to find a lab to do it, so I think they either test it themselves now or send samples to South Africa for testing; and I think each batch is being tested (I can hear Joe asking this question already; you have sensitised me well to this question, Joe ;-) ).
My questions for Laura that I didn't get to ask at the workshop but that I can ask now:
  1. Would you also consider vermi-composting in future? If not, why not?
  2. You mentioned measuring E.coli. Is there really much point in testing that? What does that tell you? Not much, I don't think.
  3. Could you clarify my uncertainty about who is measuring helminths for you? I think ideally you should have your own equipment on-site for measuring it.
  4. Why the big effort in cleaning the faeces bins at your site and for having plastic bags in the bins which add to solid waste? Do the bins really have to be spotless when they are returned to the toilets?
  5. What happens with the washing water that comes from washing the faeces bins?
  6. How diligently do the workers user their PPE (personal protective equipment)? I can imagine it must get quite hot in those suits, boots and gloves. Is it tempting for them to take it off when there are no photos being taken? How about those masks, how often do they need to be replaced? Do they get tested for efficiency? I.e. perhaps the workers are wearing masks but they are already contaminated?
By the way, Sanergy is now also getting some funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - congratulations!

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

* SOIL Hait, ACF Mongolia, IWMI, Vermi-composting New Zealand and others presented as well in this workshop and I hope to be able to make their presentations available on the forum as well.

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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

And let me add a couple of images from the two presentations to illustrate the points that I raised above:

Current toilet model being used by Sanergy, showing the faeces bin:



Cleaning of the faeces bins at the new processing site, a bit outside of Nairobi:



Thermophilic composting:



The compost as it is being sold:



In-vessel composting; this photo looks interesting but I can't remember what Laura told us about this? Is this a trial? Where is this machine from?

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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

Hi Elisabeth,

These are great questions! They certainly make for an enriching conversation about our work. I am posting on behalf of my teammate Laura Kimani (Research and Development) who gladly provided the answers to your questions.

Q - Would you also consider vermi-composting in future? If not, why not?

A - We are always open to new treatment technologies and learning from other successful large scale composting operations like the one presented by Michael Quintern of MyNOKE. However, we may not look into vermi-composting in the near future because of the following reasons:

1. Design and process changes
Vermi-composting would require that we change our system to ensure that compost is kept according to the required depth, to ideal temperature and moisture content for worms to strive.

2. Time and space requirements
Vermi composting takes time and therefor increases space requirements. According to the information presented by Michael the processing time using worms is 12 month, which is significantly longer than our current processing time.

3. Lack of local expertise
We have built up local expertise in thermophilic co-composting in terms of safety operations and maintenance. We would have to build up this expertise for a vermi-composting system first to ensure a safe and high quality end product.

Q - You mentioned measuring E.coli. Is there really much point in testing that? What does that tell you? Not much, I don't think.
A - We are testing E.coli and Helminth eggs as indicator organisms and as stated in the WHO guidelines. Even so E.coli is easily eliminated it at least gives us an indication if there is pathogen elimination and if there is any risk of re-growth.

Q - Could you clarify my uncertainty about who is measuring helminths for you? I think ideally you should have your own equipment on-site for measuring it.
A - Yes, we built our own internal laboratory for routine analysis and quality testing. This includes E.coli, helminth analysis as well as basic compost quality analysis. We still undertake third party tests to confirm our findings.

Q - Why the big effort in cleaning the faeces bins at your site and for having plastic bags in the bins which add to solid waste? Do the bins really have to be spotless when they are returned to the toilets?
A - Yes, delivering a quality service to our customers is very important to us as part of the “Fresh Life experience”. This service includes providing smell free, clean and hygienically safe cartridges.

Q - What happens with the washing water that comes from washing the faeces bins?

A - The wash water is drained into a septic tank and disposed in a neighbouring treatment plant.


Q - How diligently do the workers user their PPE (personal protective equipment)? I can imagine it must get quite hot in those suits, boots and gloves. Is it tempting for them to take it off when there are no photos being taken? How about those masks, how often do they need to be replaced? Do they get tested for efficiency? I.e. perhaps the workers are wearing masks but they are already contaminated?
A - Surprisingly diligently, they always tell me they are used to the heat. Besides providing PPE it is really important to provide training on risks and mitigation methods. We realized that awareness of biological hazards is crucial to incentivise proper usage of PPE. Lastly the proper usage of PPE is considered in each team member’s performance rating which helps to enforce it, too.


We hope these answers help everyone understand our operations better!

Best,
Edith Karimi

Sanergy is a social enterprise that is building healthy and prosperous communities through provision of hygienic, affordable and accessible sanitation in urban slums for everyone, forever - starting with Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information on Sanergy visit:

Our website: saner.gy/
Like our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Sanergy
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/Sanergy
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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

[Start of Page 2 of the discussion]

Dear Edith and Laura,

Thanks so much for your helpful answers to my questions! (this is so much better than some other suppliers of technology who I ask three times the same question and they ignore two and only half answer one)

About the helminth analysis, we hear time and time again that it is so difficult to do. Now you have set up your own lab because nobody else in Kenya was routinely measuring this in faecal or compost samples. Could you tell me and others who face a similar situation a bit about your measurement technique and protocol? Which method do you use, was it in the end easier than you thought to set up the microscopes etc. or are you still finding it difficult? Did you have to send any of your staff to training somehwere? (for all: see also this thread on new software from Mexico to identify helminth eggs with less human input: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/159-in...e-mexico-unam-mexico )

By the way, Laura, I used two of your photos from before your time at Sanergy to illustrate the helminth article on Wikipedia where we explain how helminths are used as an indicator organism:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths#Indicator_organism

This means that helminth analysis is/was available in Kenya already? The photo description said: "The method from the Manual of Parasitological and Bacteriological Techniques (WHO, 1996) is used to determine helminth eggs in the UDDT products."

These are the two photos that I included in the Wikipedia article:

Helminth Eggs determination (in faeces) by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr

Processed helminth eggs samples and Mc Master slide by Sustainable sanitation , on Flickr


Just one small question that you overlooked which was in my post above where I had added the two photos:

In-vessel composting; this photo looks interesting but I can't remember what Laura told us about this? Is this a trial? Where is this machine from?


Kind regards,
Elisabeth

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  • KaiMikkel
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Re: Consumer Insights on Sanitation – Upping the Usage of Fresh Life Toilets (update by Sanergy)

Just a friendly suggestion directed to the folks behind Sanergy:

Referring to the image of the bagged "Evergrow" product above (and, in particular, its list of ingredients) I have to call out the use of the term "biosolids" to describe the feces and urine constituents of this product. Feces and urine are not biosolids. Biosolids is the sanitized term given to sewage sludge by Madison Avenue which itself is the name used to describe the solids that are removed from wastewater treatment plants. Surely the last thing Sanergy and its compost want to be associated with is the material that the US EPA has shown contains a plethora of industrial toxics? Given the international controversy that surrounds "biosolids" I would urge Sanergy staff to seriously consider eliminating all uses of this word from their marketing materials and discussions and do everything they can to distance themselves from any association with this material.

The beauty of "Evergrow" (and everything that it represents) is that it is absolutely NOT biosolids. Moreover, at least in the USA (where I would guess that some of Sanergy's funding and support emanates), the use of the term "organic" and "biosolids" in the same sentence (or even within the same product description or on the same packaging) is deceptive and a huge no-no given that biosolids are prohibited from use in conjunction with certified organic agricultural production. I worry that US funders might get the wrong idea and/or take issue with the use of the word as well. If I were Sanergy I would run as far as I could from this word.

And Elisabeth (and other forum moderators) - please do not move my comment. I am directing my concern directly at the fine folks of Sanergy and I don't want my message lost in another thread. Thanks.

Kai Mikkel Førlie

Founding Member of Water-Wise Vermont (formerly Vermonters Against Toxic Sludge)
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