The Toilet Business: What Can a Single Toilet Do

by Noah Wekesa

Mr Wanyama, a resident of Ochude Village in Busia County, wants an improved toilet. Wanyama then realises he does not have money to fund the construction.

Since Wanyama is a member of a local SACCO, he approaches the savings cooperative for a loan to fund his toilet project. He is found to be eligible and the SACCO approves the loan. On receiving the loan, he goes to his local hardware to buy cement, a ventilation pipe, wire mesh, nails, timber, and corrugated iron sheet among other essential materials for his proposed toilet. He also visits suppliers of sand and ballast for materials.

But since Wanyama does not have a means of transport, he contracts his neighbour, Mr Wafula who is a transport service provider and owns a pickup. Meanwhile, Mr Wanyama also engages and pays a local pit excavator to start sinking the toilet for him since he is running out of time.

Once Wanyama assembles all the materials on-site, he realises that one essential material is lacking; the bricks. Then he recalls being visited by a Community Health Volunteer who in the process of sensitising him on the need for an improved toilet hinted to him of a local youth group that produces and sells cost-effective interlocking blocks. He then reaches out to the youth group to negotiate and buy their products.  Soon they agree on the price and the group opts to use Mr Wanyama’s ground to produce his blocks. The group then hires the block making machine from a local owner and uses it to fulfil Wanyama’s need for the economical bricks.  So far, Wanyama has all materials on site and his pit dug; but lacks a mason to construct the toilet. He again realises that among the members of the youth group he engaged are masons who also construct modern toilets. It is easy for him to negotiate and contract the youth for masonry owing to their successful initial business.

Five days after, Wanyama has his toilet constructed and ready for use.

To Wanyama’s disbelief, the interlocking blocks have cut the cost significantly, contrary to his initial expectation! As he starts using his newly acquired toilet, he is also aware of the need for proper hygiene practices and buys liquid soap from a local soap maker. Wanyama is enjoying affordable, durable sanitation and hygiene thanks to his SACCO which came to his timely financial aid through a loan which he has now started repaying.

Other business entities such as transporters, suppliers and artisans have also opened up accounts with the SACCO after a series of successful businesses. Later on, when Wanyama’s toilet fills up, he will have to engage an exhauster service provider who takes the faecal sludge to the Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) for processing into soil conditioner, biogas and briquettes which would ultimately be sold to Wanyama and other households.

From Wanyama’s toilet, a number of business opportunities have been created; from the SACCO, transport provider, suppliers and artisans. As money changes hands from one business entity to the other (circular flow), a circular economy that is essential for the realisation of a sustainable community is created. 

Financial Inclusion Improves Sanitation and Health in Kenya (FINISH INK) Project Wanyama’s story sums up the ambition of the FINISH INK project; empowering communities to improve sanitation and health.

FINISH INK is a public-private partnership (PPP) project funded by the Dutch Government through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (R.V.O). Its focus is to increase access to sustainable sanitation in the rural financially excluded communities through micro-credit initiatives. The partnership is composed of nine organisations both local and international; Kenya’s Ministry of Health, Amref Health Africa in Kenya and the Netherlands, Sidian Bank, Family Bank, WASTE, SNS Asset Management Company, Goodwell Investment, Social Equity Foundation and the United Nations University, Maastricht (UNU-MERIT). In order to sustainably affect demand and supply for improved sanitation, FINISH INK supports all the businesses in the sanitation supply and service chain through technical and business capacity development, financial literacy training and financial support to start-up groups. Ultimately, the project also aims at ensuring that each and every community member is financially included.

By Charles Were


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