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THE PROBLEM: 2.5 billion people across the world lack access to basic sanitation. The resulting infection from contact with human waste is the second leading contributor to the global burden of diarrheal disease, claiming the lives of nearly 1.6 million children each year.
THE SOLUTION: Affordable and financially sustainable sanitation services in the slums of Nairobi. The innovative, three-step approach creates a dense network of novel, modular toilets, from where human waste is collected, converted into electricity and commercial grade organic fertilizers, and sold for profit. The model creates jobs and opportunities while addressing a serious social need.
COST EFFECTIVENESS: Sanergy’s module toilets cost just $450 to fabricate, and are designed to serve 76 people. Because the waste from each person generates 22k WH of electricity and 40kg of fertilizer annually, the 10 million people in Kenya’s slums create a $72 million market per year.
KENYA - With support from DIV, Sanergy will expand its award-winning, financially sustainable sanitation service delivery system in Kenya’s urban slums. In the 12-month pilot, Sanergy will build and franchise a dense network of 60 low-cost latrines to slum residents.
Designed by MIT engineers and architects, the modular, small-scale hygienic toilets cost just $450 to fabricate and can be assembled in one day. The sanitation centers are franchised to local entrepreneurs and local youth groups, who earn income through affordable pay-per-use fees, membership plans, and sales of complementary products.
To collect the waste, the specially designed systems facilitate waste storage in airtight containers. Each day, Sanergy employees collect the full containers of waste and bring them in hand carts to a central processing facility, where the human waste is converted into biogas.
By leveraging economies of scale through centralized waste processing, the yield of the conversion process can be increased 30% compared to small household and village level biodigesters. The biogas generates electricity, which is sold directly to the national grid, and the output from the biogas generation is processed into high-quality organic fertilizer, which will be sold to commercial and small-hold farms in horticulture, cotton, and animal feed production.
The 10 million residents of Kenya’s slums create a potential $72 million annual market, a significant opportunity to establish an integrated service delivery model that tackles the sanitation crisis holistically. Within five years, Sanergy will expand to 3,390 centers reaching 600,000 slum dwellers – creating jobs and profit, while aiming to reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 40%.
Maura O'Neill, USAID's Chief Innovation Officer, presented Sanergy with the award, which is the first to be issued from the WASH for Life program – a partnership between DIV and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to identify, test, and transition to scale promising approaches to achieving cost-effective, sustained, scalable water, sanitation, and health (WASH) services in developing countries. “The world has been struggling to discover good business models to scale sanitation solutions that are sustainable,” explained O’Neill. “We are excited about Sanergy’s technology, approach and innovative business model to tackle this problem. We believe they have a real promising model that, if it works, could scale to solve sanitation problems for millions globally.”
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) congratulated Sanergy "on having been selected for a USAID Development Innovation Ventures grant. This award is a testament to MIT’s commitment to finding innovative solutions to the world’s development challenges. DIV grants open up the space for great ideas that ultimately provide effective development solutions at a fraction of the cost.”
DIV will evaluate Sanergy's program along metrics that include the amount of fertilizer and fuel generated from the collected waste, the number of toilet users by gender, and the number of jobs created to operate and maintain the toilet network. Through Development Innovation Ventures, USAID is proud to support the work of young entrepreneurs whose ideas have the potential to change the lives of millions of people around the world.
To learn more:
- Read more about Sanergy and DIV
- Watch a video of how Sanergy’s system works
- Watch a video explaining the toilet design
- Read FastCompany's story about the "toilet entrepreneurs"
- Read BostInno's take of the Sanergy story from MIT to DIV
- Listen to PRI The World’s story about Sanergy
Last updated: February 19, 2013