Susie Kitchens hosts meeting to discuss social enterprise initiatives in Kenya

Susie Kitchens Social Enterprise
Susie Kitchens hosted a meeting of groups interested in social enterprise initiatives. Photo: Twitter/Sanergy

Last week, Susie Kitchens, the UK Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya hosted a meeting of a number of organisations to discuss what it takes to get high-impact social enterprises to scale, mixing public and private funding.

Among the groups represented were Sanergy, Social Finance UK, KEPSA (Kenya Private Sector Alliance), Social Enterprise Kenya, Acumen and Oxfam East Africa.

One of the projects Sanergy are currently involved in is providing alternative waste management solutions through the use of container based sanitation in the East Nairobi Mukuru Slums.

With 2.5 billion people lacking access to hygienic sanitation, inadequate and unhygienic sanitation is the second largest cause of disease in the world.

It leads to contaminated waterways and food supply, as well as infections like diarrhea, caused by direct contact with human waste.

1.6 million children each year die from diarrheal disease and it affects more children under the age of 5 than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. It not only affects individual families, but entire economies, resulting in developing countries losing ~2% of GDP each year due to lost worker productivity from sanitation-related diseases.

The problem is particularly acute in slums, where over 1 billion people live, a number which is estimated to double to over 2 billion people worldwide by 2030. The high population density in slums, combined with the lack of physical space, infrastructure, and resources exacerbates the sanitation crisis and Kenya’s 8 million slum residents are forced to rely on unsanitary options such as “flying toilets” (defecating into plastic bags that are then tossed onto the streets) and pit latrines that release untreated human waste into the environment.

These sanitation solutions are not only undignified, but also cause immense environmental damage. Pit latrines are emptied every few months by poorly trained and equipped service employees known as ‘frogmen’.

These ‘frogmen’ jump into the pits of human waste, manually empty the pit latrines using buckets, and then haul the overflowing buckets of waste through the community to the nearest waterway or field, where the buckets’ contents are released into the environment.

In total, 4 million tons — or 90% — of faecal sludge from Kenya’s slums are discharged into waterways and fields every year.