2016 Finalist

Providing access to affordable and hygienic sanitation to the residents of urban slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

What is the social and/or ecological challenge?

Sanergy’s work focuses on the urban sanitation crisis. There are 2.5 billion people in the developing world who lack access to adequate sanitation. The resulting diarrheal disease kills nearly 1 million children each year. The high population density combined with the lack of basic water, sewage infrastructure and resources makes the problem particularly acute in urban slums, where populations will double to 2 billion by 2030. In Kenya, where Sanergy works, 67% of urban residents do not have access to adequate sanitation. Diarrhea is the single biggest reason for hospital admission in Kenya, causes 10% of post-natal deaths in the under 5 years segment and claims the lives of 17,100 children die every year, whilst hundreds of thousands more are left undernourished and unable to fully contribute to society later on in life. The economic costs to Kenya are significant - The World Bank estimates losses of $324 million every year through lost productivity, illness and death. Further, inadequate sanitation systems have a damaging effect on the local environment, local water supplies and riverine economies downstream, with 4 million tons (90%) of waste dumped untreated into Nairobi’s waterways every year. This situation has never been effectively addressed and in Kenya, at current rates, complete sanitation coverage - the ideal situation - will take 150 years.

The social entrepreneurial approach

Sanergy tackles the urban sanitation crisis through a systems-based approach that addresses the entire sanitation value chain. Locally manufacture low-cost, high quality, waterless sanitation facilities, branded as “Fresh Life Toilets,” are franchised to a network of local operators in urban slums who run them as viable businesses. Sanergy provides support and training to help the operators thrive, runs a daily waste collection service, removing the waste from the community and transporting it to the companies processing facility. Finally, the waste is converted into organic fertilizer and sold to Kenyan farms, leading to increased crop yields, healthier soil and wealthier farmers.

Goals and expected impact

Sanergy’s main goal is to provide access to affordable and hygienic sanitation to 100% of the people in the communities served. Success will be defined by the following: For health impact, Sanergy will sell more than 2,000 toilets, and serve 150,000 residents with affordable, accessible and hygienic sanitation. For environmental impact, 8,000mt waste from communities will be removed and treated that would have otherwise caused tremendous public health, environmental, ecological and economic damage by entering into waterways and the soil. For economic impact, 1,700 jobs will be created in an area of high unemployment, improving livelihoods in the communities involved. Further, we will create a platform for the broader reuse of human waste by assigning economic value to what is currently an environmental pollutant. For political impact, a blueprint for implementation for municipalities around the world will developed.

Update: Market study for new waste streams

Sanergy's model becomes profitable at scale; through increased revenues by producing and selling more end-products from waste. By starting collecting organic waste from new sources, such as food waste and farm waste, the organisation can reach that goal faster. The ReSource Award coaching phase and prize have allowed Sanergy to complete a market study for new waste streams and add the collection of food waste to its logistics. This is a crucial step for the organisation and the start of a new activity.

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Project legal form: 
Private company
Informal settlements, Nairobi, Kenya
Last update: 
Award year: 

Theta Lane, Kilimani
PO Box 24523
00100 Nairobi

Becky Auerbach, Head, Business Development and Partnerships