Today, more 1 billion people live in urban slums. This figure has increased from 715 million in 1990, and is expected to double by 2020. In informal settlements, water, electricity and sanitation are scarce and infrastructure is not keeping up as populations expand.
Available for purchase by the end-customer as a home toilet that can be used day or night, Peepoo offers an option to dirty, overfull latrines or defecating in public. The dignity and safety it provides, foremost to women and children, goes beyond basic sanitation.
The Reality of the Situation is Deadly
The lack of sanitation infrastructure leads to water contamination – a primary cause of typhoid, diarrhoea, and other intestinal diseases. Each year, as a result of bacterial infection, these diseases cause more than 1.1 million deaths in people over the age of five, and 1.5 million deaths in children under the age of five. Lack of sanitation significantly contributes to child mortality.
Putting sanitation infrastructure in place is difficult in many areas. Financial limitations are compounded by lack of water and roads, limited waste management expertise, corruption, and a reluctance to “formalise” informal settlements.
Faced with no other options, citizens of informal settlements have improvised a solution called “flying toilets” that offers privacy and expediency, but at a terrible cost. Flying toilets are ordinary polyethylene plastic shopping bags or wrapped newspapers that people defecate and urinate into, which are then thrown into alleys, roads, or simply out the door as far away as possible. These flying toilets land on roofs, in walkways, clog drainage systems, and the contents leak into houses during the rainy season.
The problems created by flying toilets are widespread. In the Kenyan slum of Kibera, one of the largest informal settlements in Africa and the launch point of Peepoople’s work, two out of three people are using flying toilets as their primary sanitation solution. As a result, the human waste of entire communities goes flying through the air as a standard practice.
Other sanitation options, aside from being few and far between, have their own set of limitations. In 2007, 75% of all pit latrines in Kibera were found to be overfull. Flush toilets are rare and use increasingly greater amounts of precious water. Pay toilets, which are becoming more common in informal settlements, are expensive, occasionally dangerous, and rarely open after dark. Often, they are located far from homes. This creates a perilous situation for many women who must walk long distances alone to reach them. Even during daylight hours, women and children are in danger of being raped when walking to and from sanitation facilities located outside of their homes.
Peepoople Urban Slum Model
Peepoo is a new solution to a complicated dilemma. By turning human waste into fertiliser in a very short time, what could be a problem is transformed into a valuable resource. This is one of the driving forces behind the development of the Peepoople business model for urban slums.
In each market or context where Peepoo is introduced, the entire value chain is considered. Distribution, collection and reuse models can vary depending on local conditions. Peepoo offers a variety of opportunities for local small businesses and cooperatives to develop. The marketing approach is built upon community trust, as well as strong cooperation with community organisations.
In urban slums, Peepoos are normally sold directly, door-to-door to end-consumers by women micro-entrepreneurs or cooperatives. In many cases, Peepoo is sold using a pay-by-use model, so customers only pay for the number of Peepoos they actually use.
Used Peepoos can be utilised as fertiliser in household gardens. They can also be collected and distributed profitably to local peri-urban farmers based on the inherent value of Peepoo as fertiliser. Drop-points are set up to secure collection in urban slums, where a refund per used Peepoo is offered. As volumes increase, local businesses can evolve from processing used Peepoos into commercial fertiliser.
In a holistic sense, systems developed around Peepoo that also consider health aspects and the capability to empower women, help define the entire life cycle of the product.
Peepoos sold directly to beneficiaries in urban slums are often price-supported by private or governmental donors. This keeps the price at a level that is feasible for purchase by people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
A local Peepoople NGO, or local partnering NGO, is responsible for organising the distribution of Peepoos in urban slums. Sales are conducted through different local channels, of which, women micro-entrepreneurs or cooperatives are most important. These enterprises are modelled as “micro-franchises”, with pan-franchise functions delivered by Peepoople, such as quality assurance, training, branding, marketing and advertising.
Women who benefit the most from using Peepoo themselves are ideal salespeople and distributors. Women sell to women, and in a majority of cases, women are responsible for family, children and health issues. Studies from Nairobi also show that a high percentage of women is engaged in urban farming.
The women selected to sell Peepoos are given extensive training on the product as well as on how to start, run and grow a small business. Training modules include: Peepoo toilet, hygiene and health promotion, business training, basic bookkeeping and know-how on home gardening with used Peepoos.
Landlords constitute another Peepoo customer group. In many slums, residents live informally but pay rent to landlords who own the housing structures. In many instances, the structures are located in plots that consist of 10 to 50 houses together around a courtyard.
The landlords are often responsible for providing sanitation and the cost is included in the rent. Many times, toilets are situated outside the gate and can be far from the plot. This leaves the residents without a toilet during the night. The shortage of public pit latrines is very common in urban slums. Often, a single latrine is shared by as many as 300 people.
Once Peepoo is established as a new sanitation solution, a variety of retail channels in the slums are explored for sales and distribution – for example – water retailers, health centres, sanitation providers and kiosks.
Because the local government is responsible for providing sanitation, water and waste management, Peepoo can play a political role in the community. The local government can distribute, collect or subsidise Peepoo.
Collection of Used Peepoos
If the used Peepoos are not utilised directly in home gardens, they are collected and managed by the Peepoo collection system. In contrast to the distribution process, this system is ideally performed by one enterprise serving more than 20,000 users. This is necessary in order to achieve sufficient economic scale and maintain high throughput levels.
The collection management system is driven by the value of used Peepoos as fertiliser and is formed as a no-frills enterprise that offers basic services.
Used Peepoos are brought by customers to drop-points in their local community or immediate neighbourhood, which are staffed by service operators. The drop-points, open daily, are centrally located to minimise the walking distance for users and eliminate waiting time. All drop-points are also situated so each can be reached by motorised vehicles for emptying.
At the drop-point, a refund is paid for each used Peepoo that is delivered. The value of the refund is approximately one third of the Peepoo purchase price. Simple hand washing equipment is also offered free of charge at each drop-point. The Peepoos are collected in woven polypropylene flexible containers, commonly also named as Big or Jumbo bags. Within each bag, a tube liner ensures that no leakage occurs in the occasion that a used Peepoo breaks inside of it. Each drop-point has only one Big or Jumbo bag held open at any one time. When one bag is filled, it is closed and a new one is opened. The bags are kept in place by a simple movable rack.
From these drop-points, used Peepoos are transported daily to a temporary storage area where the used Peepoos are safely kept for four weeks until they are fully sanitised and processed into useable fertiliser – without the risk of contamination. To make sure the sanitising process is not interrupted, regular control of the internal temperature of the stored bags is performed. When fully sanitised, used Peepoos are brought to a nearby area were they are discharged through the base of the Big or Jumbo bags. The Peepoos are disintegrated mechanically, which releases the sanitised excreta for further processing, such as mixing with sand and clay into fertilised soil that can be sold.
Peepoople in Kibera
In late November 2009 the Peepoo solution was launched in Silanga village in the Kibera slum in Nairobi Kenya. In addition to supplying Peepoo toilets to the people in Silanga, the purpose of the project is to demonstrate how Peepoo functions in larger scale settings and to experiment by adjusting and monitoring various aspects of the value chain, including distribution, collection and reuse of Peepoos.
In June of 2010, Peepoople Kenya was registered and incorporated as an NGO in Kenya. The Peepoople Kenya team is working in a very close relationship with the Silanga Chief, Chairman and Elders of the community in planning and implementing the Peepoo solution. The purpose is to build a sustainable sanitation system that will improve the health and living conditions for the residents in Kibera, create work opportunities for slum dwellers, and contribute to food security. The success of this initiative will enable the creation of a sustainable sanitation model that is easily scalable and can be duplicated in urban slums throughout the world.
The Nairobi launch is Peepoople’s first pilot for reaching out with an innovative solution that addresses the needs of the many urban slum dwellers who are suffering from the lack of sanitation in Kenya, Africa and the rest of the world. In Silanga and neighbouring villages it will supply sanitation on a daily basis to 20,000 urban slum dwellers and school children. In total, the project will generate approximately 4,000 tonnes of rich pathogen-free fertiliser that can improve the Kenyan soil and help increase food security.
Based on studies of the willingness-to-pay in the targeted areas, Peepoople predicts a need for price support of its Peepoo solution for the next few years. The size of the subsidy depends on a variety of factors such as the development of the cost of the bioplastic raw material and artificial fertilisers.
Through the research being conducted in Kibera, Peepoople will quantify the price support and highlight the most effective ‘subsidy’ intervention point in the value chain. However, in the long term, the plan is that Peepoo shall be affordable for consumers directly, and the Peepoo system will be self-sustainable without subsidy. The Kibera project is financed by Swedish Vinnova and Dutch Simavi funds.