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. 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.
Peepoo 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 Peepoople’s inclusive business model for the bottom of the pyramid market.
Peepoo has been introduced in the local market in Kibera slum, Kenya, where the entire value chain is considered. Distribution, collection and reuse models could vary depending on local conditions since Peepoo offers a variety of opportunities for local small businesses and cooperatives to develop. The marketing approach used in Kibera is built upon community trust, as well as strong cooperation with community organisations. There, Peepoos are normally sold directly, door-to-door or through community engagement sessions, to end-consumers by women micro-entrepreneurs or cooperatives.
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. In Kibera, drop-points are set up to secure collection, where a refund per used Peepoo is offered. As volumes increase, local businesses can evolve from utilising used Peepoos as 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.
In Kibera, the local NGO Peepoople Kenya, is responsible for organising the distribution of Peepoos. 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 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.
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.
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. In Kibera 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 bags. 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 to six weeks until they are fully sanitised and can be used as 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 nearby farms to be used as fertiliser.