Rosalia Jobita first set foot in Nyalenda, Kisumu in 1952.
During this period, Nyalenda was a rural village with a few residents.
“I was barely 16 when I was married here, and things have really changed,” said the 88 year old.
Due to the small population by then, sanitation was never a major issue.
Fast forward to 2022, Nyalenda is now one of the major slums in Kisumu, hosting tens of thousands of people.
We focus on people who do not have access to the sewer, have conversation with them on the need for this kind of technologyFlorence Mwikali
With the increase in population, sanitation has become a major concern.
With lack of sewerage system, the residents have had to depend on pit latrines.
But with the huge population, informal residential houses have engulfed the earth surface, leaving little space for sanitation facilities.
Last year, Mama Jobita’s pit latrine was demolished by Kisumu County Government following the opening up of an adjacent road.
“We were informed that the latrine sat on the road reserve, so it had to be brought down to give space for the road project,” she said.
Mama Jobita and tens of residents in the neighbourhood reverted back to the unhygienic human waste disposal methods.
Then came the container based sanitation which implements innovative ways of human waste disposal.
We were informed that the latrine sat on the road reserve, so it had to be brought down to give space for the road projectRosalia Jobita
The program christened Fresh Life is being implemented by Sanergy, an environmental organization working in Kenya, in collaboration with Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO).
According to Florence Mwikali, the Head of Operations at the project’s Kisumu office, the entity has installed over 700 of the latrines in Nyalenda A and Nyalenda B slums, serving 15, 000 people.
Ms Mwikali said the innovation begun in Nairobi’s Mukuru Slums ten years ago.
“We focus on people who do not have access to the sewer, have conversation with them on the need for this kind of technology,” she said.
According to KIWASCO, Kisumu has a sewer coverage of 18 per cent, with another five per cent of residents using septic tanks.
This leaves a huge chunk of human waste to be disposed through other informal means, especially within the informal settlements.
Ms Mwikali said Fresh Life uses Urine Dry Diverting technology, which separates urine from fecal matter.
At Fresh Life fabrication centre located at KIWASCO’s Kassagam waste lagoon, young men can be seen molding what would make parts of the latrine.
Ms Mwikali says different unique parts are fabricated at the site using sand, ballast and cement.
The concrete wall panels are then joined together during installation, at the site.
Beneficiaries of the facilities pay a deposit of Sh950, and another Sh950 every month, to cater for the maintenance and collection of the waste.
Our motivation was to ensure that people have dignity in waste disposal, as well as contributing to environmental conservation, and disease controlFlorence Mwikali
The beneficiaries get starter kits, which include mop buckets, mops, hand washing station, gloves, cleaning brush, tissue, sawdust.
The technology does not require water, but the sawdust in place of water to cover the solid waste.
“This means there is conservation of water, and reduction of cases of diseases due to minimum to no leakages. The sawdust also helps absorb water from the solid waste, hence reducing the bad smell, and then controlling houseflies,” she said.
“Our motivation was to ensure that people have dignity in waste disposal, as well as contributing to environmental conservation, and disease control,” said Mwikali.
Mwikali says the initiative has provided over 200 jobs in Kisumu, which include about 50 people directly employed by the project, as well as those supplying material for the fabrication of the products, transportation of the waste, and provision of cleaning products.
Mwikali said the project is able to produce 50 latrines every month, but the production depends on the demand.
When Lake Region Bulletin visited Mama Jobita, Lucy Ajwang was attending to the latrine, to collect waste.
Draining the pit latrines was a bit hectic, but this new technology brings with it clean method of emptying the waste, as well as more structured way of disposalLucy Ajwang
She makes rounds twice every two days, and collect the waste, which is then ferried to KIWASCO waste treatment plant in Kisat, along Kisumu-Busia road.
Ms Ajwang is in charge of 68 latrines in Nyalenda B, where she conducts the waste collection.
“I handle 34 latrines on one day, and handle the next 34 the following day, in an alternating shift,” she says.
Previously, Ms Ajwang worked as a pit latrine drainer in the slums.
“Draining the pit latrines was a bit hectic, but this new technology brings with it clean method of emptying the waste, as well as more structured way of disposal,” she says.
Fresh Life collects over two tonnes of waste from the project, which is disposed at KIWASCO sites for treatment.
According to KIWASCO Managing Director Thomas Odongo, his office first engaged Fresh Life in 2022.
The engagement was to have a pilot project for the innovative latrine in Kisumu.
“We have 87 per cent water coverage, against 18 per cent sewer coverage, hence in 2019, we made a decision to focus much on sanitation,” he said.
He says since the start of the Fresh Life project, sanitation coverage has moved five points from 50 per cent.
This partnership is a testament to positive things that can come out of innovative solutionsMeltus Mugomi
On July 26, KIWASCO signed an extension of the memorandum for the pilot by one year.
“Our intention is to ensure this service is expanded to other areas, as sanitation is out major agenda as KIWASCO,” said Odongo.
His sentiments were echoed by his Fresh Life counterpart Meltus Mugomi who said the expansion would depend on the extension of scope by KIWASCO.
“We were invited to Kisumu by KIWASCO, and we have seen Kisumu’s make huge strides in sanitation, and this is the work we want to continue doing,” he said.
He noted that in Nairobi, the entity has set up over 2, 600 latrines, serving over 200, 000 people in ten informal settlements.
“This partnership is a testament to positive things that can come out of innovative solutions,” he said.
Kisumu County Director of Public Health Joshua Odongo said his department is the biggest beneficiary of the innovation.
“With sanitation, we keep many diseases at bay, and people live in healthy environment, so when this happens, we are the biggest beneficiaries,” he said.