Getting Together To Talk Shit: Quarterly Fresh Life Operator Forum

Providing sanitation to the slums has its challenges. When you start here…

Shit hits the fan…er, boot.

…getting better options into the informal settlements of Nairobi is no easy feat. Every 3 months, Sanergy’s Fresh Life Operators convene for FLO Forum, a gathering to share ideas on what’s working, what’s not, and to celebrate progress towards improving sanitation in our communities. We might be the only company that gathers often to literally “talk shit.”

Despite working across Kwa Ruben, Kwa Njenga, and Viwandani settlements, FLOs are connected by a peer network of other operators. The Forums are a chance for the FLOs to think through problems they are having and arrive at solutions together.

Some insights that arose in our small group sessions:

  • Fresh Life not very accessible to the disabled – Some of the FLOs shared the concern that the design of our toilets were not easy for the disabled to use.
  • Kids can be the best customers – Some FLOs found children to be their best customers, since they like to learn how to use the toilets and often go back and ask their parents for the Ksh to use them. They often take the longest time in the choo because they are in there reading the signs, learning, and looking in the mirrors. Incidentally, they are often the biggest culprits in tampering with the squat plates because they want to know where the poo goes. Who doesn’t?
  • Commuter routes pay off – Theresia reported that her toilet’s location on a commonly used footpath brings in good money, with business commuters often giving her more than the 3 Ksh she asks for per use, since her toilet is far nicer than those in town.
  • Toilet closings an issue – Some FLOs have been forced to shut down during regular business hours because of staffing problems or because their containers are full. In response, we’re now training people from the community who can work as substitute operators when our FLOs or their regular employees aren’t available. For those toilets that are filling regularly, we’ve been installing even larger containers, and some have come back to buy additional toilets!
  • Muslim customers underserved – Because Fresh Life toilets are water-free, Muslim customers felt as though they could not wash properly according to Qadaa’ al-Haajah, particular rules regarding personal hygiene when going to the toilet.
  • Price wars – The question of what to charge customers often arises, and continued to be a contentious issue at this Forum. There were arguments for letting the market decide and arguments for setting price floors and ceilings in common areas.
Joseph shares his thoughts while fellow FLO, Mary (left) looks on

It wasn’t all hard work at the Forum, however. Near the end, we took time out to appreciate and celebrate the great work of our FLOs. Awards were given for “Cleanest Toilet,” “Best Record Keeping,” “Most Improved FLO,” and “FLO of the Quarter”.

Dennis Ochieng, Operations, awards Hannah Muthoni “Cleanest Toilet” and “FLO of the Quarter”
  • Thanks for the recap of the FLO Forums. So interesting to hear about the operators’ challenges and solutions! I love the awards!

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