A worthwhile investment: Fresh Life Toilets
Peter Gatingi is a busy man; apart from overseeing operations in his Fresh Life business, he is often pursuing several ventures. He distributes fresh milk and bread in his neighborhood while also mentoring youths in small-scale entrepreneurship.
Kisii village is a small township nestled in the larger Mukuru Kayaba informal settlement; Peter has called it home for the last 30 years. Peter, considered a ‘village elder,’ has seen the evolution of sanitation in the area.
“About fifteen years ago, there were very few of us here in Kayaba; life was not expensive, and we comfortably shared the few amenities we had — including toilets,” he recalls. However, with more and more people moving to the city to look for jobs, landlords cashed in by building rental units to accommodate the burgeoning population. “While we built houses we did not consider expanding the number of toilets.” Peter recalls.
With the toilets serving a large number of people on a daily basis, it was difficult to keep up with the facilities’ maintenance. In addition, accessing the sparsely distributed toilets posed a challenge to community members, particularly at night. People therefore began using alternatives such as flying toilets and openly defecating along the banks of the Nairobi River.
“Five years ago, the conditions in Kisii Village were very bad! The smell was too much; cholera and diarrhea outbreaks were also common among residents, particularly children,” adds Peter.
Nairobi City Council intervened by building public toilets. However, as Peter says, it was difficult to maintain these toilets, and they were frequently out of order. “They were often closed due to blockages or a lack of water.”
“Even though I struggled to acquire this piece of land for my Fresh Life Toilets, it was a worthwhile investment that has made a difference in our area,” he says. Since his first FLT launched in January 2014, Kisii Village has become much cleaner, and youths have opportunities to earn a steady income by working as attendants at Peter’s toilets.
At first, community members were skeptical about building a toilet close to their homes. With the intervention of the local Chief and Fresh Life’s government relations team, Peter was allowed to build and run one facility if he proved that the smell wouldn’t be overwhelming.
As it turns out, the Fresh Life Toilet exceeded expectations; residents loved using the FLT and appreciated the lack of odor. “Residents were constantly flocking to my toilet; they loved that it was close to where they lived and easy to access,” Peter says. With the success of the first unit, Peter put up an additional facility. Peter’s wife, Mama Freddie, has also greatly benefited from the Fresh Life Toilets. “I rarely had customers at my shop because the area smelled terrible, but today my shop is always busy,” she proudly asserts.
Peter’s family and community are a happy lot. “My two toilets are currently doing very well! I frequently encourage my peers to set up their own facility because together we can restore the dignity of our people in Kayaba by putting an end to flying toilets.” Peter beams. We couldn’t agree more!