Sanergy welcomes Kenya’s new sanitation policy

This week, the Kenyan Ministry of Health launched the Kenya Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy, 2016‑2030. The policy was the result of two years of collective efforts by various stakeholders in Kenya’s public and private sectors on the promotion of environmental sanitation and health. Sanergy was invited to comment on a draft of the policy, and we are excited that the new policy recognizes the value and is supportive of our work in Kenya.

Sanergy co-founder David Auerbach (left) celebrated the launch of the Kenya Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy with Fresh Life Board member Yolande Coombes, Sanergy Government Relations Manager Alex Manyasi, and Benjamin Murkomen, Chief Public Health Officer at the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
Sanergy co-founder David Auerbach (left) celebrated the launch of the Kenya Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy with Fresh Life Board member Yolande Coombes, Sanergy Government Relations Manager Alex Manyasi, and Benjamin Murkomen, Chief Public Health Officer at the Kenyan Ministry of Health.

When announcing the release of the policy, Dr. Cleopa Mailu, Minister of Health, committed to increasing WASH spending from 0.2% of GDP this year to 0.5% of GDP in 2020 and 0.9% of GDP in 2030. If these spending levels are met, Kenya will achieve full sanitation coverage by 2030.

The policy recognizes that by 2030, more than 60% of Kenya’s population will be living in cities and towns. These populations will require effective waste-management systems, including access to improved sanitation facilities, proper sludge removal, and professional treatment or reuse of waste. Four components of the policy are especially critical to our efforts to make safe urban sanitation accessible and affordable for everyone.

  1. Recognition of viable gold-standard alternatives to piped sanitation

The policy defines an improved sanitation facility as one that “hygienically separates human excreta from human contact, thus creating barriers to prevent the transmission of diseases.” Noting that Kenya’s “sewerage coverage is estimated at only about 12 percent,” the policy states, “Collection, storage, removal, and safe disposal and treatment of residential and commercial sludge and wastewaters through individual disposal systems such as septic tanks or Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs) shall be given the highest priority in urban environmental sanitation.” Of note is the policy’s clear recognition of the valuable role that cartridge-based toilets (CBTs) can play in broadening the reach of sanitation networks.

Our Fresh Life Toilet is a UDDT, using cartridges to enable source-separation and safe storage of the waste. The Fresh Life Toilet offers improved sanitation in areas lacking access to functioning sewers. The network of Fresh Life Toilets safely stores an average of 10 metric tons of waste per day, which would otherwise pollute urban waterways and cause further damage to the well-being of residents and the environment.

  1. The importance of the safe removal of waste

Currently, only 5% of the national sewerage is effectively treated. To address this huge need, the policy prioritizes the safe collection and disposal of commercial and residential waste in urban areas. “Without the collection and safe disposal of solid waste,” according to the policy, “the sanitation challenge persists.”

Sanergy safely and professionally collects the waste from our Fresh Life Toilets, removing it from urban slums.

  1. Endorsement of waste-derived agricultural inputs

The policy lists agricultural purposes as one of the approved uses for safely treated waste and commits national and county governments to “promote reuse of wastes for agricultural, livestock, and energy purposes.”

Sanergy converts the waste we collect into high-quality end-products, including organic fertilizer, sold to Kenyan farmers; insect-based animal protein, sold to feed millers; and biogas used to power our processing operations. As leaders in this sector in Kenya, we look forward to working with national and county governments to encourage the reuse of properly treated wastes as agricultural products, especially as a way to make the provision of safe sanitation sustainable around the country.

  1. The role of the private sector in sanitation provision

To boost the adoption of sanitation products and services, the policy recognizes the role played by the private sector in generating demand and improving access to sanitation services. The government is committed to providing technical support and developing linkages between demand creation and supply of sanitation solutions and infrastructure.

To reward best performance and practices, the government will work with county, municipal, and community authorities to encourage public-private partnerships and incentivize private-sector participation in sanitation provision. Local authorities are also urged to work with private contractors or franchise partners in the provision of environmental sanitation infrastructure and facilities. These include providing necessary approvals and permits for the managing and recycling of solid waste.

Sanergy embraces the opportunity for robust partnerships with governments, and we are especially eager to work closely with the Nairobi County government to further expand the reach and deepen the impact Sanergy has in the city’s informal settlements. Sanergy has long advocated for the potential of public-private partnerships to meet the sanitation shortfall. We believe that such partnerships can be useful in both sanitation provision and collection and reuse of waste. We recently concluded a pilot project in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Health, CARE, Emory University, and WASH United on the provision of hygienic sanitation in slum schools, which yielded impressive results at less than 20% of the cost of other sanitation solutions. We are excited for additional fruitful partnerships in the years ahead.

The policy will be implemented over a period of five years, linked with Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan. This policy is a welcome development in the Kenyan government’s continued commitment to provide safe sanitation to its citizens, and we look forward to working hand in hand with officials at all levels of government to ensure the implementation and expansion of this groundbreaking policy.

We would like to thank, in particular, Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health; Jackson Muriithi, Deputy Director of Public Health; Benjamin Murkomen, Chief Public Health Officer; Dr. John Kariuki, retired Deputy Director of Public Health; and the HUB of the Kenyan Ministry of Health for inviting us to comment on the policy; Yolande Coombes and Lewnida Sara of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program for their invaluable advice in helping us craft our comments; and Alex Manyasi and Sanergy’s Government Relations team for their hard work supporting the development of this policy.

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