About 60 percent of Nairobi’s population lives in informal settlements, with the average dwelling in these settlements consisting of no more than one room constructed out of corrugated tin or mud. Poor basic services and facilities, coupled with extreme poverty, lead to substandard sanitation and hygiene conditions, resulting in frequent sickness and death, especially for those under the age of 5.
In 2010, Plan International Kenya teamed with SC Johnson and a social enterprise called Community Cleaning Services (CCS) to pilot an innovative program that coupled Urban Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and a youth entrepreneur project to improve sanitation conditions in the Muthare 10 informal settlement in Nairobi. Plan elected to partner with CCS due to its solid reputation in Nairobi and its proven track record and success – the organization began its micro-franchise model in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, with funding from SC Johnson.
Plan, a global leader in CLTS, began implementing the Urban CLTS approach by facilitating community sessions that helped residents understand the dangers of open defecation and poor sanitation and hygiene. The facilitators led the community members, especially youth, in physically mapping the areas where open defecation occurred. Once these areas were identified, the CLTS team helped the community develop solutions to address these problems.
Since the youth in Muthare 10 were already involved with the project, CCS had little difficulty recruiting participants for the next step in the project. With assistance from Plan, CCS trained, equipped, and supported young men and women in the settlement to become entrepreneurs in toilet cleaning services. In addition to some limited financial support, SC Johnson provided the young entrepreneurs with bulk detergents that were packaged in recycled containers and distributed among the youth.
The youth found and cleaned public toilets. The small cleaning fees they charged were paid for collectively by the community members who used the same facilities. Their activities stimulated other landlords in Muthare 10 to construct public toilets, which they would charge community members $0.02 USD to use.
As a result of the project, youth in the community also began to clean drains and remove garbage to help improve sanitation in their community, and the City Council of Nairobi began to enforce environmental sanitation laws to ensure sustainability. Some other results include:
- Increased local awareness about sanitation, hygiene, and open defecation (5,000 residents reached)
- Leveraged local actors’ time and energy – 70 volunteers were active in addition to CCS staff
- Rehabilitated five public toilets in the area and six local sewer repairs completed
- Anecdotally, reduced the incidents of “flying toilets” (a form of defecating into plastic bags, which are sealed and thrown onto local dumps or rooftops)
- Closed or demolished Hanging toilets that drop into open sewers
- Engaged Landlords and, in some cases, shamed them into improving the sanitation options they offer residents
- Increased CCS’s business, although complex socio-cultural factors are at work that impact on stated level of profitability