Nairobi turns human waste into energy

Signal of change / Nairobi turns human waste into energy

By Naomi White / 20 Jan 2015

Umande Trust in Nairobi is working in partnership with international NGOs, including Denmark’s Organisation for Sustainable Energy and the UK’s Practical Action, to build ‘Bio centres’. These are toilet facilities where human slurry is collected and put in a digester which collects the methane emitted as the waste breaks down. The methane is sold back to the slum dwellers as biogas, which is used for cooking within the centres or to power hot showers. 

“Not only do these Bio centres provide basic services such as water, toilets, cold and hot showers and income generating possibilities but they also offer access to the internet and through community courses provides various empowerment services like training in environmental issues, micro-credit, social audits and others”, reads a testimonial by Umande Trust’s Danish partner. Most important, the organisation adds, is the use of these Bio centres as places for dialogue in communities facing complex issues. 

Photo credit: SOIL/Flickr

So what?

The initiative shows the potential to transform a local hazard into an asset for development, when the right partners come together. In this case, the hazard is human waste, which contaminates informal settlements lacking sanitation facilities.

“Every individual creates 300g of human waste each day, and 60% of Nairobi’s four million inhabitants live in its informal settlements – that’s 2.4 million people”, says Josiah Omotto, a managing trustee for Umande, told the Guardian. “What we have in Nairobi is 720,000 kg of human waste. We want to turn it into biogas so that we can tackle the energy crisis.”


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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