Is there a space for small scale service providers in improved sanitation?

February 25th, 2010

a typical open drainage channel in the informal settlement of Kibera, KenyaIn slum areas of Nairobi, the population density is high and most of the residents are tenants. Houses do not have a separate toilet. So, people have various coping strategies, including open defecation and flying toilets. Those who could afford go to ‘pay per use’ toilets, run by small scale (informal sector) service providers. The charge is usually Ksh 5 to 3 (US $ 0.08) per visit. These toilets are not very popular with women and children.

Today, I had an interesting debate with some of my friends here. There is a growing feeling that these small scale service providers are not worth up-grading and need to be shut down. Improved facilities must be provided, which can charge the same fees. I liked the idea, but was concerned about the negative impact of new and improved toilets on the existing informal sector providers. We could not conclude the discussion, so need your assistance.

What do you think?

  • Do you have any experience of integrating small scale providers with the improved system?
  • Can they be rehabilitated in improved systems?
  • Can I expect some replies and engagement?

Please help with your brains!

Mansoor Ali, Nairobi, Kenya

Related pages: improved toilets | Video: Kibera toilets

One response to “Is there a space for small scale service providers in improved sanitation?”

  1. Victoria Hickman Says:

    A great idea – in principle! From my experience of speaking with the residents of Kibera who pay to use toilets, there is a definite need for many more improved (and more secure) toilet facilities across the settlement. I also spoke with structure owners and the owners of pit-latrine toilets who make a business from charging for the use of their toilet facilities and properties. I met some affluent structure owners who were very willing to invest their own funds into upgrading their buildings and infrastructure in Kibera because they could see the benefit of providing a service for the poor while also generating an income from those services. This could be a sustainable business model which simultaneously services the poor, IF the government (who own the land) would permit such a development and activity. Allowing structure owners to upgrade facilities/redevelop the settlement would take a job off the hands of the government who are normally expected to provide such a service. Perhaps structure owners (some of whom are also residents of the community) are more in touch with the needs of the residents therefore better positioned to deliver an appropriate upgrading than other organisations? If the government acknowledges the currently informal provision of toilet facilities/small scale services providers and works in partnership with the structure owners to upgrade facilities, could a sustainable solution be reached? But what is the long-term future of Kibera and other informal settlements in Nairobi going to be?-Is there any point in improving toilet facilities and incrementally upgrading in-situ if residents will ‘soon’ be re-housed elsewhere in the government’s KENSUP plans?

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