Most of us take toilets for granted and sewage systems are probably something we don’t even think about! 2.4 billion people around the world lack access to a hygienic toilet let alone safe, efficient sewage systems.

The most basic and common solution to providing toilet facilities is a drop toilet. In essence, a drop toilet is a hole in the ground, with a cover and structure built around it. Drop toilets can create an extremely smelly and unhygienic environment, as well as playing a huge part in contaminating any nearby water sources and soil. Drop toilets simply aren't sustainable. Many collapse or are filled quickly, meaning a new toilet has to be dug.

Across emerging nations, one of the primary reasons for girls dropping out of school is a lack of privacy and discretion regarding toilets; particularly where schools have no facilities at all. In some countries local governments are pressing to improve sanitation by forcing higher standards on schools. Some schools however, don’t have the funding or support required to meet these standards. Schools are then put at risk of being shut down; something we have seen in both Kenya and Zambia.

Roots supplies schools with clean Eco-San toilets, giving the children and staff a, safe, discreet, sanitary environment. The introduction of Roots will lead to a reduction in diseases and improve school attendance. To achieve this, Roots micro-enterprises build bespoke EcoSan toilets replacing pit latrines which will improve accessibility, cleanliness and longevity. These EcoSan toilets split the urine and faeces to be converted into 100% natural fertilizer.

Helping to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Each toilet creates roughly 9000L of liquid fertilizer and 300 kg of solid fertilizer per year. A portion of this can be used on the school land to increase food production for the children or sold to generate revenue.

The business provides a sustainable and scalable solution. The extra income through fertilizer sale enables the entrepreneurs to maintain existing toilets and invest in the construction of new toilets. The fertiliser can be sold as low as 20% the cost of alternatives and our pilots in Kenya showed a 3x increase in crop yield on land previously using artificial fertilisers.

This solution has a dramatic effect on the entire community. At its most basic level by removing human waste, so preventing the contamination of water sources and improving health. To much more long term effects seen through having children and especially girls attending school for longer. But that is not all of it; for the entrepreneurs they have a sustainable income above the living wage, giving them the ability to provide for their families. For the farmers they have access to an effective cheap fertilizer, which results in more food being produced in the community, stimulating the local economy.

Summary

 

The Roots micro-enterprises build toilets which replace pit latrines in accessibility, cleanliness and longevity. The toilets allow the conversion of human waste into 100% natural and safe fertilizer which is sold to local farmers to produce a sustainable business model. The toilets are built mainly in schools, providing permanent and improved facilities for a hygienic learning environment.

Origins

The Roots micro-enterprise model was born and rebranded from the Enactus Southampton project SanEco. A project started by students at the University of Southampton in November 2012, who had a firm belief that sanitation was not too big an issue to tackle. SanEco started by working with single and widowed mothers in Kisii, Kenya, with project partner RETEC Riamogire. WSV’s ongoing relationship with SanEco provides a pipeline of new ideas and innovations, from some of the top socially minded university students in the country.

Read more on Roots' origin

Some facts:

 

- Pit latrines cause the contamination of water sources, leading to diseases like cholera
- General hygiene of pit latrines can cause the contraction of a range of different diseases
- Collapsing pit latrines are a real danger for people in developing countries especially children
- Without hygienic and safe toilet facilities schools can be forced to close down
- Human waste fertilizer is more effective and safer than the majority of commercial fertilizers available in developing countries

How it works

 

Roots operates on the WSV Social Franchise model, where NGOs purchase a license for the business models, choosing to start with a pilot license or try-before-you-buy. The Roots team provides training and step by step manuals, with the options for continual support and access to the Franchise network.

The Roots team are constantly improving their toilet designs, conversion processes and logistical operations. These adaptations are regularly made available to the network of NGOs and communities for them to appropriately implement. A great deal of work is also put into community education, discussing the benefits and safety of the fertiliser. Proving the effectiveness of the model on increasing agricultural yield and reducing environmental contamination allows Roots to garner support from local and national government bodies.

How the Model Works

The Community Benefits:

 

- Improved or new access to toilet facilities
- Cheaper, more effective fertilizer for the community
- Reduction in water contamination and human waste related diseases & illnesses
- Reduces the spread of sanitation related diseases.
-Provides communities and schools with permanent, hygienic, and discreet toilets.
- Schools previously warned or at risk of closure can stay open with only a promise of a toilet being built in the near future.
- Increase the community's awareness of sanitation related diseases and their causes.
- Maintains nutritional content and balance in farmed soil.
- Observed 3x increase in crop yield over artificial fertilisers and animal manure in Kisii, Kenya, greater benefits are possible on more intensively farmed land.
- The fertiliser can be used in fish farming.
- Locally sourced materials, reducing carbon footprint.
- A livelihood for the employees of the micro-enterprise
- A scalable business, owned by community members, that can build more toilets where they are needed as it grows and simultaneously supply more fertiliser to local farmers.
- Being supplied by a micro-enterprise that is a part of a social franchise network allows the community to benefit from improvements to the solutions developed across the world.