What is the market like for pro-poor, safe emptying services in Kisumu, Kenya?

Themes: Faecal sludge management Market development Public finance Research Sanitation Urban Sanitation Research Initiative
Countries: Kenya Kenya-local

In Kisumu, Kenya, the majority of households rely on pit latrines but most pit emptiers do not work safely – which is bad for the customer, the neighbourhood, and the emptiers themselves.

This lack of adequate services is an opportunity for those who can deliver safely managed sanitation services to customers, including those in low-income settlements. In collaboration with the Aquaya Institute, WSUP is investigating opportunities to incentivise the private sector to provide safe emptying services to low-income residents of Kisumu.

Read more about this project

The first phase, recently completed, assessed the market for faecal sludge emptying services in Kisumu – who is emptying these pits, how much are they charging, and what are they providing for that price? This kind of real-time information from the operators themselves is crucial if we are to know what kind of incentives are the most appropriate to test.

Through a literature review, stakeholder interviews, mapping and transect walks, pit emptying observations, focus group discussions and business model analyses, researchers found that:

  1. Pit emptying in Kisumu is primarily performed by informal manual pit emptiers, who dump the waste or bury it on-site
  2. Price is the biggest barrier for households in low-income areas to access safe emptying services
  3. Transporting sludge to treatment sites is the biggest cost for safe emptiers, which is passed on to customers
  4. Mechanical/vacuum tanker trucks can access low-income areas, despite common perceptions that these neighbourhoods present physical difficulties for vehicles, and
  5. Safe treatment options already exist in the city for both sewerage and sludge.

Policy Brief - Assessing the market for safe faecal waste emptying services in low-income areas of Kisumu, Kenya

So what’s next?

Price is what is preventing uptake of safe services in low-income areas – so any successful intervention or incentive needs to tackle that. A Sanitation Working Committee (which includes representatives from national, County and City Public Health Departments, the Kisumu utility and the Greater Lakes University of Kisumu) is exploring different models to subsidise and manage safe emptying in target areas.

We hope that these trials will lead to a policy that is designed to alleviate the major burdens that are preventing safe service providers from working in neighbourhoods where they are needed most – we will be sharing results within the next few months.