The other day, as I was having breakfast I discovered a very interesting story on Peepoople, a company that has been working on bringing solutions to flying toilets in Kenya’s slums. I have to say that my appetite was a little affected by the story but I was very curious and wanted to learn more.
Flying toilets is a common name for the use of plastic bags for defecation, which are then thrown outside houses into the roadside. This phenomenon is particularly associated with slums in Nairobi, Kenya, especially in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. Piles of plastic bags gather on roofs and some burst open upon impact contaminating nearby water sources. The health and welfare consequences of this type of practice are evident. According to a UN report two in three people in Kibera identify flying toilets as their main alternative for sanitation.
Peepoople designed Peepoo, a slim and biodegradable bag that can be used as an alternative to “flying toilets”. The company states that “unlike traditional toilets or latrines, Peepoo is never occupied by anyone else, is always clean and can be used in complete privacy”. Silanga Village, an area in Kibera, was the place where Peepoo was first tested and is now sold, used and collected on a daily basis by more than 4,500 people. This area had considerable sanitation problems and is home to around 20,000 people. In the following video you can find more information on how it works:
Overall, I think we definitely need to find alternative solutions to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers and I think this is an innovation worth following to see where it goes. Personally, I find it interesting when we try to innovate by improving practices that already exist in the community, instead of imposing solutions (i.e. individual toilets) based on our own standards. I dont know how applicable Peepoo is to other contexts where “flying toilets” are not a common practice but I can think of a number of situations where it can prove useful (i.e. refugee camps, haiti slum-camps?).
More info on Peepoole and Flying toilets can be found in the following links:
Hi Paula, Thanks for the post. I truly agree that most of the time – in development work- we tend to crank our heads in adapting and imposing our own values, customs and technology- not always considering the appropriateness to the context, issues of accessibility and most importantly long-term sustainability, appropriation and maintenance of the intervention. Although not always the solution, my experience has taught me that- as you well mention in your post- focusing, optimizing and bettering the skill sets, local materials and existing practices within a community goes a much farther way and provides a solid base for a future adaptation/formalization…
For this particular solution, the question of using a ‘bag’ is still a bit questionable- although an interesting alternative….Also, it would be interested to know a bit more about the space requirement for the composting and relevance/adaptability in high density environments.