University Of Southampton

Using Sanitation Products To Establish 120 Entrepreneurs And Improve The Lives Of 11,300 People

Seeing Opportunity

Enactus Southampton set up SanEco to empower  female entrepreneurs through three innovative solutions: a composting toilet made from 60% recycled materials, which creates solid and liquid fertiliser; an antibacterial soap made from waste avocados and bananas; and re-usable sanitary towels sold in packs of three. 

SanEco was set up in 2012 with the simple aim to improve sanitation in Kenya. A trusted partner NGO approached Enactus Southampton to tackle the dire sanitary conditions in its community, Kisii. Combined with widespread poverty, life in Kenya was unimaginable; especially for women who are often ostracised by their communities. Therefore SanEco was formed and designed a waste-converting toilet, building a self-sustaining business model around it and moved it to Kisii, Kenya.

From this point onwards we worked even more closely with our NGO to understand the other problems within the community leading us to discover, that particularly for women, life was still extremely hard. To tackle this SanEco worked as a team to provide two new innovative sanitary solutions: re-usable sanitary towels and soap.

Taking Action  

Over the last three years SanEco members took action designing and creating their own waste-converting toilets, re-useable sanitary towels, solid and liquid soap.

Originally, SanEco entrepreneurs built single toilets within communities within communities but we have expanded and our now also building multi-cubicle toilets within schools. The toilets separate waste which is stored under the toilet until a high quality liquid and solid fertiliser has been formed. Our entrepreneurs sell the fertilisers to local farmers, tripling their crop yield. This ingenious solution is also having a visible impact upon health as communities are no longer suffering from the detrimental effects of open defecation.

 SanEco soap was designed and developed, using waste avocados and bananas found in the local region. This tackles both the issue of food wastage and lack of sanitation by providing an eco-friendly soap. The original design produced a solid bar but community impact assessments detailed that a liquid soap was preferred and so production methods were adapted to provide both solid and liquid soaps, encouraging more people to buy and use the soaps.

SanEco re-usable sanitary towels are sold in packs of three with one to wear, one to wash, and one to dry. These packs are 98% cheaper than the commercial alternative providing an affordable but high quality product. When selling a towel, SanEco entrepreneurs also work towards tackling the stigma around menstruation; they educate and empower women by talking to them about their menstrual health.

Across all of our products exist co-operative models, providing a more supporting working environment and encouraging specialisation. SanEco also charges a franchise fee of 7.5% of monthly profits which is directed back to the NGO to use to set up more entrepreneurs within the community. 

Enabling Progress

SanEco has improved the lives of over 11,300 people through access to improved sanitation, education and in some cases, income. It has provided 121 entrepreneurs with a livelihood whilst tackling sanitation in both Kisii and Kisumu, Kenya. Girls are now able to go to school without missing a week of their education every month; farmers have access to cheaper and more effective fertiliser and the community as a whole has access to clean toilets and in turn water that is not contaminated as a result of pit latrines; school facilities have been improved thus meaning that preventable diseases are no longer being spread due to the use of soap and the installation of multi-cubicle toilets. This year SanEco also expanded to a new community, Kisumu, Kenya where all three franchise models have been set up meaning that SanEco is now operating in two areas in Kenya. This year a further 68 entrepreneurs have been empowered and so are now creating sustainable incomes and livelihoods for themselves and their families. SanEco empowers 121 female entrepreneurs and these women are now recognised as equals within their communities.  

SanEco aims to empower lives through sanitation. This isn’t just restricted to Kenya and therefore SanEco plans to expand across the world. We are currently in talks with Amani UK who are hoping to purchase our franchise model to set up further entrepreneurs across Africa.

In addition to this, we are currently hoping to expand our solutions so that our entrepreneurs can also provide nappies and incontinence pads to their communities. This would be using the same model that is currently in operation for the towels. These innovations are still in the early stages of development but we hope that they will be both be fully operational within a year. 

Caroline, a SanEco sanitary towel entrepreneur, has benefited from sanitary towel innovations. Caroline is more confident and her future is now filled with hope, for she is able to provide her children with clothes, textbooks and a roof over their heads. Caroline also teaches both girls and boys in local schools all about menstrual health hygiene thus contributing to the 5,700 people who have now been educated. This provides education to those who desperately need it but also increases her sales. Caroline is empowered and much happier for it – her future is far brighter.