“We Want to Turn Poo Into Gold”: How SMS Is Transforming Senegal’s Sanitation

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On a stormy day in Dakar, Tina Gomis, a local woman in Sicap Mbao, laughs at the idea of selling her own excrement to the government. But this may soon become a reality in a city with a reputation for terrible waste management.

A pioneering SMS service and waste treatment system is dramatically bringing down sanitation costs in Senegal’s capital and, if successful, may even lead to customers making a small profit from their ordure instead of paying someone to take it away.

“We want to turn poo into gold; it’s not waste, but a raw material,” says Mbaye Mbeguere, from the Senegal National Sanitation Utility (ONAS).

It’s a far cry from the current situation where, according to ONAS, 80% of people in Dakar use pit latrines. But the high costs fixed by the pit emptiers’ association has driven many to seek cheaper alternatives, often at the expense of the environment and their own health.

“When the pits get full, people dig makeshift holes around their house to transfer the waste, but when the rains come all the faeces comes out,” says Gomis who lives in an area prone to seasonal flooding due to the high water table. “The kids are always getting sick.”

In Vietnam, recent studies (pdf) have shown that children are up to 3.7cm taller in environments with better waste management compared with villages with poor sanitation, due to a condition known as tropical enteropathy.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

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