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How one man is changing Busia’s toilet design

How one man is changing Busia’s toilet design

By Lilian Kaivilu

Ben Alemu Autai is a sanitation marketer and interlocking bricks supplier in Busia county. With the county’s keen interest in improving sanitation, Autai is seen as a vital recourse; not only by the locals but also by the county government and development partners in the area.

“I am now an artisan. I decided to do this business after being trained by Amref Health Africa,” recalls Alemu.

Ben Alemu, an artisan displays an interlocking brick

Ben Alemu, an artisan displays an interlocking brick

On a Friday afternoon, Alemu joins his three masons who he trained a while back. They are constructing a single-door latrine in a homestead in Samia Sub-county in Busia County.

“Accuracy is the key thing when making the bricks,” He tells me as he sizes an interlocking brick. He continues: “When building, the plumb bob helps you ensure the straight corners, spirit level. You also need a broom to clean any dirt in between the bricks.”

 

Interlocking bricks are now popular in most areas in Busia County. So far, over 300 households have this toilet model in the county. It costs between Sh15,000 and Sh2000 to construct a single-door toilet. This toilet has a lifespan of 10 years.
On the other hand, a double-door costs between Sh30,000 and Sh38,000. This model has a lifespan of over 20 years. Below each door of this toilet model is a separate emptying pitch.

Ben Alemu, an artisan displays an interlocking brick

Ben Alemu, an artisan displays an interlocking brick

The toilets are made from locally-made interlocking bricks using soil and a little cement. Beyond that, Alemu explains, a mason only needs iron sheets and doors. “The model eliminates the smell issue. A pipe is fixed on the outside instead of inside of the toilet.  It also has a fly screen that captures flies hence reducing spread of diseases by the insects,” explains Rogers Moraro, Project assistant, Finish Ink County, Busia county.

Finish Ink is public private partnership (PPP) project funded by the Dutch Government through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (R.V.O). Its focus is to increase access to sustainable sanitation in the rural financially excluded communities through micro-credit initiatives. The partnership is composed of nine organizations both local and international namely; the Ministry of Health, Amref Health Africa in Kenya & Netherlands, KREP bank, Family Bank, WASTE, SNS Asset Management Company, Goodwell Investment, Social Equity Foundation and the United Nations University, Maastricht (UNU-MERIT).

 Members of the Luchululu Community Unit in Samia Subcounty make interlocking bricks used in constructing durable toilets.

Members of the Luchululu Community Unit in Samia Subcounty make interlocking bricks used in constructing durable toilets.

The project has so far employed over 47 groups and empowered about 23 community unit groups .  Withnin the Community Health Volunteers, there are about 50 masons spread across the county. The masons work hand in hand with Alemu.
Alemu explains how the interlocking bricks also form a pattern, giving the toilet facility not only longer life but also an attractive look. “In one toilet, I work with about five to eight masons.”

In November 2016 was Alemu’s life took a positive turn. He got 18 customers. From this, he earned an income of Sh116,000 in one month. “This made me love this job. I urge other masons to take their jobs seriously,” he says.

A single-door toilet, according to Alemu uses 196 bricks and a bag of cement while a two-door toilet/bathroom takes 352 bricks. One does not need soil and cement during construction. It takes a day to construct the walls once the foundation has been laid.

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