In Kenya, there are approximately 2.5 million people residing in the country’s 200 settlements. Kibera – most famous among these settlements – is home to almost 1 million people, making it one the biggest of slums in Africa.
Apparently, Kibera’s residents share 600 toilets, meaning that on average, one toilet serves 1,300 people. This has seen many residents opt for other means of sanitation including use of what has become known as ‘flying toilets’ and putting most people’s health at a risk.
This has seen many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) trooping to the area to develop solutions to this problem. Among these is Umande Trust, an NGO based in Kibera that has developed over 25 bio-centres across Nairobi and about 10 bio-centres across Kibera to enhance bio sanitation.
Bio sanitation is premised on the need to close the loop in the waste management process and subsequently turn waste into resources. Bio centres apply ecological sanitation principles to ensure that human waste in ablution blocks are turned into wealth by producing gas through a bio digester system and producing fertilizer as a by-product.
However, the most interesting bit about the bio centres is that residents pay for their use through the cashless system. The bio-centre premises and facilities provide other services to the community – including venues to screen movies and football matches for fee
as well as cooking for families – all of which are paid for via the cashless system. Technology is highly utilized at the bio-centres as there are sensors at the entrance and counter systems in each toilet that provide a headcount of everyone who accesses the facility.
According to Umande Trust boss, Josiah Omotto, the use of the cashless payment system started way back “We started by using cash payments which became cumbersome and we were also unable to give back to the community as we wanted. This made us decide to try using M-Pesa but still at some point we had to deal with cash where we have to move the money to an account something we really wanted to avoid,” said Omotto. Later on, Umande trust tried Kopo Kopo, a product which rides on the M-Pesa platform; kopokopo was introduced to several biocenters and continues to be a success till now.
Umande trust also came up with a swipe card developed by two students from JKUAT dubbed “Bio-Card” which used the RFID technology – a wireless non-contact use of radio frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.
The RFD tags contain electronically stored information. The cards are still in use though they come with a challenge of being expensive and can be easily duplicated.
That is why when BebaPay was launched later on for use in the transport sector, Umande approached Equity and Google for a partnership in regards to cashless payment using the Beba card which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
“Bebacard was started within some of Umande Trusts’ Sanitation facility about 12 months ago. This means that the community will never pay the caretaker cash money instead just tap the card to the phone and the service charges are deducted and the money transfered directly to the groups account,” said Omotto.
The cards are issued freely to the members of the community and currently over 300 cards have been issued though only 50 are in use which is a challenge as many people still opt for cash according to Omotto.
Currently, the NGO plans to ensure that by March 2014, every community member uses the card and also plans to have Equity Bank agents within the bio-centre are underway as this will help the community in topping up and making transactions.
Presently, paying for services at the facilities using the card are Kshs 1 cheaper compared to using cash and this has seen the number of community members embracing the cashless payment go up. Mary Achieng’ a resident at Kibera who frequently uses the facility said that she was impressed by the move to use digital cash, the Beba card, as it’s easy to use and enhances money safety.
“I now just have to tap and go, tap and use the bio digester to make food for my family and also tap to get sanitation services,” said Achieng. Once a transaction is made the card holder gets a notification in form of a text in regards to the amount deducted and the current balance. The group members too can see transactions clearly on the dashboard, Beba phone and the group’s Gmail account.
story written by: