In The News

Less Wood & More Biogas @ Ngaru Girls High…

On March 9th, Umande was able to send representatives to the Ngaru Girls High School in Kerugoya, an all girls boarding school a little over two hours from Nairobi. The facilities here (a bio-digester 84m3, renovated 20 toilets, biogas piping and burners) were built last fall and opened for use since November 2016. As one of the several boarding schools utilizing the bio-centers they were pleased to see the facilities up and running efficiently. Mikayla, our new intern, and Gladys, our sanitation marketer, were able to tour the property and meet with two kitchen staff members, Muthi and Mwaii, the school nurse, Pascaline, and a member of the cleaning staff, Margaret. The Umande Team were impressed with the overall cleanliness of the toilets and the kitchen and the excellent conditions the infrastructure installed by the organization were in. Through an open conversation with the staff members they were able to gather information on the success and the possible future improvements of the bio-sanitation model. While Margaret reported initial difficulties with the students using the toilets correctly, she says after several reminders the girls have been utilizing the toilets properly with no issues whatsoever. Muthii and Mwaii both were overjoyed to report that the biogas has been a tremendous help and now they are able to cook all the staff meals using it. However, the biogas cannot yet be used to cook the students’ meals because the biogas burners are not large enough to thoroughly cook the large cooking pots the students’ food is prepared in. Despite this, the biogas project (from human waste) has enabled the school to use less firewood for cooking which helps the environment and decreases smoke inhalation for the staff as well. Overall, the staffs had little to no complaints and were grateful for our visit and overall help with the project.

In The News

A Day for Women is a Day for Everyone

On March 8th women, men, and non-binary people all across the globe came together to celebrate, and to declare actions that can truly drive greater change for women.

The rights of girls and women all over the world are violated every day. For years, female genital mutilation, an inhumane practice that violates the rights of most children and has no health benefits, has persisted. It is still occurring in 30 African countries and a handful of countries in the Middle East and Asia (“Female”). In Kenya the practice is still prevalent as 27% of women aged 15 – 49 years have undergone FGM (“Female”).

Around the world 61 million girls remain out of primary and lower- secondary school (Girl’s education”). In Kenya only 42% of girls are enrolled in lower-secondary school and in the north east 55% of girls living in poverty have never been to any form of school (“United”). Education is more than just literacy – it’s the key to economic success and healthier lives. Educated girls grow up to be educated women who are more likely to be healthy and economically secure compared to uneducated girls. Not only that, but educated girls grow up to be educated mothers who are more likely to invest in their children’s education, more likely to be and have healthy children, and more likely to be able to financially support their children (“Factsheet”).

Global averages show women account for less than 22% of parliaments. Statistics show women do nearly 2 ½ times more unpaid and domestic work than men, yet are less likely to receive a pension (Sifferlin). Women still earn 24% less than what a man earns, and only 50% of women at working wage are in the labor force compared to 77% of men (“Infographics”).

In summation girls and women across the world are not receiving the health, education, and representation that they deserve. We as a global community have a lot of work to do to make our dreams a reality.

How do we do it though? What are our next steps?

While there are hundreds of actions a person can take to help work toward equality, several overarching actions, have been globally targeted by international organizations like the UN and the World Bank. These actions call the world to elect more women to office, to grant women the property rights they deserve, to placing education before child marriage, to stand up against violence, and to fight for equal pay for equal work.

To make these goals become realities the international community, the governments, the private sectors, and civil society groups must all work together. Tactics like campaigning, petitioning, rallying, micro funding, and are great ways to become involved and stay involved in the global equality conversation.

When women succeed, everyone from the family, to the community, to the country succeeds.

No matter what though we must continue to campaign for women, we must stand up against outdated cultural norms, and we must provide one another with emotional and intellectual support. March 8th honored the women who first paved the road towards equality for us: the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the artists, the doctors, the writers, the politicians, the activists, and countless others. We will remember them, we will admire them, and we will strive to be more like them.

The importance of women cannot be understated, and now more than ever must we join together as champions for one another. On March 8th we celebrated, and we declared what we can do to make a difference in our communities, and then, we shall act. We will hashtag, we will rally, we will write and share our opinions, we will contact our representatives, we will engage one another in honest conversations to tackle the stigmas, barriers, and emotions that gender inequality has burdened us with.

So join us and women around the world to speak out, celebrate, and support one another. Use the hashtag #BeBoldForChange on your social media platforms like twitter, facebook, and Instagram. Together, we can achieve a gender inclusive world.

For more information and ways to get involved check out the links below, including the link to the official website for International Women’s Day.

Written by Mikayla Pellerin



“Factsheet Girl’s Education and Gender Equality.”Global Partnership for Girls Education . N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

“Female genital mutilation.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, Feb. 2017. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.

“Girls’ education and gender equality.” Global Partnership for Education. N.p., 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.

“Infographics.” Global Gender Gap Report 2016. N.p., 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2017

Sifferlin, Alexandra. “U.N. Women Report: Women Still Lag Behind on Wages and Careers.” Time. Time, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.


In The News


pic 1A step at a time always brings us closer to achieving a desired goal. The residents of Kibagare village in westlands constituency of Nairobi have long come to trust this expression. Kibagare is a peri-urban area with a population of around 15000 people and approximately 3000 households (westlands constituency website).  The settlement was established in 1972 by coffee plantation workers who worked in the colonial farms now known as Loresho estate. As at now most of the village residents are informal workers working as small scale traders and domestic labourers, whereas fewer than 10% of the residents are in fulltime employment.

The Kibagare Haki Zetu Savings and Peoples Settlement CBO was established in 2006 and consisted of around 350 members. It started as a self-help group trying to rally together the people of Kibagare to protest against forceful evictions and the group members also saved money in the group. Organisations such as Umande Trust, Haki Jamii, Shelter Forum and Muungano wa Wanavijiji have partnered with the Kibagare Haki Zetu CBO and have initiated several projects and initiatives in Kibagare which have transformed the village for the better.

The Kibagare Bio-centrepic 3

The Kibagare CBO is a well known group in the Kibagare area, and through the partnership of Umande Trust the CBO was able to build a bio-center in 2011.  The bio-center has an average of 400 users per day with sales of approxiamately ksh 1500-ksh 2500 per day. As at now the group membership stands at 48 with around 60% of the membership being women. Apart from the bio-centre the CBO also partnered with the Danish embassy, through the facilitation of Umande Trust, and built community ablution blocks as well as a bio-dome. The construction of the bio-dome solved most of the exhaustion and over flow problems experienced in the area as most of the pit latrines in the area are connected to the bio-dome. The bio-centre also provides majority of the residents with clean water as the plots do not have piped water. The bio-centre has an advantage over other water kiosks as they sell their water at ksh 3 whereas most of the kiosks sell at ksh 5. The bio-centre also produces biogas which is mostly used for boiling bathing water. The group members also sometimes use it for cooking meals.

The situation before the construction of the bio-centre and ablution blocks in the area was very wanting. Statistics from the westlands constituency website show that approxiamately around 938 people shared one toilet in the area as there were an estimated 16 toilets only in Kibagare and no bathrooms. This led to high numbers of open defeacation and flying toilets in the area leading to a very unhealthy environment. The construction of the bio-centre has been of great help to the people of Kibagare shining new hope in their lives. The neighbourhood has now improved immensely with almost zero open defeacation and its aesthetic value is slowly being restored.

The Kibagare Haki Zetu Savings and Peoples Settlement CBO has had a number of accomplishments over the years as a result (either directly or indirectly) of the bio-centre project, namely:

  • The construction of the bio-center(2011)
  • Construction of latrines around the neighborhood (since 2010)
  • Installation of solar panels into the bio-center (2013)
  • Construction of rental houses (four in number, each earning them Ksh 2,500 every month) (2015)
  • Construction of bio-dome in which all the waste from the bio-center and latrines are directed (2010)
  • Formation of a savings and credit cooperative (Sacco) with the aim of increasing members’ financial potential (2014). They intend to purchase an acre of land from the money saved.
  • Hire out the four rooms above bio-centre (support toilets) at 4000 each to a clinic (since 2014 to July 2016)

The Kibagare Haki Zetu Savings and Peoples Settlement CBO has had profound effects on the members who stuck on and chose to see through the results of their hard work and sacrifice. The members can now boast of dividends of at least ksh 10000 each and counting, thus giving them something to fall back on when they decide to leave the group. Talking to the current vice chair, Lucy Maina, I got to learn that it has taken much patience and initiative to come this far. Their main principle is that they do not carry any ‘dead weight’ and strive to make sure that all the members are active and well informed of all that is going on in the group. This explains the massive reduction of numbers in the group over the years. They started out as a self-help group, gradually moved to the position of a CBO, pic 2and are now registered as a Sacco. Lucy said that to her she feels that they have only made a small dent in a mile long trek towards success and gainful change.

The Kibagare Haki Zetu bio-centre has brought the Kibagare village much sought after change and the group managing the bio-centre can be termed as the savior of Kibagare village bringing them much needed sanitation
services and making the people proactive in issues affecting them. For a people who are mostly self-employed or live on minimum wages the group has changed their lives and if they are able to successfully purchase the land, through the savings in the Sacco it will yet another step taken towards leaving poverty and instability behind.


Written by; Abigail Omira

In The News

Kibera in search of peace

Leaders from various sectors in Kibera gathered  at The  AIC church olympic  kibera on the  29th  of June 2016    to promote and champion the peace process ,This peace forum  was organized through a  collaborative effort of  different organizations operating in kibera which included Umande Trust, Octopizzo Foundation, Carolina for kibera,  Shofco, Hodiafrica, Map kibera trust, Change mtaani, Human needs project, Amani  Kibera, Women for peace Network, Forum43, women for peace network, National cohesion and intergration commission and District peace committee which collaborated  together to champion the peace project.

The event was just a first step towards enhancing livelihood and sustaining a peaceful environment within Kibera.

In The News

From human waste to community space

Tosha PictureOn an overcast morning in Nairobi, commuter buses drive down a crumbling road into Kibera, a densely packed slum. A sign at the bus station reads “public toilets,” but the doors are locked.

It’s estimated that Kibera has just one toilet for every 2,500 of its approximately 250,000 residents. Without toilets to relieve themselves, people “use any means, whether it’s a [plastic] bag or a can,” explained Fred Amuok, Community Liaison for a Kenyan rights-based organization called Umande Trust. Most do so under cover of darkness, then simply toss the waste aside.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million people die every year from diarrhea, often the result of poor sanitation. There’s also a financial cost: studies show that Kenya loses US$324 million each year in missed work hours due to sickness brought on by poor sanitation. According to the sanitation company Sanergy, four million tonnes of fecal sludge escape into Kenya’s waterways and fields every year.

Nairobi’s municipal government has been unable to ease Kibera’s sanitation crisis. Amuok walked past a new bathroom built by the local government, only to find that it was also locked. “The government created the structures, but there was no management system in place,” he explained.

Only recently did the authorities even begin putting in sewer lines. It’s a slow process that could take years, if it’s ever completed at all.

Umande Trust isn’t waiting. The organization has come up with an innovative approach to providing affordable toilets for Kibera’s residents and turning human waste into cooking fuel. In 2007, it inaugurated the Katwekera Tosha BioCentre, a three-story, round concrete building. The first floor has a dozen toilets and showers that people pay 5 shillings ($0.05) each to use. The second floor has a small kitchen where people pay 10 shillings to cook food.

“Down here we have the bio-digester,” Amuok said, pointing beneath the building. “All the human waste goes in there.” Without oxygen, bacteria found naturally in poop thrive, creating methane and carbon dioxide in a mixture known as biogas, which fuels the stove two floors above.

Some 1,000 people use the toilets each day, and the center employs two women to collect fees and keep the place clean. One is Winnie Achieng, a 31-year-old single mother. Each day she keeps a ledger of the money she collects, along with the expenses—namely toilet paper, soap and running water. The proceeds are deposited in the bank and will later be divided among the members of a local cooperative that invested to help build and maintain the center.

Tosha is one of 76 BioCentres Umande has built across Kenya, using grant money from organizations such as Oxfam, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and USAID. Even Kenya’s government has started buying in, funding the construction of 20 centers.

These concrete towers aren’t mere bathrooms. They are public spaces where people come to watch soccer matches, hold meetings, study for school, lift weights or cook lunch. On an afternoon in March, a pot of beans boiled on the stove in the kitchen. The woman preparing it would return in a couple of hours to make githeri—a typical Kenyan mix of beans and maize.

Cooking with gas is uncommon in Kibera because it’s costly. Instead, most residents use charcoal, which is made by chopping down trees and carbonizing the wood in a process that emits C02. “We are encouraging people not to use charcoal, because by doing that we destroy the environment,” said Amuok.

But not everyone is fond of cooking in a building that also serves as a bathroom. So Umande is working on ways to build kitchens adjacent to the buildings, one of several modifications that should make the BioCentres even more sustainable and replicable.

Umande is piloting ways to put the gas into thick bags that people could buy and use for cooking at home. “But the bag is huge and the houses are so small it becomes cumbersome,” said Amuok. Now they are trying to figure out how to compress the gas into canisters.

Another challenge is what to do with the liquid and solid waste that accumulates after the gas is produced. Umande is experimenting with ways to convert the waste into fertilizer for farmers.

Still, the model is catching the eye of private and public donors alike. One U.K.-based NGO, Practical Action, is adapting it in rural Sri Lanka, using animal rather than human waste.

Looking ahead, Umande hopes to let toilet users pay without cash. Already, customers can use their cellphones and send money via the popular mobile payment service M-PESA. But M-PESA charges fees, so Umande has been testing other options including debit cards and monthly access cards. Going cashless helps prevent stealing or corruption, and improves security for Umande employees and users.

Because no independent, scientific studies have been done, it’s hard to know how effective Umande’s approach is toward improving the health of users over the long run. But 10 years since opening shop in Africa’s largest slum, Umande’s BioCentres remain functional, profitable, and above all, used. Across Kenya, tens of thousands of people frequent their toilets each day.

Written  by

Jacob Kushner