In several communities in Ghana, improper disposal of fecal waste matter continues to be a menace, contributing to disease and poor sanitation. One organization, Waste Enterprisers, took up the challenge three years ago to provide a solution that combines engineering, environmental innovation and community development. Waste Enterprisers was founded in 2010 and began working on their Green Heat project in 2012.
In 2010, Ashley Murray founded the organization in Ghana as an offspring of her Doctoral research in sanitation engineering. After receiving a PhD from the University of California – Berkeley, she compiled her results and created what is known today as Waste Enterprisers. The founding of the organization was rooted in a strong research relationship with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and still maintains partnership on certain projects with the university. Waste Enterprisers currently employs Ghanaians and other nationalities onto its staff in order to maintain the diversity of experience and expertise required to successfully actualize the goals of the organization. Akua Nkrumah, who is an engineer in the organization considers this an advantage and regards herself as the bridge between Ghanaians and Americans, being half Ghanaian and half American.
The idea of working with waste materials is not new but is still under explored across the continent of Africa. Waste Enterprisers joins few other organizations in Ghana creating wealth from the abundant waste materials constituting a nightmare to the Ghanaian health and environmental landscape. According to a representative of the organization, Akua Nkrumah, “Waste Enterprisers is addressing an ideological shift away from regarding waste as nothing more than waste.” She adds that Waste Enterprisers has taken something that’s being done in other parts of the world and customized it to Ghana; emphasizing that this process is continuous as the organization thrives on research as a fundamental component of its operations. The organization describes its missions as “creating a sanitation revolution that will propel Africa to the forefront of human waste reuse and eradicate disease.”
Waste Enterprisers is bringing radical innovation to the standard methods and economics of human waste management in developing cities. Every day, 85% of the human waste generated on the planet goes untreated into the environment due to failed sanitation systems. This has resulted in over half the world’s hospital beds being filled with people suffering from diarrheal diseases associated with poor sanitation and water quality. Over 2 million people, mostly children under five, die from these diseases each year. Waste Enterprisers works to end the sanitation crisis and its environmental and public health consequences. By using human waste as the primary feed-stock for other products, the organization harnesses its resource value, successfully restructuring the financial incentives that have failed human waste collection, treatment, and disposal in the developing world. The waste-based businesses of the organization create a demand for waste that unlocks profitable alternatives to haphazard dumping. The funds are then reinvested into the sanitation sector to extend services to poor communities.
Waste Enterprisers maintains its integrity as an organization that fits into the value chain of waste management in Ghana rather than disrupt it. The organization provides a new dimension to waste management of fecal matter in Ghana by diverting waste trucks from improper dump sites to the designated collection sites belonging to Waste Enterprisers. Because the enterprise recognizes the importance of trucks that collect waste matter from door-to-door and communities, it works to ensure that it bridges the gap that exists between these collection agencies and the prospects of proper disposal. In fact, Waste Enterprisers takes it further by providing fuel, which they deem more economically viable than manure.
However, Waste Enterprisers is not yet completely commercial. While the organization has begun a pilot survey of the Kenyan market for waste-to-wealth creation, it continues to research opportunities to scale up the current business model in Ghana to a level that is more economically viable. The first commercial plant will be built in January. It will begin with producing 10 tons of fuel every day by March or April, which should grow to a capacity of 40 tons of fuel produced everyday over the next 3 years. At that stage, Waste Enterprisers will be treating the waste from approximately 1 million people – a majority of the population of Mombasa, Kenya. The enterprise has received external investment and already carries out operations, albeit on a small scale, in Kumasi and Accra. Waste Enterprisers is a success story and an example of where environmental solutions can produce jobs, build communities and economic growth.
Setting up an enterprise such as this one does not come without its share of infrastructural challenges, as is the case in many African contexts. Team members within the enterprise highlight persistence, patience and open mindedness as priority skills to have in order to make it through this terrain. It is also important to be particularly interested in sustainable development as a long term goal as interest comes in handy during the rough periods one will encounter when running such an enterprise.
www.waste-enterprisers.com || Pics: Matthew Muspratt.