Local Ruhango Construction Company Thriving In Sanitation Business
Sanitation business suppliers innovating household sanitation facilities
The sanitation business is a fairly new domain in Rwanda. Whilst many entrepreneurs have a lot of expertise in constructing latrines within commercial buildings, there are hardly any with experience in constructing household latrines especially in rural areas.
As a market facilitator, Isuku Iwacu project seeks to strengthen the supply of sanitation products and services available from the private sector, and helps households gain sustainable access to these products. This essentially means creating a vibrant private sector driven sanitation business in Rwanda. Over the past three months, the activity has engaged private companies to construct improved latrines for vulnerable households across its eight target districts. The private companies have extensive construction experience in constructing buildings, with latrines, such as schools, markets, shopping malls and government offices. Principe Ndayiringira, owner of Fidesfox Ltd, is one such businessman. He admits that before being engaged by Isuku Iwacu to construct household latrines in Ruhango district, he had never seen household sanitation as a viable business opportunity. “I have a lot of experience in the construction business having constructed a number of residential and commercial buildings in Kigali and Nyagatare districts, but I had not constructed a household latrine before partnering with Isuku Iwacu. It had not even occurred to me that I could ever venture into such a business,” said Principe. As soon as he understood the need and demand for household sanitation, he did not hesitate to get on-board.
Within only six short weeks, Principe had completed the construction of 274 improved latrines including ten samples which were a pre-requisite before he could go ahead to construct the rest. “When I was asked to do samples of the latrines, I made sure that I did my best because I saw a business opportunity. I was confident that I would get a go ahead to construct more, and I did,” Principe excitedly explained. Indeed, the sample latrines had only few errors which he promptly corrected with technical guidance from the project’s inspection engineer.
There is no doubt that Principe realised the business opportunity in household sanitation immediately. Besides the good collaboration between Isuku Iwacu and local district authorities which ensures that the community contribution to dig pit holes and provide mud bricks is well coordinated, Principe managed to quickly put together teams of masons within the nine sectors where he constructed the latrines. “I have nine teams of masons and each team of about ten masons has a leader that reports directly to me. This has helped me to effectively manage the masons and to speed up the construction process”, said Principe.
He has since signed three additional contracts with Isuku Iwacu to construct more than 2,500 latrines in Ruhango, Nyanza and Ngoma districts.
Private sector led Product Innovation
Having started by constructing only one improved latrine model: wooden slab with sato pan and mud bricks walls; Principe has already started to experiment with other latrine models in order to diversify the product and get a much better understanding of how to reduce the costs.
Ms. Nyiranyezimana with her daughter next next to the newly constructed latrine
Ms. Nyiranyezimana’s old un-improved latrine
As he neared completion of the initial 274 latrines, he constructed two twin pits in Mbuye sector in Ruhango.
According to him, the cost is relatively the same (about 84 Euros) but has more benefits than the single wooden slab with sato pit latrine. With the twin pit, mechanical or manual emptying is much easier to do because the outside pit has a wide lid that is easy to open and close. “When I constructed this twin pit latrine I was not only thinking about how to make it easy for households to re-use waste as manure on their farms, but also how to construct something which is economically attractive to households. You see, the twin pit does not fill up as quickly as your conventional pit latrine which is only 6 meters deep. Thanks to the additional pit, the twin pit gives you a total depth of 8 meters and that makes a lot of difference in the frequency of emptying”, explained Principe.
Asked about whether it is possible to have a cheaper latrine, he was quick to said that he is already looking to see how he can reduce some of the costs including importing certain components of the latrines such as sato pans from neighbouring Uganda.
Beyond Isuku Iwacu Activity, Principe intends to continue to innovate more sanitation products and continue to grow the sanitation side of his existing construction business.