Sanitation partnerships - Nairobi

Case study - Nairobi, Kenya


In this case study in Nairobi, Kenya, BPD explored the enormous challenges of providing sanitation in the densely populated slum of Kibera. Highly transient tenants have little incentive to invest their own resources in sanitation improvement; but space is at such a premium that landlords are reluctant to forfeit potential rent income by using scarce land to provide toilets. Consequently, the availability of toilets and ablution facilities falls pitifully short of what is needed. During the study, BPD met with:


  • NGOs working with CBOs to provide communal and public facilities and promote awareness of basic hygiene 
  • A private sector agency developing sanitation products for schools and institutions 
  • Manual pit emptiers providing an essential service in appalling working conditions
  • Government representatives grappling with the challenges of their roles and responsibilities in an environment where there are few easy answers. 


The visit highlighted the challenge of land tenure; the range of approaches possible (including some of the difficult decisions to be made about level of service); and the complexity of dynamics between landlord and tenant and between government and non-government actors.


At the time of the study, NGOs shared forums with local and national government to discuss policy issues, but service delivery arrangements tended to be less organised.  Linkages between the many actors working on sanitation, while usually cordial, were few and informal and very limited in comparison to the scale of the challenge in Nairobi’s slums.


One notable observation was that many of the successful examples of sanitation interventions were taking shape within a broader context.  For instance, in Kibera an emerging strategic alliance among slumdwellers and service groups that sought to improve general living conditions within the slum was having an impact on sanitation. There is perhaps a lesson here for those wishing to improve sanitation in similar contexts elsewhere.

Related publications

BPD overview of the Nairobi case study

Tenancy and sanitation provision in informal settlements in Nairobi - Revisiting the public latrine option
Paper highlighting some of the challenges faced in Nairobi, by Wegelin-Schuringa & Kodo, published in IIED's Environment & Urbanisation.

Bringing pit emptying out of the darkness
BPD paper comparing manual pit emptying in Nairobi with that in Durban
, where an interesting franchise approach is being employed.