Flushh founded by Hilkka M’lunga and Kaveto Tjatjara recently won the most impactful project for their ‘Flushh Waterless Toilet Design’ at Seed Spot Impact Accelerator Programme in Washington D.C.
The three-month accelerator programme which came to an end in April saw 11 start-ups from across the United States of America (USA) competing for U$25 000 in cash prizes across various categories that included projects focused on improved education outcomes and disability mainstreaming.
M’lunga and Tjatjara were the only participants from the African continent. They are working to provide on-demand sanitation services to underserved communities by firstly introducing innovative waterless toilets that can work in areas without sewerage infrastructure.
“Flushh works by a natural composting process and we are working on building a circular economy that has zero waste to achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals,” M’lunga explained.
“The toilet uses cover material like sawdust and other carbon-rich material to create an odourless compost and the resulting composting chamber is collected on a bi-weekly basis to be turned into a source of energy such as biogas,” she told New Era, adding the composting chamber has a volume of 50 litres and the toilet has a lifespan of five years which is better than inadequate toilet facilities.
According to Tjatjara, the co-founder of Flushh, their sanitation as a service business model is designed for households in informal settlements and rural areas.
“Sanitation, which also includes access to toilets, is one of the many societal challenges confronting Namibia as a developing country,” Tjatjara said.
He further explained that they entered the cohort intending to find solutions to one of Namibia’s greatest challenges, which is access to a decent toilet facility.
Citing the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, Tjatjara explained that diarrheal diseases which are a consequence of poor sanitation kill more children every year than Aids, malaria, and measles combined.
According to Tjatjara, the lack of sewage systems in Namibia and the resulting improper waste disposal methods used by members of these communities are the main cause of water-borne diseases in these areas.
He explained that pit latrines are the most common types of toilets in areas with no sewage systems, however, he noted that these are not sustainable and are also detrimental to the long-term health of citizens residing in these communities.
“Pit latrines are the most common type of toilets used in areas inhabited by those at the bottom end of the socio-economic strata,” he said.
However, the problem with these pit latrines is that they are often always shared, are unhygienic, have an unbearable smell, and attract bacteria carrying insects amongst other disease vectors, he explained. In a telephone interview with New Era, DC programme manager for Seed Spot Dana Ward said M’lunga and Tjatjara’s Worldview Technology which has since been rebranded to Flushh provides a solution not only to Namibia but to other countries such as those in southeast Asia who experience the same problems when it comes to providing access to sanitation for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
“M’lunga and Tjatjara have displayed a remarkable passion and commitment to serving their communities and that is why they were awarded the cash prize of U$2500 for them to improve their product offering.”
Ward, who mentored the two Namibians throughout the programme, by guiding and assisting them in accessing the tools and support they need to grow their business, told New Era that the two must get more support for their product within their home country and within the communities in which they will be piloting their product.
“The biggest support that M’lunga and Tjatjara can get in their home country is feedback from members of the communities they will be serving,” Ward noted.
Ward explained that the building technologies used by the social entrepreneurs are their competitive advantage and as their needs evolve, the feedback they get for users will enhance their future product development to ensure they constantly improve on their product offering.
She noted that having self-sufficiency in sanitary spaces is good for health, especially at a time when the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
"By incorporating technologies like waterless toilets and maintaining
hygiene, the world is better apt at dealing with future pandemics."