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Bio-latrine Cleans Up Kenyan Slum and the Environment

Doreen Kutilo never thought a toilet could save her so much time and money. But after a bio-latrine was built around the corner from her shack in Kibera, Africa's largest slum, she realized it could.

With the help of an NGO, residents of Kibera installed the latrine that uses human waste to produce gas to burn to heat up water that can be purchased by slum dwellers.

"At first I thought it was a very strange idea - that my own waste could be used for something - but now I'm used to it," said Kutilo, 22, stopping by the latrine to fill a basin with hot water she can then use for bathing, washing clothes or cooking.

Energy for heating is hard to come by in Kibera and most of the slum's more than 500,000 residents use charcoal, which costs about 30 cents for a small bundle.

But the bio-latrine gives the impoverished Kenyans an alternative energy source that is cheaper than charcoal, is more environmentally friendly and keeps their surroundings clean.

Kutilo said she buys less charcoal and she no longer waits as long for hot water.

"When people here use charcoal, they waste a lot of time trying to generate heat," said Peter Gachanja, who works for Ushirika wa Maisha na Maendeleo (Life and Development Cooperative), the community-based organization which operates the bio-latrine.

"If you have more time, you have more time to work and earn money," he said.

Energy harnessed from the bio-latrine, among other bio-fuel facilities, can lower reliance on firewood, charcoal and grid power, which is unreliable in many African cities and hard to come by in rural areas.

The process is relatively simple. Residents pay about six cents to use the latrine. The waste is then collected in a bio-digester, a concrete tank where it's stored for several months until it naturally produces methane gas.

The gas is then fed into a boiler that heats the water,
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