Safi Sana factory in Ashiaman officialy opened this week
Ghana’s first ever Poo Power plant was festively opened on Wednesday March 15th by Safi Sana. A range of dignitaries from the community, the government and the Dutch Embassy were present at the site, to unveil the offical opening plaque.
A Dutch-Ghanaian company, and GNBCC member, Safi Sana is the first in the world to launch a complete circular industry. The factory converts human waste (urine and excrement) combined with refuse from organic food markets and abattoirs into electric power, clean water for irrigation and compost. The water and compost are subsequently applied for the cultivation of vegetable seedlings and fresh herbs in Safi Sana’s own greenhouses. All the factory’s proceeds are marketed locally.
‘The re-use of organic waste, in itself, is nothing new’, says Safi Sana’s CEO mr Aart van den Beukel. ‘What is new, however, is the circular business model that we have constructed by taking on the entire chain (human waste – electric power – compost – organic produce) and by operating on a much larger scale. Sanitation alone is not a viable business model. We are the first to prove that this operation can be profitable, which is of vital importance for the development of sustainable waste and sanitation solutions.’
Waste is a major problem in Ghana, particularly in the urban slums. Safi Sana’s first plant is located in Ashaiman, an area housing more than 250.000 people on the east-side of Accra. Here, dwellings consist mainly of self-made shacks that almost never include a private toilet. To answer the call of nature one must leave the house, to be faced with one of three choices: to use one of very few and far between public toilets; to make use of a plastic bag or to relieve oneself in a more or less secluded corner somewhere. Either of the last two options leave both human and plastic waste exposed to the elements, while coincidentally posing safety hazards, especially for women. From the public toilets, waste is collected and transferred by lorries to a disposal site ironically named Lavender Hill. Left there untreated, the material seeps away and contaminates the sea.
Safi Sana has joined forces with the proprietors of the public toilets and slaughterhouses and with the food market’s Market Queens, pledging to collect and process waste and thereby to contribute to better local living conditions. Acting from a commitment to health and safety, Safi Sana strives to raise local awareness on segregate waste collection and sanitation and hygiene best practices through their extensive Hygiene and Sanitation training program. CEO Van den Beukel: ‘To achieve better conditions of sanitation, hygiene and waste management in an area like Ashaiman, education and information are key. They are absolutely vital to any real change in attitude and behavior towards this subject and to commitment from the local population.’
The plant’s output is directly beneficial to the locals: compost and seedlings help local farmers, improving the arid soil and increasing their yields. The plant brings jobs to the community and provides electricity for the grid.
Unique in the world
Once up and running, the Safi Sana plant will be self-supporting through the proceeds of her products (i.e. electrical power, compost, irrigation water, seedlings and herbs). Instead of being just another over-subsidized money-gobbler, Safi Sana boasts an unparalleled circular business model that is unique in the world. Safi Sana creates real opportunities for sustainable sanitation and waste issues in poorer countries. Van den Beukel: ‘Since the realization of our first plant we find that the world is watching; governments and multinationals alike. Our approach has met with great approval and interest. As a result, we are now engaged in talks with different partners about combined projects, processing waste for both governments and businesses. Not only in Africa but also in Asia.’
Project patners of Safi Sana in achieving this milestone are: African Development Bank, Ghana- Netherlands WASH Programme, ASHMA, WASTE, Royal Haskoning DHV, Aqua for All, World Waternet, Wageningen University.
To learn more, take a look at Safi Sana's website.
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