Dickson Ochieng saw an opportunity many wouldn’t even think of.
From a smelly venture, his innovation has grown to compete with world leading environment friendly initiatives.
An opportunity to turn sewage to fuel saw Ochieng become one of the first people to team up with the company Sanivation.
The organisation, which was part of the Chivas Venure, was highly praised by the judges who were impressed with the innovation and how it affects the environment positively.
Whereas Mr Ochieng missed out on a multi-million shillings global award for his work on social change, he made it to the semi finals of the Chivas Venture.
This is an annual Sh100 million fund sponsored by Chivas Regal the popular blended Scotch whisky, in search of the most promising social entrepreneurs across the world.
He was among 30 contenders from six continents who took part in the contest.
Sanivation, which is based in Naivasha and has two waste processing factories in the same town and in Kakuma, basically turns raw sewage into fuel.
The company places mobile toilets at densely populated areas, then harvests the waste and turns it into charcoal briquettes.
“We are a social enterprise that addresses sanitation challenges in urbanising communities and refugee camps,” says Ochieng.
“We partner with municipalities to process the unsewered waste for institutions, we are contracted by refugee camps to set up entire sanitation systems.”
The company, which has been in operation since 2014, says that their vision is to ensure that by 2030, 100 per cent of every waste is safely managed.
“We have developed a technology that ensures waste is well treated and at the same time turn it into a valuable product like charcoal briquettes.
This tackles two critical environmental issues, helps treat waste and check spread of diseases like cholera and save the trees,” says Ochieng.
“We work together the county governments, relevant organisations and ministries.”
In the four years of operation, Sanivation has made huge strides and has been able to process and sell more than 70 tonnes of the charcoal briquettes from the waste collected.
“Here’s how big a deal 70 tonnes is,” says Ochieng. “For every tonne, we save 88 trees so you can see the environment is better off with our innovation.
Currently, we do 20 tonnes a month and are aiming at 100 tonnes as we expand to more areas.”
Once the waste reaches the factory, it is dumped in pools where treatment follows.
Here, the waste is heated to remove harmful bacteria before more processing that turns the waste into charcoal briquettes and are then sold at an affordable price. The process takes about four days.
The journey to the Chivas Venture started through a referral and Ochieng, who was representing the organisation kept defying the odds and emerging on top of any competition that was thrown his way.
He then made it to Oxford University for a week of expert coaching and mentorship dubbed the Chivas Venture Accelerator Week in March.
An online voting followed and here Sanivation received Sh477,460 ($4,635) initial funding from the Chivas Regal’s $1 million fund.
Once he had cleared that hurdle, he made it to the finals that were held in Los Angeles, USA last week and that was the end of the competition for Ochieng but he says it was not the end.
The final five entrepreneurs pitched in front of a star-studded live audience made up of Hollywood bigwigs Berry, Bardem and Don Cheadle.
They were joined by Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard.
Thailand’s Peetachai (Neil) Dejkraisak of Siam Organic, which aims to help improve the lives of the country’s small-scale farmers, was announced the winner and received Sh40 million ($400,000) from Chivas Venture, a project of Chivas the blended Scotch whisky produced by Chivas Brothers and part of Pernod Ricard.
He was followed by Nigeria’s Chioma Ukonu of Recycle Points received Sh20 million ($200,000). The other three from Colombia, South Africa and Israel went home with Sh5 million each.
“I am disappointed I did not win but I am happy for Neil and I believe that was the best idea and it deserved to win,” he says.
“Making it this far means whatever we do is noble and I thank Chivas for this opportunity which will definitely open more doors for Sanivation. They have given us an international audience.”
Since Chivas launched the contest in 2014, almost 6,000 social enterprises have applied for the chance to receive a share of the annual $1 million fund.
Speaking after the event, Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard added: “The calibre of finalists this evening was extremely high.
“To see Neil and the other finalists succeed will be the ultimate fulfilment for us as judges. We wish them all the very best.”