The black soldier fly, a harmless insect, is part of an innovative sanitation solution for households without access to a sewage system, and start-up Susamati is pioneering the use of this technology in Mozambique. Susamati’s innovative approach brought it to the semi-final of the Sarphati Sanitation Challenge 2021, and to second place in the Climate Launchpad Challenge in Mozambique in 2019. Susamati was created in 2019 at the end of the Research and Development stage supported by Aqua for All. In 2019 and 2020, we provided support to develop a sustainable business model. As our support has reached its final stage, we are looking back at how Susamati started, transformed and overcame challenges on its path to scale.
Susamati grew from the project Biological Urban Sanitation (BUS) in the Mozambican capital Maputo. As a start-up, Susamati has been supported by Aqua for All through the VIA Water programme from (2015-2019). The grants were used to develop a latrine that could host the black soldier fly, which is capable of digesting human waste. As a result, the Pia Fantastica low-flush toilet was created. It met the needs of poorer Mozambican households, requiring only one cup of water to flush and, above all, it’s affordable (about € 11). Pia Fantastica toilets are produced in local workshops, mainly by women which provides them income and financial independence.
Susamati’s founder and CEO, Manuel Gungulo, decided to start the enterprise after witnessing the reaction of potential clients to the Pia Fantastica. Most of Maputo’s inhabitants want to buy a toilet, even if they never used one before. Their main challenge is of financial nature.
“Very low-income families cannot have a toilet because they do not have enough money. They must choose their priorities and, in most cases, a toilet is not on the list of priorities”, said Manuel Gungulo.
Dick Bouman, Aqua for All’s Regional Manager Horn of Africa, recalls how our team was inspired by this start-up while realising that its first steps would be difficult. Therefore Aqua for All supported Susamati with two grants as well as with technical, management and business development coaching.
“Susamati’s first years were far from stable, but the team managed to cope with all challenges in a flexible way. Team building was strong and they were able to develop a few parallel business lines that kept them going. At the same time, they stuck to their original goal — affordable and safe sanitation for all”, Dick Bouman points out.
In 2019, Aqua for All gave Susamati a second grant, which was used to professionalise their business by developing an integrated package of low-cost sanitation facilities for a wide range of consumers and sanitation project developers in Mozambique and beyond. Besides the Pia Fantastica toilet, this included in-situ digestion of the faecal sludge by the black soldier fly and processing its larvae to chicken feed.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the enterprise and its clients hard, but the cooperation with international organisations kept Susamati up and running and allowed it to emerge from the economic shock with a line of new products and services.
“Aqua for All’s funding was crucial for the survival of the company. It came exactly in a moment when we needed it the most, and it allowed us to be resilient to take another step”, Manuel Gungulo adds.
In May 2021, Susamati opened the first Pia Fantastica Public Toilet Block and secured a contract for building four more in Maputo. Besides, the enterprise signed a memorandum of understanding with Fundação Sérgio Gago Foundation on the implementation of the Sanitation and Preventive Health Project and established a partnership with the NGO Girl Move Academy on installing Pia Fantastica toilets in two schools Nampula, a province on the north of Mozambique.
Susamati believes that safe and affordable sanitation does not end with a proper toilet. That is why, in 2021, it expanded its catalogue and started to produce handwashing facilities. In addition, it now sells the Nazava water filter, a low-cost product adapted to the local market.
As to the Pia Fantastica toilet, according to Manuel Gungulo, the secret of its success lays in adaptation to the local taste:
“Yes, of course, they sell better, first of all, because it is a very new concept and, secondly, because people here like darker colours, like deep blue, green and terracotta, when it comes to toilets, as funny as it may seem”.