Jordan-based startup AKYAS offers innovative sanitation solutions for communities in developing nations, providing low-cost, low-resource and easily deployable sanitation systems.
According to AKYAS co-founder Bara Wahbeh, the company’s mission is to bring low-cost sanitation “to the base of the pyramid population regionally and globally” – especially those with a lack of access to safe sanitation, such as displaced populations, high-density slum households, or rural communities.
One of AKYAS’ flagship products includes a bag that serves as a wastewater treatment plant. Once used, the container will disappear, leaving behind nutrient-rich soil conditioner.
The firm recently launched a pilot in an informal agricultural settlement, a public park, and is partnering with Oxfam to operate in the Za’atari Refugee Camp.
Ahead of Impact Summit 2021, DIGIT spoke to Bara Wahbeh to discuss the company’s journey so far and what the future has in store for AKYAS.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Bara.
I am Bara, the “Toilet Guy,” co-founder and CTO of AKYAS, a venture in sanitation innovation. I am a self-taught sanitation practitioner who found my passion for building sanitation facilities from local materials.
I hold a master’s degree in environmental studies and a bachelor’s degree in engineering. I have had the privilege of learning from amazing professionals across disciplines in non-profit settings.
My previous portfolio includes volunteering with medical doctors serving displaced populations and serving as a logistics officer in emergency settings.
What inspired you to create this company?
In 2017, learning about the cholera outbreak in Yemen, I realised that there was a lack of practical sanitation solutions in humanitarian settings.
People faced with displacement were especially vulnerable to health and other problems associated with lack of access to sanitation, and the situation was especially challenging due to the unique circumstances where people were highly mobile and lacked basic resources.
I decided to work on sanitation solutions that could serve these people, as well as other communities globally who do not have access to sanitation.
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How has the company developed over time?
We started out with experimenting on a new chemical treatment method for the fecal sludge in a makeshift laboratory set up in the basement of my house.
After validating the effects of our product on treatment and disinfection of fecal sludge, we started innovating on the delivery mechanism, developing back-end and front-end products to cover the entire sanitation user experience.
We now have a suite of products that provide a universal solution for fecal sludge collection, treatment, and resource regeneration, contributing to the sanitation circular economy.
What are initiatives such as these important for providing opportunities to entrepreneurs and startups?
Entrepreneurs and startups often have limited financial resources and limited networks from which to tap on for support.
Initiatives such as these are critical in offering opportunities to not only grow support networks