Ikotoilet – Changing the Face of Sanitation in Africa

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IkoToilet – Thinking beyond a toilet is the flagship enterprise project model of Ecotact Limited. IkoToilet aims at offering sustainable transformation of urban sanitation interventions in Kenya and beyond, changing the face of sanitation in Africa.

Today, Hai Afrika talks to Emah Madegwa, IkoToilet’s sanitation ambassador.

 

The important work of sanitation ambassadors

“Sanitation Ambassador” is a title given to a selected few. The organization has always had several interactions and endorsements. They can be from key opinion leaders, policy makers, religious leaders, and Kenya’s top comedians. I was appointed as the organization’s ambassador of sanitation and hygiene, following my win at the Miss Earth pageant in 2006.

 

Mathare - One of the few slums in Nairobi, Kenya

Mathare – One of the few slums in Nairobi, Kenya

 

Group Photo with the locals in Mathare after the launch of Ikoilet in 2009

Group Photo with the locals in Mathare after the launch of Ikoilet in 2009

 

As sanitation ambassadors, we create awareness and cultivate community participation in sustainable water and water resources management. In this role, I organized community events in Mathare, one of the largest slums in Kenya. It was an outreach program to address sanitation issues using a puppets program.

The objective was to ensure that the public understands and appreciates behaviour transformation as a critical aspect for sustained clean toilets. I educate the public on proper hand washing programs, especially the importance of washing hands after using the toilet.

I was already organizing and participating in environmental projects out of my own initiative. As Miss Earth advocates for the protection of the environment, it was a great fit for me. I got to work on the growing environmental problem on sanitation in Africa through the IkoToilet project.

Ecotact Limited, the social enterprise building IkoToilet, strives to develop innovative answers to the growing urban environmental challenges, such as sanitation in Africa and globally. Ecotact was founded in 2006 and started its operations in 2007. It is driven by the local need to improve urban and urban-rural environment through investment in environmentally responsive projects. This includes sanitation facilities in urban, schools, and low-income settlements.

 

Me holding the Ikotoilet model, the future of sanitation in Africa!

Me holding the Ikotoilet model

 

The right technology for the right problems

In Kenya, existing public toilets are often inaccessible, overcrowded, unhygienic, poorly lit, and lack privacy and security. Many residents throw plastic bags, or “flying toilets,” into the street at night. Or they may pay to use unhygienic pit latrines, shallow holes that can overflow during periods of heavy rain or flooding. The elevated exposure to waterborne diseases that results has posed a major threat to public health.

Recognizing the need for changing behaviours, Ecotact built its first toilets in city centres to make clean sanitation an aspiration for those accustomed to using these “flying toilets.”

The concept concentrates on optimizing social responsiveness, as well as ecological systems, such as low water sanitation systems. It reduces water consumption, and increase human waste recovery in terms of energy (methane) and nutrients (nitrates and phosphates).

In addition, IkoToilet Plus, the newest product from Ecotact Limited, is the first mobile vacuum toilet system of its kind in Africa. It uses a vacuum system such that when you flush, it opens a valve, and the vacuum in the line sucks the contents out of the bowl and into a tank. Because the vacuum does all the work, it takes very little water to clean the bowl for the next person. It uses easily three to six times less water than regular toilets. These technologies are what makes IkoToilet special.

I admire and respect Mr. David Kuria, the CEO and great mind behind the beautiful architectural of IkoToilet. Not only are they environmentally friendly, their architectural design and colours are amazing. So amazing, in fact, that an IkoToilet complex has been called a ‘Toilet Mall’. This Ikotoilet complexes also provides services such as snack shops, shoe shines, telephones, and newspaper stands. It is truly becoming a multi-use community space.

 Mr. Kuria used his architectural skills to address social issues, to improve sanitation in Africa. That kind of spirit is truly an admirable one.

 

This is how the actual Ikotoilet looks like!

This is how the actual Ikotoilet looks like!

 

Ikotoilet - Thinking-beyond-a-toilet

Ikotoilet – Thinking-beyond-a-toilet

 

Moving forward to a brighter tomorrow

Through the IkoToilet project, I met like-minded personalities and learnt a lot on issues about water and sanitation in Africa and around the world. I also had a greater platform to advocate on water and sanitation management. I even dedicated my master’s thesis in researching on the effects of the IkoToilets in addressing sanitation.

Like Mr. Kuria, I, too will dedicate my skills to address social issues the best way that I can. As a communications specialist myself, I want to voice the issues of environmental degradation globally by disseminating information and spearheading knowledge on environmental protection, not just in Kenya but to the World.

All in all, I am hoping that my work will encourage individuals, communities, and corporations. I hope that that they will collectively participate in efforts towards sustainable development using their skills and talents. If we all continue to apply our skills to the problems plaguing Africa, I am sure we will all be moving forward to a brighter tomorrow.