IWA Publishing

Ikotoilets Kenya

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

1. Overview and Key Points

The Ikotoilet is an innovative solution to the growing environmental sanitation problem in Africa. It is based on an enterprise model by a company named Ecotact, which includes both sanitation facilities in urban and low income settlements. Operating on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis, this initiative extends from offering sanitation services to a range of complimentary business services such as kiosks and barber shops. These income generating activities provide employment and create healthier surroundings for the people of Kenya.

2. Background

As a whole, Kenya has experienced a rapid population increase since 1950 from 6.07 million to 41.07 million in 2011. In Nairobi, 65% of the urban population resides in slums, occupying barely 5% of the city’s residential land. This reflects the added pressure on a set of already scarce resources, especially those regarding basic services. Investment by the government in public sanitation facilities in Nairobi has been almost inexistent for the past 30 years and as a result, toilets have been characterized by overcrowding and poor maintenance, with low lighting, inaccessible and unhygienic conditions and a general lack of privacy and security.

These problems were not being addressed by neither local governments, municipalities nor even NGOs and as a consequence, adequate resources were not assigned to the sector. In some areas such as the Mathare slum, bush and outcrop as well as pronounced slopes provided favourable conditions for open defecation and due to the absence of better alternatives; this was seen to be a prominent practice among slum residents. Since waste collection services were lacking in the area, land and water contamination posed a hazard to public health.

3. Project planning and design

 There was a need therefore of providing highly hygienic and sustainable water and sanitation services to urban centres. In order to satisfy this need, the idea of Ikotoilet was born. The term ‘Ikotoilet’ is derived from ecological sanitation and was designed to be a toilet facility where users pay a minimal fee in order to use the services. A water vending point with ultra-violet installation for water treatment is also available guaranteeing clean potable water to residents.

 In addition to water and sanitation, Ikotoilets integrate other additional services offered to the public such as kiosks, show polish vendors, barber shop and quick snack outlets. Often referred to as a ‘mall’ due to the variety of services offered in one compound, this combination of activities aims not only to provide convenient, hygienic and sustainable water and sanitation services but revolutionize people’s perceptions towards toilets making

4. Technology option

Ikotoilet offers a complete toilet facility with a separate area for men and women incorporating a low-flush system in both these segments with waterless urinals for men and sanitary bins for women. The system is constructed so as to collect urine for reuse as well as store rainwater in tanks to be used whenever necessary. The facility also disposes of changing areas for babies making it user friendly.

5. Institutional and management arrangements

Whilst Ecotact bears all capital costs of constructing the Ikotoilets, it contacts and engages municipal councils across Kenya to provide land for these facilities. Operating on a BOT basis, Ecotact runs the facility over 5 years ensuring the recovery of the investment. Once this term is finalised, the facilities are turned over at no cost to the municipal councils.

In order to operate these facilities, a water and sanitation (WATSAN) committee is developed composed of several sectors of the population including elders, provincial administration, women and youth groups. The role of this committee is to verify proposed sites for Ikotoilet construction, oversee community contracting, identify skilled youth in all areas of contraction and to ensure the safety of building materials. Ecotact’s role in the formation of this committee is to assess leadership skills and advice on the structure of this group so as to ensure that there is equal representation as well as appropriate skills within the committee to carry out the responsibilities mentioned above.

In operating the sanitation facilities, the WATSAN committee appointed recruits two male and two female youth workers who with the help of Community Cleaning Services Ltd (CCS) as well as SC Johnson, are trained on hygiene, safety and detergent use. These employees are in charge of cleaning the toilet facilities.

In order to use the sanitation facilities, families purchase a mega card for a fixed amount per month, sold by the WATSAN committee. This ensures that the entire household has access to the facilities offered. Disabled people are allowed to access Ikotoilets for free.

In order to keep accounts in place, Ecotact supports management staff training on book keeping, basic entries such as income statements as well as maintenance and operation bank accounts.

6. Financing arrangements

Ecotacts capital costs are funded by the directors personal funds as well as a number of external source. These include Acumen Fund (aims to invest in small scale businesses), Global Water Challenge (engages in advocacy with the government and donor agencies on behalf of Ecotact) and the World Bank (allows for the replication of Ikotoilets as well as the construction of numerous of these in slums and informal settlements). Awards and access to credit facilities are also a source of capital for Ecotact. Operation and maintenance costs on the other hand come from user fees, advertising revenues from clients which use the Ikotoilets premises for their publicity and from the rent derived from leasing out space to microentreprenuers who operate their businesses in the ‘mall’ areas.

7. Project outcomes and impacts

During the first month of operation, there was a turnover of approximately 200 families registering and using the Ikotoilet. Following this, predictions on usage extend to more than 2000 users a day. Surveys assessing customer satisfaction indicate that 67% of people using Ikotoilets are happy with the service. Those who expressed dissatisfaction mentioned issues regarding cost (since for some, the fee is difficult to cover) as well as long distances to be walked in order to access a facility at times.

Thanks to this initiative and the provision of these services, a new standard of hygiene has been set, waste has been reduced and to a certain extent put to reuse as well. This promotes the use of green technologies in sanitation and results in a cleaner environment and a reduced exposure to waterborne diseases. The bushes, previously a common spot for open defecation have been cleared as part of the clean Ikotoilet initiative thereby reducing these practices.

Operation and maintenance of Ikotoilets have given jobs to a number of youth groups, this has been further enhanced by microbusinesses which have set up in the same toilet complexes offering other services.

Furthermore, the area surrounding the toilet facilities is used for various community purposes such as sports grounds where youth can engage in indoor games, chess, darts. These compounds have become a general community meeting place due their convenient location and visibility.

8. Overall sustainability of system

Reuse is vastly promoted within the Ikotoilets where urine harvesting is used to produce an award winning fertilizer. In addition to this rainwater capture in tanks is carried out as well promoting conservation of resources. Community involvement through the creation and support of a WATSAN committee adds to the success of this scheme. Equal representation within this committee of males and females guarantees gender equity. Where transfers are concerned, during Ecotacts 5 year agreement a management guide and quality matrix are developed. This helps the municipality to sustain the services once their contract ends and the facilities are turned over to the authorities. This sustainability of services is further enhanced through the training programmes developed for youth which are aimed to prepare them with sufficient management skills to eventually run these facilities as entrepreneurs.

9. Lessons learned / Recommendations

  • From hidden to monumental toilets

A crucial lesson to be learned is the cultural transformation Ecotact has achieved in Kenya. From hidden toilets to providing a toilet monument. People’s perceptions have been transformed through awareness and education programmes to the extent that now, sanitation facilities are regarded as a sign of esteem and status.

  • Reviewing user payments

Usage has not been universal. Customer satisfaction surveys state that these services are unaffordable by the poorer sectors of the population. In this case, a system of payment through instalments could be introduced whereby, monthly cards can be paid by means of 2 instalments. Micro credit facilities could also be organized and made available to residents in order to increase accessibility to the toilet blocks.

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