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While researching I discovered an African organisation called Ecotact, one of Ashoka's partners. This project won a $200,000 prize in 2009 in the Changemakers/Global Water Challenge Contest for its work in Nairobi, Kenya. Ecotact works in both urban and rural situations to solve water and sanitation issues.

Ecotact's unique project is the Ikotoilet, which means "There is a toilet". The Ikotoilet is more that just a toilet - it is a toilet mall. Rather than hiding toilets away from the public view, Ikotoilets stand out on the street, providing a wh*** range of services as well as a toilet, including showers, laundry, electronic money transfer, shoe-shine services, newsagents... even barber shops.

Ikotoilets are being installed in public city spaces where they are popular meeting places, as well as in schools. They are also being provided as important centres of sanitation to slums.

The Ikotoilet was devised by an architect called David Kuria, who saw a market for the Ikotoilet in city centres without adequately accessible and safe public toilet facilities. Before the Ikotoilet, toilet facilities were centres of "drug dealing, and very insecure, where you could be vandalized and everything emptied from your pocket."

His idea is proving very popular. Far from just improving sanitation, the Ikotoilets provide a boost in employment, help to conserve natural resources and increase awareness among the public of the importance of sanitation and the environment, which in turn is affecting local policies regarding water and sanitation.

There are now plans to trial the Ikotoilet in Tanzania and Uganda, and into rural areas. The project has attracted government support and Ecotact has even developed a youth franchise model to encourage young sanitation entrepreneurs.

Brief update - Previously, I reported about Gram Vikas, a company in Orissa, Eastern India, who work to provide clean water, sanitation and electricity to the poorest people in India. I was encouraged to discover that the 'help people to help themselves' style of aid Gram Vikas adopts is working so well that the company now funds thriving schools in the area.

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Comment by Alex Stovell on April 11, 2010 at 7:48pm
Thanks for sharing this - another inspiring project which is making a real difference. I wonder if this could catch on in the UK? Public loos are often unpleasant and potentially dangerous in the UK (and other western countries) too.
Comment by Riko Kamachi on April 11, 2010 at 8:27pm
I've seen some of the worst (and smelliest!) toilets ever... one was a roadside toilet in France and the other was in the basement of a well-known club in Dublin. It would be cool to see the Ikotoilet in the UK... but somehow I feel Africa needs this invention more than we do! :)
Comment by ben on April 11, 2010 at 9:20pm
Great post Riko - Funnily enough my first thought was also that we in the UK could do with these...says a lot!

In all serious though, a fantastic project and well deserving of greater visibility. Is there a particular reason Kenya was chosen to carry this out? Is there a cultural element that might inhibit use in other countries? Really interested.
Comment by Riko Kamachi on April 12, 2010 at 8:12am
I think it was Kenya because it just happened to be David Kuria who came up with the idea! :) All things have to start somewhere, I guess. Though you raise a really good point about cultural barriers... I can't think of anything that would prevent the implementation of something like this in Africa, anyway.
Comment by Reid Falconer on April 12, 2010 at 4:03pm
Great Share Thanks :)


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