Alternative Facilities


Ecotact, a Kenya-based organization, is one organization working to solve the sanitation problem through private sector participation. Through observation, they found that one of the primary problems affecting toilet usage was that the toilets were not clean. In response, Ecotact came up with a solution: let entrepreneurs set up a small business around the toilets (magazine stands, shoeshine stalls, a booth where people can buy airtime on mobile phones, snack kiosks, etc.) (Murray 2010). If these businesses are established, ―the toilet stays clean because . . . if it is not clean, no one will come to buy the magazines or charge their phones” (quoted in Murray 2010). This solution is known as the “toilet mall.”‖ The businesses around the toilet help to subsidize the costs of the sanitation facilities, thereby making it a more financially feasible solution as well. Ecotact calls these facilities Ikotoilets (Dayson and Sim 2010).

In addition to earnings from the small businesses, Ikotoilets also charge for toilet usage. In urban areas, it generally costs five shillings per use. In slums, Ikotoilets use a pay-per-month system. Residents of slums cannot afford to spend 5 shillings every time they go to the bathroom. So, instead, Ikotoilet charges about US$1.2 (97 KSH) per month per family in these areas. Charging a little over one dollar, Ericson writes, is essentially a full subsidy. Nonetheless, founder David Kuria says he wants residents to feel as if they are paying for the service (Ericson 2010).

David Kuria has an overarching method to sanitation provision that he calls the ―ABCDs of sanitation. ABCD stands for architecture, behaviour change, cleanliness, and disposal technologies. These ABCDs are innovative solutions to help fight cultural taboos against sanitation services in Africa. Kuria emphasizes the use of architecture to make an attractive space for customers. Appropriate architecture creates a public image that “attracts users to the built space, helping them identify with it and feel part of the whole”‖(Dayson and Sim 2010 p. 54).

Ecotact also employs a strategy to “make sanitation sexy.” In 2006, for example, Ecotact brought in Miss Earth Kenya to help promote Ikotoilets and to build community support. Also, each Ikotoilet launch is preceded by a “high-profile gathering of local celebrities and government officials”‖ (Hussain, 2010). This helps to build media coverage about the sanitation issue and also helps to raise public awareness.

Kuria claims that his model is more sustainable than the NGO model. He explains that Ikotoilets have a much longer time frame than toilets installed by many NGOs. “They do not consider revenue recovery as much as they should,”‖ Ericson (2010) writes. “They have the money; they do the job and then leave.” Ikotoilets, on the other hand, form a public-private partnership to ensure sustainability. They enter into a 5 year contract with municipalities to build and exclusively operate their facilities on government-owned land. At the end of the 5 years, the government has the option to either renew their contract with Ecotact or manage the facilities themselves (Hussain, 2010). So far, this system has been successful. There are now 40 Ikotoilets across Kenya and they have been able to recover all their costs and repay their debt. Also, Kuria has signed contracts with ten local authorities for an additional 100 units. Kuria was able to find corporations to sponsor each facility and is now looking to extend his model to the slums and school of Kenya (Ericson, 2010).

There are, however, challenges to Ikotoilets. This model, although successful in middle income districts, has not been successful in the slums (Ericson ,2010).


Sanergy, a company formed at MIT, is another company that is trying to find a market-based solution to sanitation provision. Their mission is to bring sanitation to the slums of Nairobi and to make it profitable. They would like to use “ecosan,”‖or a form of sanitation that transforms human excreta into valuable products, to turn a profit. Their model involves three steps (Sanergy, 2011a).

The first step is to create a network of low cost sanitation centres in informal settlements. Each centre, in this model, will be affordable and provide high quality services, including hot showers and clean toilets. Sanergy will franchise each facility to a local entrepreneur – these entrepreneurs will make money by selling monthly memberships, charging per use for toilets and showers, and selling complementary products (Sanergy, 2011b). Sanergy is currently in the process of branding these toilets. The company came up with the logo “Fresh Life,”‖ based on local research about what people want to see in a toilet. Through this branding, Sanergy hopes to help people see toilets as places of cleanliness.

Sanergy‘s second step is to collect the waste that is produced in these facilities. Waste will be collected in air tight containers. Each day, a Sanergy employee and resident of the informal settlement will visit each facility and collect these airtight containers. They will replace the container they collect with a new, clean container. Then, these employees will transport the filled container, via handcart, to Sanergy‘s central processing facility (Sanergy, 2011b).

The third step begins at Sanergy‘s central processing facility where all the waste is converted into electricity and fertilizer. The facility converts waste into biogas through industrial scale anaerobic digestion. Because the process is centralized and large scale, yield and efficiency are increased relative to household bio digesters. The biogas will then be combusted to generate electricity which Sanergy will sell to the power grid. Output from the bio digesters will be processed into high quality organic fertilizer which can be sold to local farms and gardens (Sanergy, 2011b).

Sanergy hopes that, ultimately, they will make a profit from selling the fertilizer and electricity and local entrepreneurs will make a profit from running the facilities.

Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)

Established by Kamal Kar and the Village Education Recourse Centre (VERC), Community-Led Total Sanitation is a system designed to meet sanitation demands of a community by raising awareness and avoiding subsidies. To avoid subsidies, CLTS efforts will avert extra financial management and conflicts from debauch government ideals. (Castro and Léo 2009) Aside from dealing with subsidies, CLTS drives for communities to self-recognize hygienic concerns associated with open defecation. By fully understanding health concerns, residents will be inspired to evoke change and be able to confront their own defecation problems to create open-defecation free (ODF) societies. As stated on the on the organization‘s webpage, “CLTS triggers the community‘s desire for change, propels them into action and encourages innovation, mutual support and appropriate local solutions, thus leading to greater ownership and sustainability.”‖ (Institute of Development Studies 2011)

The approach behind CLTS is not to construct toilets but rather create a community based approach which analyses how a clean and hygienic system can function. Through government, NGO‘s, and “Natural Leaders”‖ (NLs) in the community, CLTS and ODF motives have impacted communities worldwide. CLTS villages have developed in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Kenya along with over fifty other countries. In each of these countries, villages partnered with multiple stakeholders to enforce CLTS. Partners included national and local government organizations, and NGO‘s. WaterAid, an NGO, partnered with the local government in Bangladesh to campaign for CLTS and ODF. As a result an increase in national sanitary latrine use increased from 29 per cent of families in 2003 to 87 per cent in 2009 (Chambers, 2009). The CLTS approach advocated by multi-stakeholders has the potential to positively impact sanitation efforts and direct organizations towards a common goal.

MobiSan: The Communal Effort in South Africa

MobiSan is a community-driven urine divergent sanitation system consisting of 13 toilets, seven for women, three for men, and three for children. In addition to toilets the system also has 12 waterless urinals and a hand washing station with soap. With an increasing demand for water and sanitation facilities in South Africa, the Mobisan design is a practical communal system which provides users with soap and removes faeces from homes and open environments. One unit has the capacity to serve up to 500 people and is independent from sewer systems. There are many advantages to the MobiSan facility including limited odours and low operation costs. While there are disadvantages to the system, most issues can be alleviated with an onsite caretaker in charge of O&M and educating the community (Naranjo 2009).

The MobiSan Facility was constructed in Pook se Bos by a partnership between three Dutch organisations, Cape Town Water and Sanitation Services Department, and the community. Pook se Bos was chosen by the Water and Sanitation Department because it has poor sanitation conditions, a high population density, and is prone to flooding. In Pook Se Bos the centre is staffed by three caretakers who rotate shifts. The facility is open seven days a week 5am until 9pm. After six months of implementation, the Pook se Bos community has reacted positively to the new system‘s cleanliness and lack of odour. As a result residents have stayed involved and enthusiastic about the facility, and have started to remove past community toilets (Naranjo 2009).


A second example of community-based sanitation systems are BioCentres. Presently, BioCentres are located in Nairobi, Kenya. In many ways, sanitation in Nairobi is worse than it is in Cape Town. Aubrey and Shaw 2009 write that 60% of Nairobi‘s population lives in slums. The two settlements where BioCentre works, Mukuru and Korogocho, are among these slums. Prior to the construction of the BioCentres, a participatory urban appraisal was done in these two communities. This assessment mapped and evaluated “all water points, toilets, showers, drains and waste collection points” (p. 2) using household surveys and focus groups. This survey found that, on average, 480 people shared a single toilet. In some villages, more than 1000 people shared one toilet. Most toilets were pit latrines surrounded by iron sheets and their effluent often flowed into nearby rivers. Only 15% of latrines were well maintained and at least 50% were badly maintained and/or emptied infrequently. Bad maintenance of latrines, in combination with the fear people have to go out at night, resulted in 40% of street drains to contain human waste, the survey found. One of BioCentres partners, GOAL, an NGO that runs youth-focused program in Nairobi, found that diarrhoea, skin infections, and worms were some of the most common disease found amongst the population. GOAL‘s community health project estimated that these diseases accounted for around 40% of morbidity in 2006. The spread of all these diseases is exacerbated by poor sanitation practices.

Umande Trust, a Kenyan based “civil society organization” that works in Kenya‘s informal settlements, noticed this sanitation problem. In response, they developed the BioCentre. The BioCentre is a community latrine block that is owned, built, and operated by CBOs. It is designed alongside the local community. BioCentres treat their waste with water in an underground, onsite bio digester. This anaerobic digestion process removes 90% of the pathogens from liquid effluent – this effluent can then be reused in toilets (Aubrey and Shaw 2009). When space is available, effluent can further be treated through reed beds, and sludge is dried in the sun and directed to a soakaway. The remaining solids can be composted for use in gardens or on farms. 12 facilities are currently running in Kenya and each is estimated to serve around 600 users per day (Naranjo,2009).

What makes BioCentres distinct is the extent to which they value community interaction with the facility. Aubrey and Shaw explain that BioCentres are intended to serve two primary purposes

  • To promote health and dignity in the communities they are located in
  • To serve as community centres

In other words, BioCentres are designed to be more than just latrines. GOAL was in part responsible for this initiative. GOAL believed that if these facilities doubled as community centres, they could be central to promoting health and hygiene initiatives (Aubrey and Shaw 2009).

To make BioCentres into community centres as well as sanitation facilities, a community hall was integrated into the design. Most BioCentres are multi-story buildings. Toilets and showers are located on the ground floor while the upper floor(s) contain a community hall. This hall can be used for community activities as well as a room for a community health promoter.

Two caretakers are chosen by a community committee to maintain and operate these facilities. These caretakers collect fees, fill toilet paper and clean facilities. Because a caretaker must be at the BioCentre at all times, the facility closes at 9 pm (Aubrey and Shaw 2009). BioCentres have proven to be very successful in the communities they are located in. One survey found that, of the 500 people questioned, 458 say they had no objection to using the facility (Naranjo, 2009).

BioCentres are relevant to this study because, although they are primarily community centred, they involve the private sector and NGOs as well. BioCentres charge for the use of their facilities either per use or per month. These fees help to pay for the facilities‘ caretakers. Therefore, this model incorporates a small amount of private sector involvement. Umande Trust partnered with the NGO, GOAL, to help improve sanitation education and awareness promotion within the community. This helps to educate people on the benefits of good sanitation and therefore influences them to use the sanitation facilities more often. Because of this, BioCentres incorporate an NGO partnership into their model as well. The incorporation of these two additional partners, an NGO and the private sector, are strategies that WPI will be able to utilize when they design and construct their own facility.


Murray, S. (2010, Keep it clean: The world‘s water and sanitation challenge. Financial Times, Retrieved from #axzz1X1zAvD2M Dayson and Sim 2010

Ericson, J. (2010). Marketing services in emerging economies.

Hussain, K. Providing Adequate Sanitation to the Base-of-the-Pyramid in Kenya.

Sanergy. (2011a). Sanergy: Building sustainable sanitation in urban slums. Retrieved 08/08, 2011, from

Sanergy. (2011b). Project. Retrieved from Castro and Leo 2009

Institute of Development Studies. (2011). Community-Led Total Sanitation. Retrieved from

Chambers, R. (2009). Going to Scale with Community-Led Total Sanitation: Reflections on Experience,Issues and Ways Forward.IDS Practice Papers

Naranjo, A. (2009). Case study: The MobiSan approach in informal settlements of cape town. (Case Study)

Aubrey, D., & Shaw, R. (2009). Community-based sanitation entrepreneurship in Mukuru and Korogocho informal settlements, nairobi. Paper presented at the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Sustainable Development and Multisectoral Approaches. Proceedings of the 34th WEDC International Conference, United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 18-22 may 2009. 58-63.