Tag Archives: David Kuria

AMCOW AfricaSan Awards 2010 Winners: Feliciano dos Santos, Takiso Achame and David Kuria

A musician and activist whose songs about using latrines and washing hands are positively influencing the hygiene practices of communities in Mozambique; a widow who has risen through her caste status to lead a campaign against open defecation in her village in Ethiopia; and a toilet entrepreneur whose innovative partnership with local authorities is changing the way public toilets in Kenyan towns are managed, are the top winners of this year’s AMCOW AfricaSan Awards.

Feliciano dos Santos. Photo: © Steven Fisch Photography / The Independent

Musician Feliciano dos Santos was announced winner of the Grassroots Champion Award for dedicating his life and his music to campaigning for better public health through clean water and adequate sanitation. Santos and his Massukos Band have been using music to inspire thousands of villagers in rural Mozambique to curb the spread of disease by adopting good hygiene practices, such as washing hands, boiling drinking water and building latrines.

Takiso Achame, a widowed member of a traditionally discriminated community in the remote village of Shashera in Southern Ethiopia, was picked for the Distinguished Woman Leader in Sanitation for her exemplary local leadership over a communal cause. Even though her community often attracts the least attention from health promoters and local leaders in terms of accessing water supply, sanitation and hygiene services including awareness, Achame has become the self-appointed champion to eliminate open defecation in her village.

David Kuria won the Public Service Award for implementing a partnership model that is delivering safe, clean and affordable sanitation to the urban poor in Kenya. His company, Ecotact, is pioneering a private-public partnership approach with local authorities, and water and sewerage utilities to build public toilet malls in urban centres and informal settlements. By demonstrating the viability of sanitation as a business, David has been able to attract more than US$1.2 Million for the construction of 40 public toilet facilities in 12 municipalities in Kenya.

The top winners were announced by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) Task Force on Sanitation during the Africa Water Week being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (November 22-26, 2010).

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David Kuria – Sanitation & Toilet Entrepreneur

David Kuria: Interview with a Sanitation and Toilet Entrepreneur

In the sub-Saharan region, 80 percent of recorded illnesses are water-born diseases, and more than two-thirds of these people don’t have access to basic sanitation. While access to safe drinking water is gaining importance in the political arena, it’s still hard to talk about restrooms and toilets, but today I’m speaking with a man who really does know toilets. David Kuria is founder of EcoTact. It’s an organization based in Nairobi that’s really transforming sanitation systems in Kenya and the greater sub-Saharan region. EcoTact’s campaign breaks down the stereotypes about sanitation. It’s also created a sustainable model for the Ikotoilet, [5] a community hub of stores and services all built around a public toilet.

David, tell me about how water-born diseases and basic sanitation are related, and what kinds of transformations need to be made in health and sanitation?

…the first thing you see, beautiful thing, is a toilet. When you come to the city of Nairobi, you’ll be shocked. And the next thing you’ll be asking is what is this? It’s a public toilet. We are putting toilet monuments just to try and bring back the importance to our people of public convenience and public toilets.

We are trying to look at social transformation, economic transformation, and to some extent political transformation as far as sanitation is concerned. I think this is quite a distinct situation from the West, because from the word go, when we are talking about sanitation, back home we don’t talk about it. It’s a less topical subject that, at homes, we don’t talk about toilets at homes, we don’t talk about toilets at school, and even at the political level. When you look at the close spectrum, we are moving ahead very well in addressing the water situation, but nobody wants to be associated with sanitation. It’s a taboo in African culture. To us, what we are trying to say is, “How do we break these cultural barriers, economic barriers and political barriers to be able to accelerate sanitation access to our people?” Again, more than half of the people across the region have no sanitation. They’re either using open defecation, even in cities, or what we are calling in Nairobi, The Flying Toilet, just using the polythene bags and throwing them away. It’s really the key concern of lack of access, but also the behavior transformation that’s associated with improving dignity, improving public health of our people.

Sanitation is not something that’s openly discussed in sub-Saharan culture or really anywhere, so how are you working to get beyond the social taboo that restrooms and toilets have in the region and really anywhere?

What we are doing in my company is an initiative we launched two years ago called the Ikotoilet, which is derived from ecological systems. Now the idea of Ikotoilet again goes beyond the toilet. How do you break those cultural barriers of sanitation or toilets that we cannot talk about? We have gone beyond that, what we are calling thinking beyond the toilet, by putting up one aspect of sustainability, and that’s what we are calling the toilet mall, where you can go to the toilet for more than the pee and poo function, you can have your shoe polished, you can transfer money ATM, we have a system in the toilet, you can buy your soft drink, there’s a fresh cold drink, and trying to lead a transformation in the social thinking associated with a toilet. That is critical. Now the other aspect is how do you transform our behavior aspect of this?

We have engaged several celebrities in the country, including the beauty pageant, to talk about toilets. Everybody sees the beauty pageant. There are religious leaders going to the toilet and talking about it in public. Now we have been able to engage our political heads up to the very high level, including the Vice President, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in Kenya.

We have engaged several celebrities in the country, including the beauty pageant, to talk about toilets. Everybody sees the beauty pageant. There are religious leaders going to the toilet and talking about it in public. Now we have been able to engage our political heads up to the very high level, including the Vice President, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in Kenya, for them to come and visit the toilet, and the public is like, “How can they visit a public toilet?” Really, it’s purely trying to reinforce the importance of sanitation within the country. Apart from having the toilet mall, each mall is being served by ten young people, boys and girls. Again, it’s a pull of employment creation. This is providing leading number of young people engaged, some in shoe shining, others cleaning the facility. So within one facility of 50 square meters, we are having ten young people fully engaged into really viable employment opportunity. It’s really that transformation where we are trying to pull people. The other key aspect is again, in our tradition, most across Africa, is that you don’t see a toilet when you go there. It’s something hidden. Nobody needs to know you are going to a toilet. Now we have brought that to a front. For us to be able to address sanitation, we need to bring sanitation on the fore, and we have done that even at schools, so that as you go to the school, the most first thing you see, beautiful thing, is a toilet. When you come to the city of Nairobi, you’ll be shocked. And the next thing you’ll be asking is what is this? It’s a public toilet. We are putting toilet monuments just to try and bring back the importance to our people of public convenience and public toilets. Really, those are some of the transformations that we are undertaking across the country.

Some might find some wry humor here, but can you give us a few examples of responses you’ve been getting and how are people reacting to the idea of publicizing the private space of the restroom?

The first time when we launched it last year, it came from the media. When the Catholic Bishop… you know the blessing when they normally bless their facilities… he was blessing the toilet, and everybody in the media was landing, “Oh, you go there, there’s holy shit.” They were talking about holy shit. That’s really creating humor, but again the message gets passsed. Very interesting to see the beauty pageant, Miss Kenya, visiting the public toilet, and everybody’s like, “Oh, what is she doing?” To me, it’s really incredible when one of my workers, because again even been getting employees in the initial start was very difficult, but one of the workers when the Vice President visited in the toilet and he greeted the girl and talked to the girl, it was unbelievable. The girl had to tell the whole story in her house and family, “You know, I met the Vice President. Where else would you meet a Vice President? In the loo, yeah?”

When the Catholic Bishop… you know the blessing when they normally bless their facilities… he was blessing the toilet, and everybody in the media was landing, “Oh, you go there, there’s holy shit.” They were talking about holy shit. That’s really creating humor, but again the message gets passed.

She became very open, and she wanted to be identified that I work for Ikotoilet, and they have (a) uniform, and she’s comfortable in wearing it at home, “You know, I work with Ikotoilet.” She has a photo of the Vice President in the toilet talking to her. To me, it’s that excitement, for us to break the barrier associated with toilet and be able to solve really the very many casualties that are dying from water-born diseases. It really brings out, again to us, it’s that debate that needs to come out. We need to engage and really bring out in the media, bring out on a political level, where we are able to engage and looking for solutions. To me, I think, one of the critical things when I was starting this initiative, and really made several inquiries, I’m an architect by profession, was that don’t dare put soft drink in a toilet. Nobody in Kenya and outside that will be able to buy that. Today, you go to the Ikotoilets in the city, and people are queueing over the lunch hour to grab a Coke and some snack in the toilet. To me, really a transformation within less than a year, that’s really unbelievable that all of us urban people are now queuing in the toilet. It has also become like now a point of really a signature in terms of location. You’ll find people talking about can we meet at Ikotoilet on that street. The most visible thing around the street.

So David, tell me how education plays into all of this and how are the governments participating?

We have now started the initiative, what we are calling the Ikotoilet for Schools, again trying to transform, and we have beautiful toilets in our schools that kids want to use, want to be associated with. When you go to the school, and that’s the most beautiful thing in a school, it’s the school signature. For you to be, “Wow, in our school, we have the Ikotoilet.” To me, it’s most of these problems, especially social problems, can be addressed by purely some of social transformation, missions, and social marketing, where we are telling people let’s make sanitation an accepted subject, let’s talk about it. Again, like some ten years back about HIV-AIDS, nobody in Africa wanted to talk about it. Today, now, people have opened up and are able to talk about it and solve the problem. Now sanitation, despite killing more people than HIV-AIDS and polio combined in Africa, nobody wanted to talk about it because people think,

Nobody wants to talk about that subject. We need to open up the debate; we need to put it on the table and for us to get solutions.

“Oh, it’s about shit.” And nobody wants to talk about that subject. We need to open up the debate; we need to put it on the table and for us to get solutions. If you look at our government of the Sahara Region, the financial and budget allocation for sanitation, it’s not fair, and we need to address it at that high level. We need to see governments allocating sanitation budgets equivalent to water budgets. You put sanitation, and you put installation on water so that we have save water and sanitation as a combined piece. That’s when we can now talk about hygiene promotion in earnest.

Link to complete article/podcast on Circle of Blue

Nairobi – City toilets are now hubs of entertainment

kuriaAnswering a call of nature in Nairobi’s Central Business has always been a nightmare but it is no longer a scary business

Mr David Kuria [CEO of Ecotact] has been on a mission to ensure trips to city toilets are both pleasant and memorable.

For him, toilets are not all about filth and rot envisioned in most people’s minds.

Disturbed by lack of toilets in most towns and informal settlements, he quit a well paying job as an architect with a non-governmental organisation to engage in ‘toilet’ business.

“I quit at the time when polythene papers were being used as toilets in Kibera and other slums. I felt I could play a role in improving people’s lifestyles,” he says.

Kuria, 37, says he quit his job because it limited his services to the rich few.

“I used to serve only a few people who could afford to pay for it, yet the masses I really wanted to serve lived miserably. I could not resist climbing down to their world,” he says.

Kuria made solid waste management his entry point. While still working for the NGO, he fundraised for people who had taken up garbage recycling.

“That way, I became part of the solution to the sanitation problems of the majority. One thing led to another, culminating in ecologically friendly toilets I christened ‘Iko’, a convenient version of ecological,” he says.

Andrew Macharia Gakunju, 70, who founded City Garbage recyclers in Maringo estate, was among Kuria’s earliest beneficiaries. Kuria lobbied the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fence off a plot Macharia had acquired from the City Council of Nairobi to keep away grabbers. UNDP also donated various recycling machines and a pick-up truck to Macharia.

In appreciation, Macharia recommended Kuria for an award from Ashoka; a global organisation that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs. He won a Change Makers award of $200,000 (Sh16 million). The East African Breweries later donated a similar amount to Kuria “to further boost his worthy cause”.

Armed with architectural skills and the experience gleaned over eight years in urban and environmental management, Kuria opted to devote his time to create toilets that are environment friendly.

He has taken solid waste management a notch higher through his plan to covert human waste deposited at ‘Iko’ toilets into energy saving biogas to light premises and into natural manure to be packaged and sold at affordable prices to boost agriculture.

He says urine will be collected in tanks and processed into urea to be used for top dressing crops instead of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate, which is beyond the reach of most farmers.
Kuria works in collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

To facilitate conversion of urine into urea, he plans to install a waterless urinal technology imported from China.

“The urinals will save us more than 10,000 litres of water at each toilet daily,” he says.

Kuria also wants to change the notion that a toilet is a messy, dirty place.

Catholic priest ‘blessed’ it

“Besides the snacks, the music and a business like atmosphere in and around the toilets, we are talking to politicians to hold public functions within the ‘iko’ toilets,” he says.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo has held a function at one of the toilets. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka had his shoes brushed at a stand near one of the toilets at Aga Khan Walk.

Kuria says a Catholic priest also ‘blessed’ one of the toilets.

The architect says he will sign contracts with popular musicians to entertain their fans at the toilets.

“Those who love ohangla, isukuti, mugithi, nyatiti and ndombolo may soon find themselves dancing around ‘Iko’ toilets,” he says.

He also plans to bring aboard comedians such as the popular Vitimbi troupe.

Sports are high on the agenda of Kuria’s promotional exploits to change people’s thinking about toilets.

“This month, we are launching a toilet tournament in Mathare to link toilets with sports”.

And that is not all. Kuria says he is working on a reality show on toilets to be aired on local television.

“There will be prizes for those who best portray toilets as multipurpose utilities,” he says.

With a chuckle he says: “Toilets are the multiple service units of the future. You may soon be doing mobile phone money transfers in the toilet. Airtime is available and it is only a matter of time before you start buying handsets at toilet booths,” he says.

There are eleven ‘Iko’ toilets in Nairobi and Limuru and Naivasha. At the precincts of the toilets, there are outlets for snacks, fruits and water.

Other services include shoe shining. There are also installed music systems to belt out tunes that soothe nerves as one answers the call of nature.

Kuria says his innovative approach to the vital toilet service has earned him recognition from the World Toilet Organisation, based in China, with the inclusion of ‘Iko’ toilets in the hall of fame of sanitation. He is also among 2,000 businesspeople recognised by Ashoka.

He plans to expand these facilities countrywide exapnsion. “We also want to go to other countries. Uganda and South Africa have already approached me for ‘Iko’ toilets,” he says.

Born in 1971 in Elburgon, Kuria went to Michinda High School and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1992. He is pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Environmental Science. He is married with two children.

Read More – The Standard

Entrepreneurs Tackle Sanitation in Africa

kuriaWASHINGTON, Mar 2 (OneWorld.net) – Three local social entrepreneurs have come up with creative — and lucrative — solutions to poor sanitation in their communities in Africa, where six out of ten people do not have access to a sanitary toilet.

Social entrepreneur David Kuria’s Ecotact “toilet malls” in Nairobi, Kenya “toilet malls” provide bathroom facilities along with shoe shines, food, phone booths, and other commercial services. © Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Photos (flickr) David Kuria’s “toilet malls” are attracting tens of thousands of customers each day in Nairobi’s densely populated Kibera neighborhood. Trevor Mulaudzi employs hundreds of South Africans in a public-toilet clean up enterprise, while Nigerian Dr. Joseph Adelegan is turning animal waste into cooking fuel for the urban poor in Africa’s most populous nation. (See the full article below.)

Providing low-income people with access to clean water is one of the most important issues facing developing countries worldwide. Studies show that sanitation projects deliver highly impressive economic returns of $9 for each $1 of investment, primarily by lowering health care costs and allowing for more regular school and work attendance.

Since the early 1990s, 1 billion people have gained access to clean water worldwide thanks to government initiatives and nongovernmental projects. Nonetheless, 18 percent of the world’s population — including half of the population of South Asia — continues to suffer the indignity of open defecation, mostly in rural areas. Global access to safe sanitation increased only from 54 percent to 62 percent between 1990 and 2006, leaving 2.5 billion people without access.

From: Water Advocates

February 26, 2009 (Washington, D.C.)- Human excrement is serious business. Three African social entrepreneurs, David Kuria, Joseph Adelegan and Trevor Mulaudzi, spoke at the National Press Club last week to share this revolutionary approach to solving the global sanitation crisis. The entrepreneurs speak from experience; each has established lucrative and groundbreaking businesses related to people “doing their business.” Their business models, once considered distractions in the traditional policy or charity realm, are proving to be successful ventures. Their innovations are successfully shifting social behavior and improving public health, the environment and the economy. Trevor Mulaudzi, a South African entrepreneur, stressed that “no one wants to use a dirty toilet no matter how poor they are.”

Entrepreneur David Kuria is making the toilet a hot commodity in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya. To increase demand for and maintenance of toilets in the slums, he founded a venture called Ecotact. “Why just do two quick things in the toilet?” Kuria asks. Ecotact builds “toilet malls” that provide bathroom facilities along with shoe shines, food, phone booths and other commercial services. Each toilet complex is equipped with 8 toilets, a water kiosk, a baby changing station and gender separate showers. 30,000 customers use Ecotact’s facilities every day. Corporations now vie for advertising, while the nearby vendors strive to keep the toilets clean. And it is the business model, not charity or education alone, that drives this success.

Lately the toilet malls have been attracting unlikely champions – a popular comedian who does a stand-up sketch about toilets, the country’s beauty queen, Miss Kenya, and the nation’s Vice President himself, who recently stopped in to use the facilities and pose for photos. In a continent where more than six out of every ten people do not have a sanitary toilet, this new service is removing the taboo around human waste, creating jobs, improving self esteem and making communities enthusiastic about hygiene.

Kuria has recently won several international awards for his work. He is collaborating with Ashoka, Rotary, the Global Water Challenge, the Acumen Fund and other social entrepreneurs internationally to scale up his model and combine it with similar innovations. There is promise for it to extend throughout Kenya and the rest of Africa.

For Nigerian entrepreneur Dr. Joseph Adelegan, a civil engineer by training, human and animal waste was not waste but an opportunity that should not be wasted. A nearby slaughterhouse had been disposing daily the waste of 1,000 slaughtered cows directly into a local river. Joseph designed a bioreactor that digests the waste into biogas that generates electricity and is used for cooking fuel. Local women’s organizations sell the fuel at affordable prices for urban poor. The solid waste left over is a cheap and effective fertilizer. His models, named “Cows to Kilowatts” and “Power to the Poor,” also reduce emission of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. His initiative has also improved the quality of the water that the local community uses for cleaning and bathing.

Adelegan’s successful business model not only tackles the technological aspects of this problem, but – even more powerfully – it has mobilized the community. It has even stirred the Nigerian government, which used to block such initiatives, into action. In 2008, his model was accepted into national policy and will be replicated within other slaughterhouses in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Dr. Adelegan, has also been featured on CNN, awarded prizes from the World Economic Forum and covered recently in Fortune magazine. He is now working with other social entrepreneurs to extend the approach to other African countries.

Trevor Mulaudzi, a South African entrepreneur, applies many of these same principles in his business, The Clean Shop. A clean toilet is good business for The Clean Shop. It offers schools and large organizations sanitation services, such as cleaning toilets and repairing plumbing in schools, teaching students hygiene lessons.

A mining geologist by training, Mulaudzi recalled how he set out on this career path the very day he found children skipping class and defecating in the open because their school’s toilet was piled with feces. Now, The Clean Shop employees three hundred people who move in and clean up unusable toilet facilities. They turn them into attractive and dignified places, sometimes with no initial payment or contract.

Mulaudzi approaches the sanitation problem from the perspective of an educator rather than a cleaning contractor. He has used such motivational techniques as requiring that each student bring his or her own roll of toilet paper as the “admission ticket” to the shiny new restroom. In doing so, he builds a sense of pride, dignity and responsibility. It usually evolves into toilet-user demand for clean toilets, which ripples up to change administrative and even government policy. Students in one location even held a protest when Mulaudzi’s contract was not renewed; it prompted the administration to reverse their decision.

Trevor Mulaudzi is a finalist in the Ashoka Changemaker’s recent global competition for innovative solutions to water and sanitation problems. In addition, Trevor has recently been hosted by the government of Malaysia to discuss transferring the lessons of this model.

These three leading entrepreneurs have been working with other entrepreneurs in Africa to establish a new vision of water and waste management where clean water and facilities inspire public pride which translates to political influence, and where waste management and sanitation deliver public health and environmental benefits through an economically profitable business model.

“It can’t be business as usual-real impact needs a new approach that integrates together different approaches to resolving the water and sanitation crisis,” concludes Joseph Adelegan.

Source – One World