Home > Kenya > Nairobi – Iko toilets are now hubs of entertainment

Nairobi – Iko 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 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.

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  1. David Bates
    June 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Can you send a picture and a detailed drawing please of the Iko toilets?

  2. jack oduor
    June 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

    good work brother. can iko toilet work well in prone flood areas like bundalagi and kano?
    what about schools in nyanza?
    can you call me on 0727917884 for an appointment plz?

  3. Anonymous
    September 29, 2009 at 12:01 am

    David… I meet you at the session at the World Urban Forum, where you presented the IKO toilet.. fascinating project.

    Just a couple of quick questions. My daughter would like to use this example for a school economics project. Each group of 3 students has an initial investment of 75.000 USD, to invest in a business idea, which will contribute to ecomonic growth. She would particualary like, in addition, to contribute to the environment and eco friendly waste management. Her business idea comes from the fact that in Ncaragua, where we live, one of the growth ares in business is tourism. Yet the very basic of services .e.g. toilets, are lacking. There is a small town which has seen some sustained growth in tourism, yet there are no toilets, so the idea of a deluxe, top of the range -clean, hyigenic toilet mall with other services, would be ideal. Cruise ships come into this small port, and we are not quite sure what they do other than go to the toilet before disembarking and cross the legs the rest of the day!!!

    So first, would an initial investoment of 75,000 USD be sufficient to put up the first toilet block. Can you send some specifications. We would like to include hot showers, using solar panels… This would a service for those bathers who want to have a nice warm shower after being in the sea. A side business would be renting umbrellas and deck chairs on the beach, together with a shop that would provide basics for wise sun bathing, and some eco souvenirs, including recycled paper. In other words, we would like to give the day tripper or the cruise line passenger, and the local community a top of the range quality service, and do our bit for the environment.

    Any information would be very welcome, especially how the IKO works, for the environment )how have the dry urinals worked_ Is there acceptance of this. Ideally if you could send me the presentation that you gave with the wonderful pictures, it would be very useful to show, where the ·good idea· came from.

    Finally, we are against the clock on this one… so any information asap, would be most gratefully appreciated.


  4. Janet
    January 5, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Hellow, this is interesting.
    I need to know the location of the Iko toilets in Kenya
    Thank you

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