My husband and I have five bathrooms in our house, 2.5 per occupant. Inhabitants of the world’s sprawling shantytowns and slums typically share latrines with several hundred people—and often have to pay for the privilege. In many places, the absence of affordable, safe sanitation results in residents of informal settlements constantly suffering from waterborne illnesses; these diseases frequently kill young children.
David Kuria, a former Kenyan career NGO professional, saw opportunity in this sanitation crisis. He spent a few years developing and launching Iko-Toilet centers which offer clean, safe, attractive, reasonably-priced eco-san (short for ecological sanitation) toilets and anchor a host of neighborhood services.
Industrialized world plumbing flushes waste away, though arguably there is no “away.” A great deal of clean water, chemicals, and fossil-fuel energy are consumed to accomplish this method, developed in the 19th century. Eco-san approaches waste as an asset, seeking to kill its inherent pathogens while reclaiming its nutrients and energy.
The underground technology featured in each Iko-Toilet complex is a biodigester, a sealed chamber where waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen. The process produces methane gas—which can be sold as fuel or used for heating water for co-located hot showers—and organic fertilizer.