Flying Toilets – By Hiwot Shiferaw

By Hiwot Shiferaw.

We face the same problems with ‘flying toilets’ as we do with any other sanitation issue..out of sight, out of mind. But flying toilets are more within sight than we realise and accept. The practice is simple – use a plastic bag for defecation and throw it as far away as possible. According to the encyclopedia, flying toilets are phenomena associated mainly with the slums around Nairobi, Kenya, and especially Kibera. According to a report from the UNDP launched in Cape Town on November 9, 2006, “two in three people [in Kibera] identify the flying toilet as the primary mode of excreta disposal available to them.”


How do we make a cultural and/or a shift of mind set?

In 2000 the United Nation member countries passed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with eight specific targets, to insure international growth by 2015. One of these goals is environmental sustainability, through which sanitation was one of the leading concerns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than forty percent of the world population is without basic sanitation, making the 2015 MDGs target difficult to achieve. In extreme situations like those in Uganda, poor sanitation is responsible for 17% of the deaths of children per year.

Besides health issues, a study conducted by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in Uganda found that inadequate sanitation has a significant effect on the economy. The WSP found that Uganda loses $117 million per year due to poor sanitation. Uganda loses $41 million each year to open defecation and $8.1 million due to time wasted looking for a private location for using latrine. Even though access to latrine is a significant issue, the waste load on treatment plants and the environment are equally significant. As indicated above, the demographics that inadequate sanitation affects the most are the poor and children, which according to the Population Reference Bureau reflect the demographics of the developing world.

There are numerous approaches to improving sanitation, two of which are latrine/toilet building and wastewater treatment for latrine effluent. There are two companies that are leading the ways in building toilets and wastewater treatment, Eko Tact/Ikotoilet (Kenya) and Waste Enterprisers (Ghana).The Ikotoilet has developed a toilet mall concept to optimize the value of sanitation and provide a sound revenue stream, which help in subsiding the sanitation aspect, in urban slums and high density public sites in Kenya. The Ikotoilet “malls” include micro-vendors selling beverages, newspapers, pre-paid phone cards, and shoe shines, attracting users to the facilities and helping to cover operational costs. The Ikotoilet project provides “convenient, hygienic, and sustainable safe water and sanitation services in 13 urban centers, serves 44,000 residents; creates 400 jobs for targeted youth; influences a shift in municipal water and sanitation policies and priorities; transforms, restores, and ensures continued dignity of the growing urban population and revolutionizes public attitudes towards toilets; and creates environmental and sanitation awareness in the informal settlements.”

Waste Enterprises is based in Accra, Ghana. Their vision is simple: “creating a sanitation revolution that will propel Africa to the forefront of human waste reuse and eradicate disease”. So how do they do that? They are making fecal sludges, the next big biodiesel feedstock, engineering a renewable fuel from the waste among other things.

What other organisations do we know in our communities that are changing the way we see waste, especially fecal waste? Let’s share them and discuss.

For more information on Waste Enterprisers, visit ->

For more information on the Ikotoilet, visit ->


Hiwot grew up surrounded by the sound of censers, smell of incense, street markets, tea, smell of freshly roasted coffee, community gatherings and celebrations, where braids told history and outfits echo African self expression, prayer calls from mosques and churches, more languages spoken than one can understand, and soccer games on every street corner, Addis Abeba. Hiwot believes in an economic growth that support this life style, a truly African economy, that is sustainable and nurturing of the peoples culture, traditions, and the environment. Hiwot tweets from @hiwotsh and can be reached via e-mail at

One thought on “Flying Toilets – By Hiwot Shiferaw

  1. Nath
    August 21, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Brilliant articles and call for the care of the environment. Keep it up

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