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Singing the Gospel of Ecosan – A Kenyan Toilet Preaching

Johannes Orodi in Mwala Primary School, Ukambani
(source: Paul Mboya, GTZ-Kenya, Oct. 2009)

Johannes the preacher - this is how Johannes Orodi Odhiambo’s followers and GTZ colleagues affectionately call him. At a workshop in the Ugunja region near Lake Victoria in Western Kenya we could witness him explaining an ecological sanitation (ecosan) technology - the urine diversion dehydration toilet – in a very special way. He said: “What God has separated man should not unite”. On his question “Isn’t it right?” his audience answered “Yes it is!” in an almost frenetic kind of way.

The concept behind the ecosan technology is really simple: The nutrients that one person excretes in one year, are sufficient to grow 250kg maize. Not only in times of increasing fertiliser prices and exacerbated food shortage, like in the hunger crisis in East Africa in 2009, this is a promising approach to guarantee food security. Furthermore ecosan systems are often saving water. But possibilities are going even further: The biomass that is collected in the dehydration toilets can be used to generate biogas which is used for cooking. This protects the climate, since less forest must be cleared in order to obtain firewood.

“What God has separated man should not unite”
(Mwala Primary School, Ukambani, source: Paul Mboya, GTZ-Kenya, Oct. 2009)

For Johannes Orodi mainstreaming ecosan is more about breaking taboos than only talking about technical and environmental aspects. The current cultural tradition in the region is that the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law are not allowed to use the same toilet. Thus the daughter-in-law is forced to relieve herself outside at night, so nobody can see her. With the new toilet this is different: Now the daughter-in-law is asked to use the same toilet, because her urine is precious as it will be used as fertiliser by the family. At this point Johannes was coming up with a surprising perception: Now the toilet is no longer a simple toilet, but a factory for fertiliser production. (Smiles in the audience.) So from now on a student, who excuses himself in order to go to the bathroom during the lesson, would say to the teacher: “Sir, I ask for permission to add my natural resources to the factory.” The audience was laughing out loud and people understood the potential of their new toilet. The story of the “factory” is readily spread and arouses interest everywhere.

The regional health agent who is performing the workshop together with Johannes, reports that many people come down with cholera in the region. This is often caused by absent or insufficient sanitation and hygiene education. The pit latrines are regularly flooded during rainy season. Thus the faeces are steadily flushed in the water bodies or wells and pollute them with faecal germs. As a consequence cholera and other water-borne diseases are occurring and often these diseases end fatal. Since the ecosan team is active in the region, the number of people that are ill with cholera is continuously decreasing.

Mango and banana plants were distributed to the users of UDDTs to support economic gain from urine and feaces use (source: Johannes O. Odhiambo, GTZ-Kenya, 2010)

Moreover experiences have shown that in addition to the health advantages people’s benefits from ecosan are also of an economic nature. Farmers use the urine and the composted remnants in order to increase their yield. Hagen von Bloh, who supervised the project as a GTZ project leader until the beginning of 2009, explains that the regional farmers recognised that vegetables that are grown on urine-fertilised soils are much tastier than vegetable form unfertilised soils.
The Kenyan people and the persons in charge at the water ministry are receiving support with the implementation by the “Ecosan Promotion Project” since the middle of 2006. This project is embedded in the reform of the complete Kenyan water sector and is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The Ecosan Promotion Project is carried out by the GTZ.

UDDT build by the Ecosan Promotion Project in Mwala Primary School
(source: Paul Mboya, GTZ-Kenya, Oct. 2009)

Meanwhile, about 1000 urine diversion dehydration toilets (UDDTs) are built for several thousand people in Western Kenya. Until the middle of 2010, 50,000 Kenyan people are going to benefit from different ecosan projects in households, schools, prisons and public toilets at bus stations and market squares.

Further information:




Household UDDT in Bungoma (source: Moses Wakala, GTZ-Kenya, Jan. 2010)

EU-GTZ/SIDA EcoSan Promotion Project

Type of project:
Rural household and school based sanitation

Project period:
Start of construction: October 2008
End of operation: May 2010
Ongoing monitoring period until Nov 2010

The EcoSan Promotion Project (EPP) was a project component of the GTZ Water Sector Reform Programme in Kenya and co-funded by the European Union, SIDA and GTZ. It worked in close partnership with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (Maji House). During the project period (November 2006 - June 2010) 804 doors of double chamber Urine Diverting Dehydrating Toilets (UDDTs) and 13 Decentralized Treatment System (DTS) were installed. Many engineers, artisans and professional companies were trained in the planning and construction of such toilets.

The project’s aim was to develop, test and promote the Ecological Sanitation concept including development of technical designs for large and small-scale sanitation projects in Kenya. The project focused on rural household and school based sanitation but also implemented toilets on public places like bus stations and institutions like prisons. In the rural areas EPP worked directly with CBOs and school authorities. Initially also a few NGOs helped in the implementation such as KWAHO and ALDEF. The EPP also worked together with the water sector institutions such as the Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF), various Water Services Boards (LVSWSB, LVNWSB, ATHI WSB, TANATHI WSB), KEWI and many Water and Sanitation Companies like NAIVAWASS in Naivasha. The WSTF will continue to fund EcoSan facilities around the country in coordination with the regional Water Services Boards and Water and sanitation companies.

Here you can see some nice pictures of UDDTs build by the EPP in Kenya:

UDDTs in rural households:

Household UDDT in semi-desert area of Wajir (source: Patrick Onyango, GTZ-Kenya, June 2008)

Back view of household UDDT in Bungoma (source: Moses Wakala, GTZ-Kenya, Jan. 2010)

UDDTs in schools:

School UDDTs with Urinal at Mwala Primary School, Ukambani (source: Johannes Orodi , GTZ-Kenya, Oct. 2009)

The UDDTs shown above are double chamber urine diverting dehydration toilet. Faeces and urine are separated through a special plastic squatting pan.

See picture below:

Inside of a Urine diversion dehydration toilet (UDDT) with ash container, scoop and instruction posters

The faeces are collected in chambers, where they are dried for at least 6 month while the urine is collected in a 20 liter container connected with a pipe.

Faeces collection chamber (Source: David Watako, GTZ Kenya (July 2009)

Urine collection chamber with collection container

(Source: David Watako, GTZ Kenya (July 2009), Moses Wakala, GTZ Kenya (Jan. 2010))

The urine and the dried faeces of the UDDTs are used as fertilizer on the farms of the UDDT owner. Main crops which the products are used for are maize, bananas, kales and mangos.

For schools or public places with provision of water supply EPP promote a system of low-flush toilet that are connected to a decentralized wastewater treatment system called DEWATS where the human waste is used for production of biogas and irrigation water for agricultural production. The biogas is then used in the kitchen for cooking and helps to supplement firewood. The treated water is rich in nutrients and is used for growing all stable foods like maize, bananas, mangos and vegetables.

Pictures above: DEWATS were biogas is produced implemented in Ambira Boys High School, Ugunja and a public place in Naivasha (source: Laura Kraft and Paul Mboya, GTZ Kenya 2009)

All toilet users were trained and educated on the use of the facility and the reuse and benefits of the human waste. Furthermore health and hygiene promotion was also included as there is a lack of awareness like handwashing after the toilet use. The monitoring and training activities will be ending in November 2010.

Awareness creation and training in Mwala Primary School, Ukambani (source: Paul Mboya, GTZ-Kenya, Oct. 2009)

There are also some awesome videos showing the great work of EEP in Kenya

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact the persons named below:

Technical Planning and Implementing Support

EU-SIDA-GTZ EcoSan Promotion Project (EPP), Kenya
Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI)
3rd Floor/Suite 316, Maji House
Ngong Road Nairobi Kenya
T: +254-20 272 3353

Paul Patrick Onyango
Project leader
T: +254 721 172 661
E: onyangopadak@yahoo.com,

Moses Wakala
GTZ Sanitation officer, Western Province
T: +254 721 743171
E: wakala.gtz@gmail.com

Wycliffe Osumba
GTZ Sanitation officer, Nyanza Province
T: +254 712 930 516

Odhiambo Johannes Orodi
Project advisor and Communication officer
T: +254 725 658 150
E: orodiodhiambo@yahoo.com

Watako David
Site Manager, Ugenya
T: +254 724 274 103
E: david.nrmn@gmail.com

More information and photos:


SuSanA case studies for the EcoSan Promotion Project in Kenya:


What is ecosan (ecological sanitation)

Ecological Sanitation for Eco-system-based Societies

Ecological Sanitation (ecosan) is an approach that offers many advantages over and above sanitation provision, an otherwise much neglected issue. Ecological sanitation is aimed at closing the nutrient and water cycles. Ecosan prescribes that human excreta along with household organics are sanitised and the resulting plant nutrients are reused in agricultural production in the proximity of human settlements. Water from the households’ showers/baths and kitchen, i.e. greywater, undergoes treatment and can subsequently safely be re-cycled. Ecosan proposes sanitation that limits the use of water as a means of disposal. This is a particular advantage since water shortage affects more than 80 countries and 40% of humanity. In contrast, water-based sanitation discharges of untreated sewage into rivers and other bodies of water represent a severe problem around the world with 90% of towns and cities in developing countries lacking sewage treatment. In 2001 only 80 out of 550 large European Union cities had advanced/tertiary treatment. Another acute problem is contaminated sludge from conventional treatment facilities making it impossible to reuse.

Focus on Closing the Loop on Sanitation

Ecological sanitation includes source-separation of human excreta into urine and faeces fractions, recovering the nutrients for reuse in local cultivation. Human urine contains about 75% of the nutrients excreted by the body and represents about 80% of the total excreta volume. Sanitized faecal matter, composted with household organics, is an excellent soil conditioner. Using these approaches, ecosan enables environment-friendly recovery in contrast to many conventional waste-based sanitation systems that mix human excreta with storm water runoff and industrial effluents creating a mega-sized water treatment problem, which is difficult for most cities around the world to cope with. Most of the world’s sewage treatment plants produce effluents containing human pathogens, nutrients and toxic compounds. Pit latrines, septic tanks and cess pits often contaminate the ground water, the largest source of freshwater on the planet. Ecological sanitation represents a new approach to sanitation, whereby human excreta is recovered to soil systems and kept away from surface and ground water systems.


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