Winners of “Reinventing the toilet” challenge

In a move to promote new and affordable dry toilets, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a challenge to universities one year ago. 22 universities took part. The aim was to design toilets that can “capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price”. In a press release of August 14, 2012, the winners were named.

The California Institute of Technology in the USA received the 100’000 dollar first prize for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.

The other three winners were Cranfield University (UK – membranes/vaporisation), Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited (India – eco-friendly), Research Triangle Institute (USA – biomass energy conversion) and the University of Colorado Boulder (USA – solar toilet producing bio charcoal).

The Swiss team of Tove Larsen (EAWAG) wins a recognition award of USD 40’000.- for their prototype.

This article is based on the press release of August 14, 2012, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and on an EAWAG press release .

Mukura Forest – an almost lost treasure

Battle against many oddities by an IEES-related organisation.Battle against many oddities by an IEES-related organisation.

The Mukura Forest is located within the Albertine Rift Region in Rwanda’s Western Province, within the Congo-Nile crest. It used to be part of a continuous mountain forest from Nyungwe to the Volcanos Park. Today, this ancient forest range with areas of endemic species in Africa and the world is split in four important protected areas in Rwanda from south to north : the Nyungwe, Mukura and Gishwati forests and the Volcano Park.
Mukura Forest’s mean annual temperature is 15 °C, the average altitude: 2600 m.a.s.l and the mean annual rainfall is 1500 mm (erratic). As the relief is very accidented and the tree cover very low, there is a high risk of sol erosion and thereby land degradation.

Mukura Forest has reserve status since 1951: it then covered 3000 ha. Until today about 50% of the forest’s surface are lost due to deforestation, paralleled with high loss of biodiversity (highly disturbed). Currently, 1600 ha are left. This amounts to an alarming situation which arose for several reasons. The population pressure is high: up to 600 inhabitants per km2 ; this aggravates deforestation and consequently erosion. The level of poverty is high: the monthly income of households is 3 US$ and there is a high vulnerability of children (20% are not going to school). Finally, the current climate variations are increasing the stress on the natural resources which are already overused by the local communities

In this difficult situation the local organisation ARECO-RWANDA NZIZA (Association Rwandaise des Ecologistes), whose national coordiantor is Ms Dancilla Mukakamari, is engaged in several projects aimed at saving the precious rudiments of Mukura Forest to:

  • raise awarness of the local population and schools for sustainable conservation of Mukura Forest reserve
  • promote community based conservation and
  • elaborate a Mukura Forest Management Plan
  • organize workshops e.g. together with REMA (Rwanda Environment Management Authority)
  • support women in agroforestry and fruit trees production.

ARECO works with limited funds from the Netherlands (1999/2000), IUCN (2002-2006) and UNEP (2006).

Main lessons learnt so far :

  • Working with local communities especially women, youth and schools is a key way of sustainable biodiversity conservation and secure livelihoods;
  • Secure livelihoods promotion is a key condition for sustainable conservation;

Future actions

Validation workshop of Mukura Management Plan (2007-2011)
with the following main priorities:

  • Buffer zone creation and management (115 ha) with bambous species;
  • Rehabilitation of 120 ha inside the forest.

Conclusion and recommendations of ARECO-RWANDA NZIZA

Supporting women and youth groups for sustainable conservation is ARECO’s priority;
Donors assistance is highly recommended for sustainable achievements.

Comment by Brigitta Züst

IEEC works on many environmental problems all over the world. But are we able to help preservimg an ancient forest with endemic species? If such forest are lost, it is lost forever. Get in contact with Dancilla, with ARECO-RWANDA, show interest, go and visit, it is thouroughly worthwhile.

Text based on informations from

Dancilla Mukakamari, National Coordinator, Kigali Rwanda. email :
Urs Bloesch, Natural resource management, CH-2502 Biel, email:


Dancilla Mukakamari, National Coordinator, Kigali Rwanda.
email :