Tuvalu: composting toilets help conserve water and boost livelihoods in Pacific islands

This new film shows how composting toilets are helping to address the serious water issues facing Tuvalu.

The tiny Pacific island nation of just 10,500 inhabitants, recently experienced a devastating drought. Existing septic tank systems are polluting the groundwater and destroying the reefs in lagoons, forcing fishermen to spend more on fuel to travel further away to catch fish.

The Global Environment Facility supported Pacific Integrated Water Resources Management project (GEF Pacific IWRM) is working to address these problems by installing composting toilets on the main island of Funafuti. Composting toilets use almost no water and produce compost that so families can plant their own vegetables, making them less dependent on expensive food imports.

Getting people to adopt composting toilets was difficult, admits Pisi Seleganiu, project manager for Tuvalu’s GEF Pacific IWRM demonstration project, but that once people understood the benefits, demand for the toilets increased.

“Of course when you talk about new toilet technology, people are concerned about whether or not they smell, if the compost is safe and if they are easy to maintain,” Mr Seleganiu explained. “But the GEF Pacific IWRM demonstration project held workshops, ran awareness campaigns, and have so far constructed 29 demonstration toilets out of a planned 40. People now want these toilets and we have co-financing to construct another 60, so 100 all up.”

The project in Tuvalu has generated a lot of interest around the Pacific. Tonga has built demonstration toilets, Nauru has installed them in schools and the Marshall Islands are planning construction soon, the project web site says.

The GEF Pacific IWRM project is managing 13 national demonstration projects in 12 Pacific countries. It is being executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Related web site: GEF Pacific IWRM Project

For more on sanitation in the Pacific see: Sharing experiences : sustainable sanitation in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Sanitation Updates, 18 Apr 2008

Source: GEF Pacific IWRM Project, 05 Mar 2012

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