Tag Archives: ecological sanitation

Humanitarian crises and sustainable sanitation: lessons from Eastern Chad

Latrine at Farchana refugee camp

Latrine at Farchana refugee camp, Eastern Chad. Photo: Flickr/Sustainable sanitation

How important is sanitation during a humanitarian crisis? Why is it important to explore ecological and sustainable sanitation? Groupe URD looks at the case of Eastern Chad, an example of a major long-term crisis. From an acute emergency in 2003, the crisis has gone through a number of phases. The appropriateness of aid mechanisms is currently being questioned, with a particular focus on sanitation. Sustainable sanitation can help to improve the quality of life of refugees and IDPs as well as local populations. From this perspective, what lessons from Eastern Chad could be useful in other contexts?

Groupe URD concludes that the long-term success of alternatives to conventional sanitation in Chad, as elsewhere, does not depend on the application of particular technologies: it depends principally on the participation of the future users (from the design to the follow up) both in the building of the facilities and the re-use of products. Rather than reproducing a design, it is important to understand the principles of ecological sanitation in order to be able to adapt them to a particular context. The key ideas to be retained from the Chadian experience – which can be applied in many other contexts – are participation, awareness-raising, pilot projects, training and lesson sharing.

Read the full article by Julie Patinet of Groupe URD and Anne Delmaire of Toilettes du Monde

Source: Humanitarian Aid on the Move newsletter, no. 9, March 2012

WaterAid – Technical handbook: Construction of ecological sanitation latrine

Technical handbook – Construction of ecological sanitation latrine, 2011.


This handbook is the outcome of the ecological sanitation latrine promotion projects carried out by WaterAid’s partners in Nepal: the Environment and Public Health Organisation, Lumanti Support Group for Shelter and Centre for Integrated Urban Development.

UK: Loughborough experts to ‘reinvent the toilet’ in global project

A multi-disciplinary team from the Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at Loughborough University led by Professor M.Sohail has won a £250,000 (US$ 408,000) grant in an international competition to “re-invent the toilet” organised by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In the project’s first phase, the team will validate certain key principles to design a toilet, which will recover energy and other valuable resources from human excreta without disposing any hazardous waste that could threaten human and environmental health.

Faeces will be transformed into a highly energetic combustible through a process combining hydrothermal carbonisation followed by combustion. The process will be powered by heat generated during the combustion phase of faeces processing.

The likely results are converting human waste into useful material for energy generation or soil conditioning, including water for hand-washing and other ablutions.

The toilet must be able to work in both single-family and community environments and should cost just pennies a day per person to run.

The WEDC team will present the results of their work to teh Gates Foundation at meeting in August 2012.

Source: Loughborough University, 20 Jul 2011

4th International Dry Toilet Conference, Tampere, Finland, 22-25 August 2012

Conference logoTheme: Drivers for ecological dry toilets in urban and rural areas

Organised by: Global Dry Toilet Association of Finland , University of Tampere, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Tampere University of Technology

Abstract deadline: 15 Jan 2012


  • Mon-Wed 20-22 Aug – Pre-conference workshop on safe and sustainable sanitation, organized by Prof. Tuula uhkanen, free-of-charge
  • Wed 22 Aug – Registration, social events
  • Wed-Thu 22-23 Aug –  Exhibition
  • Thu 23 Aug – Opening, key-notes, parallel sessions
  • Fri 24 Aug – Parallel sessions, closing, dinner
  • Sat 25 Aug – Excursion

Read the First Announcement


E-mail: secretary2012@drytoilet.org
Tel: +358 45 875 3597 (mrs erja takala)
Skype: Dry_toilet_secretary
Facebook: Global Dry toilet Association of Finland

Conference web sitewww.drytoilet.org/dt2012

A human-waste gold mine: Bill Gates looks to reinvent the toilet

An article in Time Magazine highlights the collaboration between the Gates Foundation and Germany in finding innovative solutions for sanitation in developing countries.

The Head of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene department at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Frank Rijsberman, talls about new ideas for using human excrement. “Human waste could be a real gold mine”, he jokes.

In April 2001, Bill Gates not only met German Development Minister Dirk Niebel but also German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff in Berlin.

In a press conference he told journalists that they didn’t talk politics, but discussed the idea of the “ultimate toilet.”

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Philippines – Closing the Loop between Sanitation and Food Security

Closing the Loop between Sanitation and Food Security for the ´Base of the Pyramid´

June 9, 2011 – If consumers in the advanced Western economies have a hard time swallowing the idea of drinking water recycled from sewage, that may be nothing compared with what those in the Philippines have to go through when they consider eating foods raised from fertilizer recycled from human wastes.

But that´s exactly what a local foundation based in the boondocks of Mindanao has been advocating, and is now actively looking for “technology off-takers” who are willing to partner with them to literally ´close the loop´ by recycling human wastes as fertilizers for agricultural use in food production.

“There are more than 20 million Filipinos suffering the indignities and health hazards of not having access to proper sanitation,” said Dan Lapid, president/executive director of the  Center for Advanced Philippine Studies.

Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation, a local NGO that promotes social development via ecological sanitation (EcoSan), aims to close the gap in the country´s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in the proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility.

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Malawi – In Praise of Dry Sanitation

LILONGWE, Mar 9, 2011 (IPS) – At its best it is waterless, odorless, eminently affordable and has a rich fertiliser as byproduct, yet for residents of Malawi’s informal settlements, dry sanitation retains a whiff of the unwanted.

As much as two-thirds of Malawi’s two-million strong urban population live in slum conditions without proper toilets. In densely-crowded Lilongwe townships like Mtsiriza, Mgona, or Senti, dozens of people often share a single convenience.

Alex Makande of Mgona township lives in a compound with 83 people. “It is a terrible situation. Mornings are even worse. People queue up to go to the toilet and sometimes we have to ask to use toilets in nearby compounds which are not as crowded.”

Access to pipe-borne water is limited in areas like this; sewerage mainlines generally non-existent.

Monalissa Nkhonjera, a communications and learning officer for international NGO WaterAid, explains that an average compound in the shanty townships has eight households, but there is usually only one pit latrine.

WaterAid is working in Lilongwe’s slums, implementing an appropriate, water-sensible solution. “We are promoting the construction of eco-san latrines with slabs as a cover for the pit and with either a tin or grass-thatched roof. The walls are made of baked or unbaked bricks.”

The eco-sanitation latrines have two pits. Household ash is scattered into the latrine after every visit to the toilet to minimise smell and speed up decomposition. After one pit fills, use switches to the other, and the waste in the full pit is given time to fully decompose into a rich, safe manure.

Unloved facilities

But Manesi Phiri of Senti, another informal settlement on the outskirts of Lilongwe where WaterAid is promoting them, remains unsatisfied.

“Flush toilets are more convenient. All you need is to flush out the excreta after a visit to the toilet. Pit latrines compound the low status of us poor people. They are very demeaning,” she told IPS.

Pit latrines, she said, are a marker of poverty, whereas flush toilets are a status symbol. Phiri also said communities in urban townships do not have much use for the fertiliser that is produced in the eco-sanitation latrines.

“We do not have gardens in our communities and we do not cultivate any crops so we do not need the fertiliser. We cannot sell this kind of fertiliser to city dwellers; they use chemical fertiliser for their kitchen gardens as they find the fertiliser from the latrines disgusting.”

Phiri concedes the fertiliser from the eco-san toilets is free of any odor and looks like any other compost; but she insists that people are put off just thinking of where it comes from.

In Lilongwe’s informal settlements, people are certainly not rejecting eco-sanitation out of hand, though Makande would also prefer a flush toilet: “But this is just a dream for now. We have to continue to use the pit latrines at our disposal and the eco-san latrines are better than the conventional latrines so we must adopt them,” said the man, who works as a night guard in Area 10, one of Lilongwe’s affluent areas.

Should anyone flush?

The poor have limited choice. But with climate change threatening the water supplies of cities not only in Malawi but across the Southern Africa region, a comprehensive plan for urban areas might need to see wealthy people adopt composting toilets.

A toilet uses anywhere from six to 11 litres per flush – the fortunate 640,000 who have access to flush toilets in Malawi each represent a much greater strain on aging water systems than their counterparts in the slums. Millions – hundreds of millions of litres of water are effectively squandered flushing waste into a sewage network, at the end of which it needs further treatment before it can be safely released into the country’s waterways.

In Area 43, one of Lilongwe’s most affluent neighbourhoods, IPS found Richard Gulumba has an eco-san latrine in his backyard. He had it constructed for use during Lilongwe’s frequent water outages.

“But my family and I still find it hard to use a latrine. It reminds me of life in the village and that is not desirable. I grew up poor and I do not want to be reminded the experiences I went through and using a pit latrine is one thing I do not want to do now that I can afford better things like a flush toilet,” said Gulumba.

Like his wealthy counterparts across Africa, perhaps even the world, Gulumba is likely unaware of the many fancier cousins to the twin-chambered latrines being built in the slums. Though prejudice against dry sanitation is pretty widespread, more upmarket waterless toilets can be found from Mexico to Canada to Sweden to Australia.

Stylish latrines

The South African company ECOSAN manufactures a self-contained dry sanitation unit that cleverly uses the action of opening and closing the lid to drive a screw that moves waste into a cleverly ventilated chamber where it turns into compost without further ado. Australia’s Nature Loo provides a system with exchangeable composting chambers and a fan that ensures proper oxygen flow to speed the breakdown.

Inside the house: a “warm white” pedestal with a “honey oak” seat… even the fussiest guests won’t panic until they can’t find a handle to flush.

WaterAid’s Nkhonjera says composting latrines, which prevent pollution of groundwater, are the best option for slum dwellers and rural communities. “These areas are informal settlements and they do not have access to running water. Putting up flush toilets will not be realistic.”

If Southern Africa’s wealthier city dwellers also considered the best use of available water, dry sanitation could take up a more exalted place as a solution to growing water stress.