Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) is an environmentally friendly and sustainable sanitation system… also known as, a compost toilet! The human manure, or ‘Humanure’ is used as a resource for helping crops and trees grow well. Even the urine is used to add to the soil and help plants give more and bigger crops.
The ‘Humanure Handbook’ puts it this way, ‘Humanure is human faecal material and urine recycled for agricultural purposes via thermophilic composting. Humanure contains valuable soil nutrients that enhance plant growth. For these reasons, Humanure should be recycled whenever possible.’
The basic principle of EcoSan is to close the loop between sanitation and agriculture, without compromising health. It’s based on the following three fundamental principles:
Preventing pollution rather than attempting to control it later
Sanitising urine and faeces
Using the safe products for agricultural purposes
EcoSan toilets can be made using locally available materials like bricks, cement blocks, concrete, wood or bamboo and so are well suited to slums if managed properly. The traditional ‘long drop’ toilets often don’t work well in slums as ground water easily becomes polluted and flood waters can enter the pit and help filthy water spread over-ground. On the EcoSan toilets, each cubicle is designed with separate, leak-proof chambers that full up with faeces or urine. Once the urine container is full, it is left for three weeks and is then diluted and used as a free liquid fertiliser. A combination of soil, ash and sawdust is added to the faecal chamber after each use to aid the composting process. When the chamber is full, it is closed off for a month so that it can compost enough to be used as an organic fertiliser. This way, there is no waste, no health risks and there’s a useful commodity for growing crops!
We have just finished our first EcoSan toilet at the Dream Centre in Katogo 2 Slum. Each of our four toilet cubicles has it’s own chambers, conveniently allowing us to have one or two toilets in use while the other two are providing fertiliser. As you may have seen on our Facebook page, this is the first project undertaken by the Mugezi building group who have been training at the Dream Centre over the last few months.
Community education and participation is needed for this toilet project to be a success and so our groups and the local community will receive training in how to keep it all clean and composting well. Plus, with the help of the group, we are just appointing a ‘Toilet Manager’. His role will not only be to charge a small fee for adults using the loos, making this a business for him, but he will also give good sanitation advice to his customers – meaning that these toilets have an even wider impact in the community!