Sharing our learning about humanitarian Tiger Worm Toilets

In Rakhine State, Myanmar, Oxfam and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education are developing the Tiger Worm Toilet from the household sanitation level (where it has been proven successful) to a phased application at communal sanitation level, appropriate for use in humanitarian camps. This will help meet the need for an economically and environmentally sustainable sanitation alternative to the commonly used pit latrine in humanitarian camps – particularly as camp longevity is increasing.

As the Tiger Worm Toilet (TWT) project draws to a close, the team in Myanmar have been working hard to ensure findings from the project are shared far and wide. Disseminating project findings to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practitioners in Myanmar and around the world is critical to ensuring organisations considering similar initiatives in future are informed by our experiences – especially given that this project is the first time communal TWTs have been trialled for up to 20 users in a humanitarian setting. Two ways in which we’ve recently shared our findings include a Dissemination Workshop with national and international stakeholders, and the production of a user-friendly TWT Technical Manual.

The Technical Dissemination Workshop was held in Sittwe, Rakhine State, on 17th October and attended by Government officials, international and national WASH actors, local students from the technical college, and by several TWT users themselves. Its objective was to provide key stakeholders with an understanding of each component involved in a successful TWT project. Members of the team presented on aspects of the project they had been most heavily involved with, ensuring participants were able to receive first-hand information from those with direct experience of this innovative approach.

Workshop participants learning about Tiger Worm Toilet results (credit: Benedict Wood/Oxfam)

The day began with an overview of why Rakhine State had been chosen, what the sanitation context was, and what the project was aiming to achieve overall. The technical parameters of the design and construction phase were then presented by Sonya Milonova and Oo Shwe Than, both members of the TWT project team. They looked in detail at the similarities and differences between regular pit latrines and TWTs, including the worm species that can digest faeces.

The importance of the Community Engagement and Communication Strategies used in the project were explained, and participants were shown examples of the materials used to communicate with TWT users about these toilets benefits.

Dr Claire Furlong of IHE Delft, an instrumental partner to the project from the outset, remotely presented Key Technical Findings. In Say Thar Mar Gyi IDP camp, the project has installed 34 communal TWTs (17 two-toilet blocks) each used by up to 20 people (5 families). Here, 99% of users reported that they would like to continue using these TWTs. The key reasons given were the lack of smell, and the lack of flies in and around the superstructure. Additionally, there were some exciting findings about the impact TWT technology is having on the presence and viability of parasitic eggs in the pits that have passed through in human faeces – stay tuned, more to follow on this in the next and final blog.

Front cover of the draft Tiger Worm Toilet Manual, which will help guide others in Myanmar and beyond (credit: Christian Snoad/Oxfam)

The TWT Technical Manual was presented by its creator and designer, Christian Snoad. This manual is a key outcome of the project, providing a ‘pick up and go’ pack to be used by other WASH stakeholders – thus increasing the potential of the innovation for replication and scale.

The manual opens with a clear and easy-to-use decision tree to help readers decide if a TWT is suitable for their context. It then covers step-by-step what the technology involves and how to implement it – based on the experience in Myanmar, but with global relevance. Workshop participants were taken through each chapter via a visual presentation that included:

  • Key considerations
  • Cost analysis
  • Toilet design factors
  • Behavioural change aspects
  • Operational flowchart
  • Troubleshooting

Crucially, the project team were able to use feedback from workshop participants to inform the final version of the manual. This will be made freely available online soon.

Although the project is ending in Myanmar, we are happy to report that in both project sites the majority of users have opted to continue using the TWTs moving forward. The findings from the project show real potential for this innovation to be used more widely in humanitarian settings, provided the technology’s parameters are met.

Authored by Benedict Wood, Humanitarian Programme Support for Oxfam in Myanmar

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