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The implementation of the Tiger Worm Toilet (TWT) project has been going well. Twenty five household units have been built in the relocation area of Mingan and 17 communal TWT blocks with 34 pans (two pans per block, used by ten families) have been built in the Say Tha Mar Gyi Internally Displaced Persons camp. Approximately 850 people are currently using Tiger Worm Toilets in Sittwe. We have completed all the toilets in Say Tha Mar Gyi, and need to construct 20 more in Mingan to reach our final target.

Oxfam wormery in Say Tha Mar Gyi camp, using dried sludge from the camp’s faecal sludge treatment plant. Credit: Lucy Polson/Oxfam

Wormeries linking to livelihoods

Construction was delayed due to the need for a very large amount of worms – in total we need at least 115kg of worms. As an average worm weighs 0.5g that means that we need approximately 230,000 worms! We initially purchased 36kg of worms from two suppliers, and since then we have been growing them in a series of wormeries. We are feeding our worms on dried sludge from the faecal sludge treatment plant at Say Tha Mar Gyi, which they love. We have estimated that they are doubling their weight every month, which is extremely quick. Plus this is good practice for the worms, as it is similar to the fresh human poo which they will be later munching on! The growing of worms for our toilets is being run alongside an Oxfam livelihoods program in these communities. There are plans to train people on using ‘vermicompost’ in their market gardens. This is very positive as people are becoming sensitized to the use of worms and means that this technology is easily accepted.

Challenges with monitoring software

The worms are being added straight after the toilets are built in Say Tha Mar Gyi. This is because we are trialling a communal system for the first time, while in Mingan the worms are added after one month of use. As there was more of a need for toilets in Say Tha Mar Gyi, this is the area that we have initially focused on. This phased approach of building the toilets has also affected our monitoring as it has made the planning for data collection quite complicated. But we are getting to grips with this now. On the monitoring side of things we had decided to go hi-tech and try to capture data using a special programme and smart phones. In principal this is a great idea as it means Mee Mee (in Myanmar) and Claire (in the Netherlands) can review data together, but there have been several hiccups as uploading data is very slow. Now we are going to trial a new programme and will report back on this in a future blog.

The popular new Tiger Worm Toilet (left) in Mingan IDP village, next to the family’s previous toilet (right). Credit: Lucy Polson/Oxfam

User acceptance and demand for more toilets

The toilets themselves have been well received by the community. During the initial workshop other NGOs were sceptical about the superstructure being on top of the tank in the communal toilet due it looking like a direct drop toilet, but this has not been a problem in practice. We will be holding a series of focus group discussions this month to gain full feedback. One interesting point is that the users in Say Tha Mar Gyi have requested vent pipes on the TWT tanks. This is not because the systems smell, but because they know that “good” toilets have vent pipes. They cannot be convinced that these new toilets do not need them. We know that these toilets are well received as the team has already had requests to build more toilets in Mingan even before we are ready to do that (because we are still trialling the technology). This demand is thought to be due to the low fill rate of these toilets compared to the traditional systems used. The Tiger Worm Toilet has also captured the imagination of the NGO community in this area – with lots of interest in building similar toilets in other areas.

Cyclone Mora caused damage to roofs and doors in standard latrines (circular tank) & Tiger Worm Toilets (rectangular tank) in Say Tha Mar Gyi camp. Credit: Mee Mee Htun/Oxfam

Cyclone Mora – minor repairs underway

At the end of May 2017, this area was hit by Cyclone Mora causing widespread damage throughout Sittwe. Luckily only minor damage was sustained by our Tiger Worm Toilets and wormeries. Roofs were damaged, so Mee Mee and our team are busily making repairs.

The next challenge for our Tiger Worm Toilets is to see how they function during the monsoon season…

Dr Claire Furlong is Lecturer in Unsewered Sanitation at IHE Delft’s Environmental Engineering and Water Technology Department

Mee Mee Htun is Oxfam’s Public Health Engineering (PHE) Officer working on the water, sanitation, and hygiene in camps in Rakhine, Myanmar.

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