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. There are currently over 12 million people living in humanitarian camps worldwide and 3.2 million are in African camps.
Providing sustainable sanitation for these populations in a timely and cost efficient way is a huge challenge, given unfavourable ground conditions. Presently, the suite of technologies employed is very limited. The most common technology is the pit latrine, which requires frequent emptying by tanker or manual labour with faecal sludge either transported off-site or buried.
The Tiger Worm Toilet (TWT) is the nearest technology available to a ‘perpetual toilet’- using worms to continuously treat human waste, transforming it into vermicompost with potential economic and environmental benefits.
Proven at household level in urban and rural settings, this initiative will adapt the technology to serve more users (10-20 people/toilet) in communal latrine blocks/shared family toilets within a humanitarian setting. It will also allow worms to be added later, if not immediately available during an emergency.
Benefits include increasing camp sustainability by reducing frequency of latrine emptying, respective treatment of faecal waste, and providing a concept that can be constructed above and/or below ground (depending on conditions). The system also lends well to user preference, and can be offset or direct drop with a flushing system (using anal cleansing water).
If successful, this innovation could provide a sustainable, safer and more affordable sanitation alternative to the current use of pit latrines.
For people visiting a Tiger Worm Toilet, this innovation would improve user experience as it was flushing, odourless and fly-free.
For agencies, governments and donors supporting humanitarian camp sanitation, it would increase environmental and economical sustainability and close the sanitation loop. This was because the TWT treated the waste on site, reducing frequency of emptying.
In the vermifilter, the by-product is generated at the top of the system meaning emptying became easier. For the household systems, it has been estimated that they would require emptying once every five years.
Additionally, the by-product is relatively dry, odourless humus that could be used as a soil conditioner or buried on-site.
This initiative would produce a Design and Operation Manual and an Implementation Manual for the TWT, providing a ‘pick up and go’ pack to be used and replicated by other WASH stakeholders – thus increasing the uptake, experience, and scale of TWT.
In challenging conditions in Rakhine State, Myanmar, Oxfam and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education tested a Communal Tiger Worm Toilet (CTWT), appropriate for use in humanitarian camps. The ‘Tiger Team’ talked us through their findings.View
Oxfam shared their findings through a Dissemination Workshop with national and international stakeholders, and the production of a user-friendly TWT Technical Manual.View
The question to answer next is – how safe is the vermicompost for disposal or reuse in some way?View
The focus of this project was not only on the construction of toilets; but on the users of those toilets and encouraging good sanitation habits.View
The project was at a critical point as the rainy season had just ended and this would have tested the robustness of the TWTs.View
An interview with Oo Shwe Than, who joined Oxfam in Myanmar to oversee the monitoring activities of the project in Sittwe.View
With approximately 850 people using Tiger Worm Toilets in Sittwe, Oxfam shared what they had found so far.View
"What do you think about worms? Would you be comfortable working with worms?”View
In one camp there were over 10,000 people and more than 500 pit latrine toilets. These toilets were shallow and needed to be emptied regularly. As you can imagine this was a difficult, messy and costly job.View
The team visited work farms in Myanmar.View
Learn more about this WASH project, and many others, in our Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue.
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