Compost Toilet Project

The Uphill Compost Toilet Project was born out of necessity – a new toilet facility is urgently needed for staff and visitors to the school. The current ‘temporary’ shallow drop latrine was built in 2018, in response to a requirement by the school inspectors, and is now almost full! We struggled to find a place in the school grounds to sink another latrine pit so we suggested converting the current staff pit latrine into a compost toilet block instead.

With no mains waste or water systems in rural Uganda compost toilets offer a clean, eco-friendly, less smelly and fly free sanitation option, with the added benefit of using the composted end products to enhance soil fertility in the school gardens.

Having researched various options, we chose The Compost Toilet Handbook as our guide.compost toilet project in ugandaCompost toilet projects using this methodology have been a great success in off grid institutions in Northern Uganda – having in-country case studies can be very powerful when promoting new ideas to the local community!

We provided the school management team with full information on the proposals and benefits of the project, and they ran discussion sessions with the rest of the staff. After 3 months we received the go ahead to plan the prototype project – converting the existing staff latrine. This was scheduled for our trustee visit in February 2024…

Stage 1: Retro-fitting the New Toilet Boxes into the Existing Cubicle

Building a prototype compost toilet for a Ugandan school

Captions From Left:

1. Compost toilet box prototype prepared by a local joiner: Wooden box which opens up so the plastic bucket inside (a recycled paint tub left over from recent build projects) could be removed and emptied. Looked okay, but it was not very comfortable to sit on and the hole on the top really was too small!

2. Capping the latrine pit using a brick and cement. This was later smoothed off to form a plinth for the toilet box, raising it slightly so the wood won’t get wet when the floor is being washed.

3. Toilet seats purchased and the boxes sent back to the joiner to be modified – much better!

4. Compost toilet box and supply of sawdust installed in the existing cubicles. Job done (for now)!

Stage 2:  Building the Compost Bin/s

Three compost bins are required. One will be actively filled and the other two will mature progressively over a two year period (to ensure that the resultant compost contains no human pathogens before being used to grow food in the school gardens).

In Uganda organic waste is generally thrown into a deep pit which is then filled with soil when full. Fine for improving the ground locally, but not so good if the compost is needed elsewhere. Building the first of three raised bins was a new experience for the Uphill builders!

The base of the bin is formed into a shallow dish shape which is then filled with dry grass to act as a ‘biological sponge’. Toilet material and any other organic waste (vegetable matter and, once the bin has begun the hot composting process, animal carcasses and food scraps) is deposited in the centre of the bin and covered with a thick layer of dry grass. There should be no smell and no flies and the rule for both the compost toilet and bin is: If it smells, add more cover material!

Composting is somewhat of an art form, so the process will be monitored from afar initially, with other site visit planned for October.

Building a compost bin for a compost toilet project at an Ugandan school

Stage 3: The Grand Opening!

Opening the retrofitted compost toilets in an Ugandan school

Captions from Left:

  1. Visual illustrations on the cubicle doors, make it clear how the toilets should be used
  2. Declaring the new staff compost toilets open!
  3. The grand tour, or the ‘how many folk can you get in one tiny toilet cubicle’ game
  4. Demonstrating how to move the cover material back before tipping a week’s worth of filled toilet buckets and kitchen scraps into the centre of the compost bin

All the trustees visited the compost toilets before leaving school that day and list of improvements has been drawn up.

Basically the cubicles are not deep enough to accommodate the toilet box, sawdust bucket and knees!

We plan to adapt to upgrade the building, making it taller with deeper cubicles and with bompies (ventilator bricks) on the front wall so that it will easier to see when the door is closed. We will also add a new (blue) roof and guttering, plaster and paint inside the cubicles, build a better privacy wall and provide improved access. All this should be possible using the £1,046 raised for this project in the 2023 Christmas Appeal  – a vast improvement on building a whole new latrine (around £3,000)!

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED TO BRING THIS PROJECT TO FRUITION. A better toilet for Christmas for the school staff and visitors!

What’s Next? Compost toilets in the new sanitation block in the staff compound, of course!

If you would like to help us continue to bring new ideas to Uphill Junior School, just click on the red Donate button below!

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