"Simply having access to and using sanitation
facilities increases health, well-being and economic
If you don't have
somewhere safe and clean and private to defecate then build a
Toilets don't have to be deep holes that
take weeks to dig. Even a shallow hole in the ground, with
a plant, straw or bamboo screen around is better than going on
the open ground in the bush. With a little effort and
money an Arbor Loo with a concrete base and a shallow hole can
be used for a year and then moved, leaving the old site to
fertilize a fruit tree.
Ecosan (picture by WaterAid/Jon Spaull)
How to build an arbour loo
|Raised pit latrine, to avoid flooding
||A latrine with a separate urinal: the
urine can be used as a fertilizer, mixed with water in ratio
1:10. It is rich in nitrogen, and almost germ free
because of its acidity.
How to build an arborloo & fossa alterna (1.65 mb)
How to build a simple latrine
How to build a ventilated latrine
How to build a pour flush latrine
How to build an aquaprivy
How to build a composting toilet (Arborloo, fossa
alterna, urine diverting toilets, simple pedestal, hut
construction - very detailed, 114 pages)
WHO report on excreta disposal
Many types of latrine are available:
- A simple pit latrine - usually 2.3 m deep, 1 m wide and
1 m long, would last a family of 6 for 5 years.
- A shallow Arborloo - only 1 m deep, used for 1 year
until full, then
planted over with a tree, which is well fertilised by the
- A twin pit composting latrine - 2 separate pits of 1 m.
The first is used until full, then the structure is moved to
the second pit, and the first left to rot for a year.
When the second pit is full the first is emptied, and the
well rotted manure is used to fertilize crops. (Also known
as a Fossa Alterna).
- A VIP, Ventilated Improved Pit, similar to the above
latrines but with a pipe and fly screen to carry away
- A ROEC, Reeds Odourless Earth Closet, similar to the VIP
but with the pit offset, connected by a chute.
- A Pour Flush latrine eliminates flies and smells, but
requires 1-3 litres water per flush.
- An aquaprivy has a water tank into which the waste
falls, and a soakaway, but needs emptying every 3 years.
Countless different variations are possible:
- A squat hole or raised seat.
- A concrete, wood, mud or ceramic base.
- The hut created of brick, adobe block, mud, straw, ...
Size of pit:
- Assume a volume of 0.06 cubic metres per person per
- Increase to 0.07 m cubed if bulky anal cleansing
materials are used (corn cobs, stones, etc.)
- Thus a square pit 0.8 m by 0.8 m by 1.0 m deep should
last 9 people one full year.
- A round pit 0.8 m across by 1 m deep, such as an
Arborloo, should last a family of 8 for one full year.
- A larger pit 1 m by 1 m by 2 m deep should last 6 people
5 years, or 9 people almost 4 years.
Factors to remember when building a latrine include:
- Position the latrine downhill of water supplies, not
above, and at least 30 m from water supplies.
- Position on slightly raised ground so rainwater runs
- Avoid flooding, if necessary by raising the latrine
above ground on a mound.
- Never dig the pit into the water table (saturated
ground); keep 2 m above the water table.
- Be especially careful in fissured limestone areas, as
polluted effluent can run through the fissures into water
- Position at least 6 m from the house, to avoid
- It may be necessary to support the pit walls,
particularly the top 0.5 m to support the floor, with a wall
of bricks, stone, cement, oil drum, or rot proof timber.
Seal the top 0.5 m but leave gaps lower down for urine to
- A non-ventilated pit should be kept sealed, with a wood
top over the squat hole, to prevent flies from breeding in
the latrine. Flies are attracted by light and smell,
so keep the pit sealed with a lid. Flies can carry
germs from the excreta to human food, and thus cause
- A ventilated pit should encourage wind to circulate down
the squat hole, through the pit and up the vent pipe - build
with the door facing into the prevailing wind, and away from
- Keep the latrine house dark to discourage flies, but
light enough to see.
- The squat hole must be small enough to prevent children
- The pit should be kept dry, not moist. Use ash,
dry powdered horse or cow dung to absorb excess water and
- Cover excreta with ash or soil or kitchen waste to
reduce odour and flies, and encourage rotting.
- Keep the slab clean, wash daily with water or ash.
See the Health page for ideas on
Tipee Taps for hand washing after using the loo.
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