Kagando Stove

Multi-Saver Stove, Uganda, 2008.


Africadev - Self Help Developments for Africa




Latrine                             (Top of page)

"Simply having access to and using sanitation facilities increases health, well-being and economic productivity."  (WHO p27)

If you don't have somewhere safe and clean and private to defecate then build a latrine. 

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 manure.
  • 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 smells.
  • 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 year.
  • 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 away.
  • 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 supplies.
  • Position at least 6 m from the house, to avoid unpleasant smells.
  • 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 escape.
  • 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 diarrhoea
  • 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 trees.
  • Keep the latrine house dark to discourage flies, but light enough to see.
  • The squat hole must be small enough to prevent children falling in.

Routine maintenance:

  • The pit should be kept dry, not moist.  Use ash, dry powdered horse or cow dung to absorb excess water and odour.
  • 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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