Community Development: How to Build a Compost Latrine

Alianza Arkana’s Community Based Solutions team has just finished construction of an innovative public composting latrine as part of the award winning project, JEMA JAKOANTI: KERAS YAMA in the community of San Francisco de Yarinacocha. The latrine is a pilot and demonstrative endeavor that encompasses all the elements of our Zero-Waste projects, which are now functioning in 16 communities along the Ucayali River.

The construction of this latrine grew out of the need the community expressed to renew their public restrooms for tourists, guests, and themselves. The old restroom utilized flush toilets, but without running water, these toilets became quickly unusable. These are still located near the artisan fair in the heart of the original community, more relics of culturally and technically inappropriate development initiatives.

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Aside from building a public latrine, another goal of the project was to practice constructing with eco-bricks (plastic bottles packed with inorganic waste), which the residents of San Francisco have been encouraged to make during community clean-ups. The latrine uses 394 eco-bricks from 500ml and 600ml bottles contained in poultry wire and cement to form retaining walls that will hold the human waste in aboveground pits.

The building process for these walls involved leveling the earth under the projected latrine area, pouring a small cement foundation, and embedding rebar in the foundation while it was still wet. We strung poultry wire tightly between the lengths of rebar and tied rows of the eco-bricks into place. Another layer of wire followed so that the eco-bricks were fenced in on each side and the wall was relatively rigid. Then we mixed more cement and flung it at the wire so that it filled the gaps between the eco-bricks and created a smooth concrete wall. A total of six square meters of wall were built, using six bags of cement and one cubic meter of sand. In comparison to municipal construction projects in the area we were able to save five bags of cement per square meter of wall!

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Four bamboo poles support a simple roof structure covered with the traditional shebon and shapaja leaf roofing material. The walls and doors that provide privacy are woven with strips of caña brava, a local material that produces an attractive surface and was readily provided by community members. Finally, we hooked up a small water tank and sink to the local water system for the purposes of hand washing, with the graywater processed through a banana circle (a compost pile surrounded by banana trees) greywater garden.

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Tourists and many community members frequent the area, so it was a good location to construct a latrine that will be a functional item of pride within the community as well as a model to inspire others to look into alternative waste management techniques such as eco-bricks composting latrines, greywater gardens.

The final step was to bring a large amount of sawdust to have readily available to cover each deposit in the latrine. Others local materials such as rotting leaf matter mixed with soil or rice husks can also be used as a dry organic cover material, yet saw dust, especially hardwood, is the best cover material. We were fortunate to receive a helping hand from the Regional Government of Ucayali, who brought a large amount to San Francisco during a special visit to begin the design and proposal for a new schoolroom made of eco-bricks for the local preschool! More news on that soon!!!

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Deborah Rivett, Monday, 26 August 2013

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