[ANALYSIS] Ideas to make toilets fit for purpose in Africa's cities

This essay initial seemed on The Conversation.

About 23% of people critical in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t have entrance to toilets while 31% with toilets use ones that aren’t connected to a grave sanitation system. This means that some-more than half a people in sub-Saharan Africa live though correct sanitation – that’s about 570 million people.

One of a problems is that existent toilets aren’t a good fit for tools of sub-Saharan Africa since many areas miss H2O and there are mostly no correct plumbing or comforts to yield wastewater.

But there are solutions – toilets that are designed differently. We have come adult with some innovative designs overcome a dual biggest hurdles – extreme use of water, and a fact that urine and faeces aren’t deliberate as resources.

The designs we advise have a series of pivotal features. Primarily, they use no H2O and store and yield urine and faeces separately. They embody innovative technologies that revoke H2O and appetite expenditure – both critical stairs if we’re going to start building smarter, greener cities.


Every flush by a standard toilet sends about 6 to 16 litres of uninformed H2O to wastewater diagnosis centres. That’s a lot of water. The normal sum H2O expenditure per chairman in Africa is about 20 litres a day.

On tip of this, a diagnosis of rubbish uses adult a outrageous volume of appetite – about 3 to 15 kWh. This appetite is being used to yield uninformed H2O from opposite sources – like dams – for a flushing routine and to yield a constructed wastewater. It’s a outrageous volume of appetite given a fact that we need usually about 2kWh to assign a smartphone over a whole year.

The routine of treating wastewater, so that it can be recycled and reused, is costly since urine and faeces are churned during a source. This creates diagnosis lengthy, costly and appetite intensive. It’s also bad since there are profitable elements in tellurian rubbish – like nitrogen and phosphorous – that aren’t being extracted and reused.

The cost of a some-more innovative toilet complement can be aloft than others – like array latrines – though it unequivocally depends on a tender construction materials like petrify and wood. Tanks and other tools can also be finished by locally accessible materials – like jerrycans. But once it’s built, a operation and upkeep routine is easy and can be finished by internal labours.


Separate waste: Our categorical idea, when it comes to improving toilets, is to perspective urine and faeces as a apparatus instead of waste. Nutrients from tellurian rubbish – that can be used as a fertilizer to grow crops – can be private during a diagnosis routine by improved government and technology.

To take advantage of this, a urine contingency be distant from a faeces. There are many toilets around a universe that already do this. In some Asian countries, like Korea, Japan and Vietnam, it’s a normal mechanism.

These toilets demeanour identical to normal ones though there are dual opposite inlets that store a rubbish in opposite tanks. Here they can be treated to mislay smell and boost their fertility.

It’s a rarely fit routine that doesn’t need difficult infrastructure and reduces a time indispensable for a diagnosis of waste. The complement saves a outrageous volume of H2O and energy, that is profitable to many internal governments that are already underneath pressure.

Waterless: For many existent toilets, H2O is essential for flushing and draining. But it’s probable to have a waterless toilet. Again, a toilet contingency collect a urine alone from a faeces. Instead of flushing, a faeces and urine are distant from a source regulating urine-diverting dry toilets. These toilets are accessible in both sitting or squatting models and take advantage of a anatomy of a tellurian body, that excretes urine and faeces separately. The urine is kept apart and emptied around a dish with a tiny hole nearby a front of a toilet play or squatting pan, while faeces tumble by a incomparable drop-hole during a rear.

Enhance waste: When rubbish is distant and collected into tanks, microbes can be combined to them that ‘nitrify’ a rubbish – creation it a improved fertilizer – and control any bad smells from a toilet.

Community support: If these toilets are used communally they can move outrageous amicable and mercantile advantages for communities. While common toilet systems are costly to maintain, and array latrines can be open health hazards, these systems are protected and can yield an glorious source of fertilizer for groups that grow their possess food, or furnish food for markets.

As African cities grow and develop, and vigour on healthy resources and infrastructure – like sewerage – increase, these systems offer a tolerable and some-more sterilizing approach forward.

Mooyoung Han is a professor, Seoul National University.

Shervin Hashemi is a investigate fellow, Seoul National University.

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