WaSH – Toilets (Roots)

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene

ROOTS

The treatment and disposal of human waste is becoming increasingly important as the world’s population increases.

Every year, over 2 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases – the second most serious killer of children under the age of 5 (WHO). The main source of such infections is human excreta. Clearly, the effective management of human waste is key to reducing infant deaths worldwide.

In the developing world, many people use pit latrines

These consist of a hole in the ground, which may be unlined or lined, with a reinforcing material to contain human excreta. They generally provide little shelter or security. Moreover, larger pit latrines, which are often used in schools, are prone to collapsing into the holes over which they are built.

In Uganda, studies have shown that most pupils in rural schools are demotivated by the poor hygiene and sanitation facilities. Pit latrines often lack privacy, have poor ventilation, inadequate hand-washing facilities, and present a high chance of contracting air- and water-borne diseases. Girls especially are likely to drop out of school because of the lack of privacy

New eco-san lavatory blocks at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda, alongside old pit-latrine block.

In Uganda, IRT is working together with Wessex Social Ventures and our local partners, Organisation for Community Action, to tackle this appalling situation through a scheme known as ‘Roots’. Under Petal, micro-enterprises produce ‘eco-san lavatories’ in schools. These enable the conversion of human waste into 100% natural fertiliser. The fertiliser is then sold to local farmers at a lower price than other commercial alternatives.

Pupils pose for a picture in front of the newly-constructed eco-san lavatory block at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda.

The Roots scheme confers enormous benefits.

For the user, it reduces the chances of contracting disease and is both safe and discreet. The school is able to avoid the repetitive and costly task of filling-in existing pit latrines when they fill up, and having to construct replacement toilet blocks. Roots also removes the barrier to girls attending school, especially during menstruation. For the local community, the gains are apparent in a reduction in the spread of disease and the prevention of soil contamination. For the fertiliser customer, the end product can be 70% cheaper than alternatives, and has also been shown to increase crop yields. The entrepreneurs running the Roots micro-enterprises are able to establish a sustainable income over the long term, allowing them to afford healthcare and an education for their children (secondary schooling in Uganda is not free).

“IRT believes that it is a human right to have access to safe, secure and private lavatory facilities, and is committed to continuing to fund and spread the Roots scheme in Uganda”.

Steven Smith, CEO of IRT
Access hatches to waste collection buckets at rear of eco-san lavatory block.
Access hatches to waste collection buckets at rear of eco-san lavatory block.
A pupil poses for a picture in front of the newly-constructed eco-san lavatory block at Adoma Primary School, northern Uganda.