Eco latrines for health and wealth

Santa Bahadur Ghimire (second from left), the proud pioneer of eco-san toilets - Credit: Sumeru Tripathee/Oxfam
Thanks to the eco-san toilets, household level sanitation has shown many improvements.
Santa Bahadur Ghimire

BY Sumeru Tripathee
DRR/WASH Program Officer

There was a time when Santa Bahadur Ghimire, a farmer of Pattharkot VDC in Sarlahi district, had to go to the river or jungle to relieve himself. Nowadays he uses his private eco-san toilet and produces organic pesticide and compost that increase his crop production. 

With the support of Oxfam and its partner Bagmati Sewa Samaj Nepal (BWS Nepal), 57 ecological sanitation (commonly abbreviated to eco-san) toilets were built in Pattharkot. The toilets do two things: they provide affordable household level, clean sanitation services and produce organic pesticide and compost. 

“I was the first person in my community to accept this new technology,” says a proud Santa Bahadur Ghimire, explaining, “I realized the potential benefits of the eco-san latrine, and was determined to introduce this technology.” Mr Ghimire requested Oxfam’s partner BWS Nepal for technical advice and additional support. 

The eco-san toilet is a closed system that does not need water and is based on the principle of recovery and recycling of nutrients from excreta to create a valuable resource for agriculture. Mr Ghimire’s eco-san latrine has two pits to separate stools and urine. The urine and stools are collected and the urine used as organic pesticide while the stools ferment into compost fertilizer.

As a result, the income of farmers using the eco-san toilets has increased. Says Program Officer Abodh Kishor Yadav from BWS Nepal: “The crop production is on the rise due to the utilization of natural pesticides and compost fertilizer. Farmers used to spend around NPR 1200 (£8) on fertilizer and NPR 5000 (£33) per one ropani of land on pesticides. Farmers save these amounts when using the eco-san latrine products.” The organic products have increased production too; farmers on average used to produce vegetables worth NPR 10,000 but now sales have doubled. 

The toilets have improved the overall health situation in the village. Says Mr Ghimire:  “None of us realized the importance of sanitation and its impact on health and overall livelihoods. Thanks to the eco-san toilets, household level sanitation has shown many improvements.”

Despite these benefits, small children and elderly did not comfortable to use the latrine. For them the project created a ramp to replace the steps entering the toilet.  

More importantly, after Ghimire’s decision to build an eco-san latrine, other community people followed his example and started building latrines with the technical and financial support from OXFAM/BWS Nepal. During the project period, from 2012 to 2013, Oxfam and its partner, with the active participation and contribution of community people, built 17 dry latrines and 40 wet latrines. 

The total cost for a single toilet is around NPR 3900 (£ 26). Out of 57 toilets only two latrines are not used because of migration of the families to a new place. After completion of the project different WASH related awareness activities are being implemented and the VDC is ready to declare its area as Open Defecation Free in the near future. 

The eco-san latrine is found appropriate for farming families owning some agricultural land in rural areas to enhance their livelihood as well as sanitation and hygiene status.