The Association of Locally-Empowered Youth in Northern Mindanao has as its members children of poor farmers. Our aim is to improve ecology and sanitation by implementing appropriate solutions to the lack of water and resources. We knew that the local communities did not have toilets and would defecate in the open. This is because water is very scarce in these mountainous areas and the communities had few resources. The lack of toilets often results in health problems such as diarrhea and worm infestation, and affects children especially. Our solution for the issue is to implement eco-sanitation (ecosan) urine diverting dehydration toilets and use human waste as fertilizer thereby saving on expensive chemical fertilizers. Additionally, grey water and rainwater is conserved using recycled drums and containers and the water is then used for hygiene and general use.
During the youth environmental leadership activities conducted by the Association of Locally-Empowered Youth in Northern Mindanao, we discovered a pressing problem in local communities, especially the uplands, is the lack of water for drinking or even for use in flushing toilets. The lack of toilets poses many health risks, and so we out set to find a solution to this problem. In our research we found out that urine diverting dehydration toilets or dry toilets are the best solution in situations like this, where traditional flush toilets are not a feasible option. So we worked towards implementing this solution, and decided to integrate backyard gardening in the process and also conserving grey and rain water for general household use.
Before we implemented the project we conducted small group discussions with community leaders and members by visiting them in their houses. We involved the children that were members of the Association of Locally-Empowered Youth. Our mission is to empower the poor and marginalized communities so that they live with dignity, fully participating in the life of the community. Our objectives include: improving ecology and sanitation by the implementation of appropriate solutions to the problem of lack of water and resources, improving incomes and nutrition via small-scale gardening and the raising of farm animals, and mobilizing local resources for sustainability. Our strategy includes community meetings and assessments, working with local leaders, and linking with local technical experts in ecosan, human waste reuse and gardening. We submitted a proposal and got a grant (1,000 USD) from the Japan Fund for Water in order to implement our initiative.
The methodology is basically straightforward community facilitation and explaining to the local people the value of re-using human waste as fertilizer and in practicing vegetable gardening as a source of local nutrients. We also explained to them that open defecation results in the spread of worms and communicable diseases/diarrhea and we said that each incidence of feces in the open can infect 10-20 children. The construction of the dry toilets is fairly simple and we used local materials. The recycled plastic containers were purchased in Cagayan de Oro. We made “how-to” posters in the local dialect and pasted them on the dry toilets to make it easy for everyone to use them. Additionally, we promoted vegetable gardening in small spaces around the home and not the large-scale type of gardens. The smaller gardens are easier for people to tend, and offer families easy access to the vegetables they need daily.
Our evaluation is fairly simple; we collected basic socio-economic information from the households who joined our project and then we collected similar data after 6 months of project implementation and compared them. In this way we determined how much of an impact the project was having in terms of health, nutrition and sanitation, the three major aspects included in our project. We also collected information about how much water was saved through the rainwater conservation component of the project, and evaluated the volume of production in the gardens. Since it is a fairly new paradigm in sanitation, we conducted regular meetings with the beneficiaries to determine the social and cultural acceptability of the ecosan toilets.
To encourage the long-term sustainability of the project, we organized our beneficiaries into the Ecosan Club – Philippines and registered this with the SEC. At the community level the Ecosan Club-Philippines will undertake program continuity as well as advocate to other communities the idea of eco-sanitation using urine diverting and dehydration toilets. The Club is a membership organization and the fees will be used to run it. We plan to also tap supporters from local and abroad so that we will be able to buy materials and implement more dry toilets in far-flung communities with these toilets becoming pilots and demonstration units for succeeding communities.
Before the project, the local communities in our implementation areas had no toilets and the community members would defecate in the open. Now with the implementation of 95 ecosan urine diverting dehydration toilets we managed to solve the problem of human waste disposal as well as educate the community to recycle waste for their gardens and farms. We also implemented conservation of rain and grey-water by using recycled drums.
The result of the implementation of backyard gardening is a savings of 15 pesos per day per family or 5,475 pesos (121 USD). Evidence of our initiative’s success can be found in our monitoring reports, site visits, and the record in the local health department, which shows a decrease in health-related problems such as diarrhea and roundworm infestation. Overall, our project benefited 95 households or approximately 3,200 total people.