Monday, November 10, 2008

Project: Composting Latrine

This is it!

We are setting a deadline. I told my community members (those active in the current project) that the latrines must be finished by December.

The composting latrine project has been limping along for 7 months and before we lose all of our sand again or before I lose my mind, we will now focus on "goal-setting."

How close are we? Very close, so close that it is painful to see so much construction and yet no grand finale.

Here's a view of Latrine #1 - the first of the four:
It's true that Latrine #2 is waiting for penca for the walls (the family doesn't want to cut wood or the material before the right season), so in reality, both Latrine #1 and 2 have come a long way. But #3 and #4 need a lot of work. There is still mixing to do and pvc to connect for #3, but at least the stairs are already finished. I should include a photo of just how lovely they came together, an artistic mix of block and river rocks.

Latrine #4 has been a tragic epic poem. The original family was in and out of the community and rarely available to communicate. Eventually, the decision was made to seek out a new family with which to work. Denying a family a project is a delicate matter and after 2 more months, we smoothed out who will get the latrine. Currently we have moved all of the materials to the new site, now we are prepared to start construction and we still need to level out the ground where we will begin throwing the slab and blocking. We've got a lot to do!

To illustrate better, here's a view from Jess Mehl's project in the community north of me. Jess is in turquoise and I'm in kahki, we're working with 2 of my guys from Quebrada Mina.
This "pilot program" began with great enthusiasm and I think it can end that way. I'm still optimistic that things will go well once people see the construction-phase finished, only then we can begin the "interesting" part of this project: maintaining a composting latrine and seeing the product from "the box."

Update!
Former Peace Corps Volunteer Jessica Mehl completed an in-depth study of the compost resulting from this style of latrine. Go here for the full report: Pathogen Destruction and Aerobic Decomposition in Composting Latrines: A Study from Rural Panama

2 comments:

Jenny Schwartz said...

Hi Julie, My name's Jenny and I'm a PCV in Peru and am trying to pick out a latrine type to use. Since I live in a farming community any additional compost (aka not chemical fertilizers) is a good thing. I've been reading up on composting latrines. is there any way that you could send me some information on the particular type that you decided to use (dimensions, and dwell time because I've found about 30 different ones and can't decide which is better)

Hope all is well with you and your site.
-Jenny

JAHerrick said...

Hi Jenny, how's Peru?
I'd love to share more information about our designs.

My sector of Peace Corps (Environmental Health) has been constructing a particular style of composting latrine over the past few years and I think we've had reasonable success.

I've just updated my blog posting with a link to a report discussing the quality and suggestions for improving the composting process based on that style (see pdf of Jess Mehl's report).

I can post another blog to explain the design and construction process if that's helpful. Or would it be easier to email? Any chance you use Facebook?

Saludos!
Julie