Let’s talk sustainable public toilets. Sexy, right? This isn’t something I gave much thought to, until I worked on a project building them in Tanzania. I mean, who really walks around thinking about toilets? (unless you need one at that moment). As it turns out, sustainable public toilets are more interesting than I anticipated!
I pulled up to the project on day 1 and thought, I’m building what and why?? I was building the ‘rabbit model’ toilet (choo in Kiswahili), which is named after the shape of the mold- the rabbit ears are the places indicated for feet, and the face is the hole (very cute). All parts are measured precisely as to not spread diseases. It’s important that the toilet should be a squatter toilet and not a seated toilet as it will be used by the entire community and seated toilets can spread disease.
This particular project had a few men from each village in the Moshi District learning how to make the toilets. They would then bring the knowledge back to the community and implement. The toilets are to be a safe distance away from the village to not contaminate it, and to prevent flies or other insects that could spread disease. A large hole must be dug for the toilet and it can be used until it’s full, closed up, and then the waste decomposes into the earth.
Once the concrete in the mold drys, the mold is flipped over, and the lid is formed to perfectly fit the seat. Lids are also required to keep insects away and again, to prevent the spread of diseases. Public toilets are so important to the health of the community. Without public toilets, a water source is often used as a bathroom and can lead to cholera outbreaks amongst other diseases. Now I think about toilets in a completely different way!