Although currently only an idea, I hope to implement this toilet in Ethiopia in the upcoming years (2016 – 2018).
Growing up, I never thought I would work on making toilets as I thought, like everyone else, that that was gross and surely someone else could do that job. When I started studying and working in development work, I realized that the major preventable cause of death for children under 5 is due to poor sanitation. So, I realized that in order to possibly save the lives of many future children of the world, I would have to contribute to the sanitation sector. And when I came up with this bamboo toilet idea (particularly the innovative water barrier closing mechanism) and told my professor at USF Dr. Mihelcic (who specializes in development work) he told me ‘There is a reason why few people work in sanitation: it is gross, there is a certain odor associated, there are bugs, etc.’ But the thing is, he, just like I, understood that despite these set backs to working in sanitation sector, it is the sector with the largest need to grow in order to save many many lives, particularly of children.
Another inspiration I must mention that made the idea of this toilet possible, is my friend, mentor, and return Peace Corps Volunteer from Mali, Africa, Colleen Naughton. Colleen lived in a small village in Mali where she had a regular pit latrine. When I asked her how her experience with that was, she told me ‘It was not bad at all, the smell was really not too bad, the only thing was that if you ever looked inside of the pit, you could see that around the first meter of the walls of the pit where completely lined with cockroaches.’ Upon hearing this, I was slightly mortified (I am still combating my fear of cockroaches which was very strong when I was a child). Colleen also told me that although she helped build 16(!) pit latrines in her village, they were mainly only used by the elders who did not want to walk to the woods for open defecation. She even mentioned a funny story of how some people would use the latrine structure in order to hide themselves and relieve themselves behind the toilet structure. I understood why people would be hesitant to use the latrine, so would I: can you imagine the fear of defecating over a pit lined with roaches? What if one flew out while you were using it?! I would probably prefer to open defecate as well with that kind of fear. Even more so if I did not completely understand the importance of sanitary toilets and was not already used to using toilets due to a Western upbringing. Anyways, after my conversation with Colleen that day, the problems became apparent to me and so I began to thing long and hard about what kind of solution I could come up with (being an engineer who is taught all problems have possible solutions!). Finally, one day, I came up with a rustic idea of the bamboo toilet. Through refinement of the idea by talking to many people in the sanitation sector and others, I finally came up with the Bamloo and drew the drawings shown!
The Bamloo is unique because it can be made exclusively from native natural materials and has improved sanitation techniques. The improved sanitation techniques include 1) the bottle mechanism shown above whereby if any bugs enter the pit, they rise to the light (in the bottle) and die, and 2) the water barrier shown below which does not allow for bugs to enter or exit the pit while the toilet is not in use; it also serves to reduce odors.