Thursday, September 15, 2011


Cora Zayas Sayre is One of 15 Innovators From Around the World Recognized for Applying Technology to Benefit Humanity

(SAN JOSE, Calif. and LIBERTAD, Misamis Oriental) Sept. 15, 2011 – CORA ZAYAS SAYRE, was today named as a laureate of The Tech Awards 2011, one of 15 global innovators recognized each year for applying technology to benefit humanity and spark global change. The Tech Awards, a signature program of The Tech Museum, and presented by Applied Materials, Inc., selected CORA ZAYAS SAYRE from among hundreds of nominations representing 54 countries.

Cora and her outfit the Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation has succeeded in developing cheap, robust and aesthetic composting toilets applicable in most  areas (upland, coastal, slums) using local materials which prevents water contamination and the spread of disease while producing valuable fertilizer from human waste. This has vast potential in solving sanitation problems for 2.1 billion people worldwide at the bottom of the economic pyramid including millions in the Philippines who do not have access to toilets. 

The Tech Awards: Technology Benefiting Humanity is one of the premier annual humanitarian awards programs in the world, recognizing technical solutions that benefit humanity and address the most critical issues facing our planet and its people. The awards program honors 15 scientists and innovators annually alongside the recipient of the Global Humanitarian Award. Laureates are selected by a prestigious panel of international judges organized by the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, and made up of Santa Clara University faculty as well as leaders from educational and research institutions, industry and the public sector around the world.

“The Tech Awards is an incredible honor, recognizing individuals and organizations whose ideas and execution of those ideas are changing the world,” said Dr. Elmer Sayre, In-house Adviser of the WAND Foundation. “We are proud to be among those recognized for their contributions, and will continue to develop solutions that improve the overall well being of people worldwide.”  Dr. Sayre co-founded the WAND Foundation with Cora and co-designed with her various sanitation solutions.

“The global challenges of the day have become increasingly strident, more deeply rooted,” said David Whitman, Vice President of Signature Programs at The Tech Museum. “Still, there is hope. These incredibly impressive Laureates have all proven to be equal to, or better than, the challenge to make the world a better place. By celebrating their accomplishments today, we are encouraging future innovators to work toward solutions to make the world healthier, safer and more sustainable.”
Established in 2000, The Tech Awards recognizes 15 Laureates in five universal categories: education, equality, environment, economic development and health. These laureates have developed new technological solutions or innovative ways to use existing technologies to significantly improve the lives of people around the world.  One Laureate in each category will receive a $50,000 cash prize during the annual Awards Gala in Santa Clara  CA. on October 20.

This year, the laureates represent the truly global vision of the program, spanning countries such as India, Honduras, Ethiopia and the Philippines. Their work impacts people in many more countries worldwide.  The Tech Awards collaborates with humanitarian, educational, and business partners through global outreach efforts, giving people around the world the opportunity to benefit from the successful technologies recognized through The Tech Awards. The selected laureates’ projects address multiple humanitarian efforts including developing alternate ways to generate electricity, creating free educational tools, providing sanitation, and improving literacy among children.

Key sponsors supporting The Tech Awards include Applied Materials, Inc., Intel Corporation, Nokia, Microsoft, Swanson Foundation, Flextronics, Polycom, Skoll Foundation, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Accenture, eBay, Qatalyst, Google, Wells Fargo, Xilinx, American Airlines, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Bain & Company, NBC11, San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Stanford Social Innovation Review, TIME, Xfinity, MEMC Electronic Materials, Brassfield Estate Winery, Hilton San Jose, Convention Plaza Hotel, and Hayward Quartz Technology.

For more information about The Tech Awards, visit

About The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum is a hands-on science and technology institution designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in experiences that educate, inform, provoke thought, and inspire action. Ensconced in the heart of Silicon Valley, the museum captures the spirit of the region through innovative content and programs such as The Tech Challenge, our annual team design competition for youth, and the internationally renowned The Tech Awards, which recognizes technology to benefit humanity. Daily, The Tech Museum celebrates the present and encourages the development of pioneering ideas for a more promising future. For more information about The Tech Museum, visit The Tech Museum


Cora Zayas Sayre
Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation
Libertad, Misamis Oriental, 9021 Philippines.   Email:

Roqua Montez
The Tech Museum of Innovation
(408) 795-6225 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (408) 795-6225      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Anne Heise
Ogilvy PR
(415) 677-2731 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (415) 677-2731      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Work Continues

Post from Mike Carlin, Editor and Publisher, Century City News, California

I recently visited the Philippines. Our very good friend, Sir Edward Artis, had a stroke and I wasn’t getting the information I needed… so I boarded a plane. His eyes lit up when I walked into the room. He struggled to speak. It was clear that something happened to silence this once fierce warrior of peace. The silence didn’t last long. He struggled to get out a few words; “I had a stroke.” I got to meet Klea and see her love of Ed. She has been there by his side for a number of years. I have spoken to her on numerous occasions but now I finally got to meet this amazing champion of peace. Klea traveled to Myanmar, Basilan Island, Jolo, Zamboanga, and many other dangerous places with Ed to take relief to those less fortunate that found themselves in a precarious situation through no fault of their own.

Just prior to the stroke I had mounted my own mission into the danger zone of border Mexico. Ed followed my path with great interest. He sent me text messages of concern for my safety. I texted him prior to traveling in and let him know immediately when I returned to safety. Ed taught me how to mitigate the risk and I heeded his advice. We never grow tired of the streams of tears when our relief hits the mark. On my trip a doctor and nurse accepted four duffel bags of medical supplies that have the power to save lives. When they realized that these supplies were a gift from America and that we wanted nothing in return, they welled up inside. As they helped carry the supplies into the clinic they could not hold back the tears. When I reported back to Ed he seemed very pleased that one of his protégés had grown up and begun to comprehend his message.

I am one of thousands of people that Ed has taught to do good deeds. Over the years and in my many travels with Ed I have met hundreds of them. It always surprises me how many more there are that I have never met. Even Ed cannot comprehend the impact his life has had upon the world. Many of the paths Ed has traveled were one-time trips. Other people pick up where Ed left off and continue helping people recover from war, famine, tsunami, earthquake, fires, floods or typhoons. Ed’s influence lingers and he teaches so many to open up their hearts and give.

We sat at the dining room table for hours that day and Ed was able to begin speaking almost normally. Something happened that day as we began telling Klea stories that we had experienced together. I started many of the stories and Ed began speaking to finish them. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Makati. He greeted new friends and old with that classic “Ed” smile. By the time lunch was over I could tell that Ed was exhausted. We had been together for five hours and my presence had made him work to remember… to speak. The brain is an amazing and intricate structure. I witnessed synapses reconnecting right before my eyes.

We agreed to break for a few hours to give Ed a chance to rest. I arrived at 7p for our trip out to dinner. Ed and Klea climbed into the cab and we visited “Howzat,” a local hangout for foreigners. When waitresses would speak to Ed he struggled with his speech. When we talked to him he was able to speak with only minor problems. Some of the jumbled words were quite funny and both Klea and I were swept away with the mixed emotions of “do we laugh or would that be cruel.” We couldn’t help ourselves and Ed began to laugh too.

At that dinner I saw moments of total clarity where it seemed to me that Ed was 100% back only to disappear back into the fog. From this I gained hope that Ed will make a total recovery if he works hard and those of us that know him understand that Ed can’t do it any other way. When we parted that night I knew that Ed needed rest. I agreed to give Ed the weekend.

Early Saturday morning I headed down to Cagayan de Oro to meet Elmer and Cora Sayre. Ed and Elmer founded the Buffalo Bank down there many years ago. What began with an investment in the first twenty water buffalo has grown into a full-fledged Micro Finance operation that now serves over 3,000 farmers with water buffalo, goats, chickens, pigs, ducks and sanitation. Elmer showed me his operation that includes meeting spaces, manufacturing of toilets, cottages, crop development, and livestock management. A team of loan officers deal with farmers to evaluate their needs and structure a borrowing and repayment program for them.

What I came to understand from my visit is that if Elmer and his team simply handed out water buffalo they would be eaten. Attaching importance to them as a tool for the farmer helps educate the farmer in methods to increase productivity. Farmers are grateful for the opportunity to improve their quality of life. When Elmer talked about criteria for granting Micro Loans he sounded just like the many bankers I know in Century City. “We look at their character and their capacity to pay back the loan. We shy away from those that are known to have gambling problems.” Gambling problems? That was the last thing I expected to hear in this remote region but cock fighting is one of the pastimes in the Southern Philippines.

The next day we went to the remote regions… a four-hour drive from headquarters. In the mountainous region I saw breath-taking views. Farmers were growing their crops on the sides of mountains. I got to see the impact of the water buffalo – first-hand. A farmer even offered to let me ride his water buffalo and I couldn’t resist. That was a thrill I will never forget. (See picture attached.) I also will never forget tasting food for the first time. Every meal on this trip was 100% organic. I ate coconut that was picked fresh from the tree and I drank the delicious coconut milk. Pineapple, papaya, watermelon, fresh vegetables, fish and free-range chicken were also at every meal. No chemicals are used in the farms supported by the buffalo bank and all of the people I met seemed so healthy. All of this began with a single investment by Ed in the first twenty water buffalo.

I again turned my attention to Ed and Manila. We spent the week together poring over paperwork, talking about pending missions and getting caught up on what needs to happen in order to continue Ed’s work. What amazes me is that Ed, who clearly suffered a stroke, has no concern for his own health and wants to communicate only to insure the children he promised surgeries to get treated. In a private moment, Ed insisted that I travel to an orphanage and make a donation in his name. Many times I heard Ed insist that he would wage peace until his dying day but his appeal in that private moment for children that have lost their parents solidified his commitment to continue this work until his dying breath. Happily, I made the trip to the orphanage and complied with his wishes.

The smiles on the faces of those children reminded me of the smile that Ed wears. Those smiles light up the dark spaces upon the earth. Ed is a little child that wants all of the other children to smile too. We have all seen him rise up to protect the less fortunate as their guardian and protector. We have seen him brave border crossings to bring in life-saving relief. We have learned to give at his hands. We have watched him thunder away threatening warlords. But Ed is so much happier when the children are smiling.

You can send donations to via paypal or you can mail checks to:

Steps For Recovery, a California 501(c)3 non-profit corporation
PO Box 67522
Los Angeles, CA 90067

The work continues…

All the best,

Sir Michael Douglas Carlin
Century City News
Steps For Recovery
Knightsbridge International
Keylite PSI

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Northern Mindanao foundation aims to meet MDG’s sanitation targets


Northern Mindanao foundation aims to meet MDG’s sanitation targets

LIBERTAD, MISAMIS ORIENTAL -- Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation, a local group that promotes social development via ecological sanitation hopes to narrow the gap in the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), particularly in the proportion of the population using improved sanitation facilities.

Dr. Elmer Sayre, WAND’s in-house consultant, said the project aims to address the sanitation needs of those at the "base of the pyramid" -- households too poor to buy their own toilets, those in remote areas not reached by government services, those with inadequate or no access to clean potable water and those in conflict and/or disaster-hit areas.

Figures from the National Economic and Development Authority in Region 10 show a slow uptake in this regard especially in the rural areas where the proportion of the population using improved sanitation facilities during the last decade hardly approached the target reduction of 50% from 2000’s 59% to 2008’s 69%.

"Ecological sanitation promotes the safe reuse of human urine and feces as fertilizer, a key feature in sustainable sanitation. If distributed widely and used adequately, it can greatly advance our efforts in trying to meet our MDG target for sanitation by 2015," Mr. Sayre said.
Present sanitation systems based on the flush-pour toilet operate on the premise that human wastes are of limited utility and are better off disposed. But it is not effective in areas where there is no water or where septage is difficult to build as in slums or flooded zones.

In contrast, ecological sanitation has shown issues are better addressed in a sustainable manner by using dry or waterless toilets and recycling and reusing nutrients in human wastes in a hygienic way rather than disposing them where they can contaminate groundwater aquifers, rivers and seas, he noted.

‘Closing the loop’

Mr. Sayre’s passion for ecological sanitation started in 2007 when the concept of "closing the loop" was first introduced to him by the Peter Wychodil of the German Doctors for Developing Countries. Through this link, he gained more knowledge from Ulrike Lipkow, GTZ adviser to an ecological sanitation project in the Visayas and Robert Holmer of the Peri-Urban Vegetable project in Cagayan de Oro City.

In 2008, WAND built some 17 double-vault ecological sanitation toilets with fund support from the German Doctors for Developing Countries. Most of these were located in elementary schools in the Misamis Oriental towns of Initao, Libertad and Manticao.

However, the P28, 000 cost of the double-vault model prevented its widespread adoption by the target users. In 2009, Mr. Sayre won a research grant from the Science and Technology Innovations for the Base of the Pyramid in Southeast Asia to explore alternatives to the double-vault model.

As a result, four ecological sanitation models are now available ranging from the "hanging" ecological sanitation toilet for coastal communities; lightweight, mobile toilets for mountain areas; single-vault ecological sanitation toilets for households; and those that are to be used during emergencies and the fabrication of urinals.

The designs were executed at the WAND demonstration area in Libertad and pilot-tested in Barrio Tuod in Manticao municipality, Barrio Oguis in Initao and a coastal area in Initao municipality. Social and cultural acceptability were found to be high.

Local beneficiaries who were mostly poor farmers and fishermen were able to use, manage and take good care of the pilot units with little fuss. Most of the materials used in the designs were locally sourced such as bamboo, coconut palm fronds, wooden poles, gemelina wood and rattan baskets. Recycled drums, containers, black plastic sheets and heavy-duty Manila hemp sacks were sourced from a junk store in Cagayan de Oro.

"The special ecological sanitation bowl is produced by our local masons," Mr. Sayre said."The result is a much cheaper toilet."

Now, with the proceeds of a grant from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WAND is conducting an innovative global health and development research project entitled "Ecological Sanitation for the Base of the Pyramid."

"With this grant from GCE, we will explore the viability of low-cost dry toilets, using human waste in small-scale agri-silviculture by conducting crop trials, using vermi-composting and odor minimization, and mainstreaming ecological sanitation in local financing," Mr. Sayre said.

His approach is to custom-design dry toilets that can be used by those living in urban slums, uplands, marshy areas, river settlements and coastal areas (flood-prone areas), and dry toilets for persons with disabilities and young children.

"We are now actively seeking industrial partners in corporate, local and regional government agencies who are interested in utilizing our ecological sanitation innovations for corporate social responsibility projects and for compliance with mandatory requirements of regulatory agencies such as the rehabilitation of mined, quarried and logged over areas as well as providing the requirements of marginal residence displaced by large-scale mining and quarrying projects," he added. -- Michael D. Baños

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Designer Compost

This week I am starting a "designer compost" using biochar, lacto-bacilli, sawdust, river sand, feces, urine and organic material present in the farm. My idea is that there is no sense in using feces alone or urine alone as some people promotes in fertilizing plants mainly because there is a cultural nature and common abhorrence to using these in the plants and then eating the product, it is difficult to handle and if applied as is, is still not treated and so there is always the danger of the presence of pathogens. The biochar improves C:N ratio and improves soil in general, the lacto-bacilli degrades manure quickly, sawdust improves carbon ratio as well as traps urine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Public Intellectuals in Asia

To create a close, personal, and professional network of "public intellectuals" in Asia, the Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan (I-House) have jointly been conducting the Asian Leadership Fellow Program since 1996. Up till now, approximately 88 fellows from 16 Asian countries have participated in this program.

Each year, public intellectuals from Asia who have deep roots in civil society and who play a leading role in initiating solidarity among concerned people reside at the I-House for about two months and intensively discuss regional and global concerns through dialogue, seminars, field research, and socializing. By offering the opportunity of living together, ALFP seeks to foster lasting friendships and trust among intellectual leaders in Asia.

 This year, under the broad theme of "Asia in Dialogue: Visions and Actions for a Humane Society," fellows will discuss how different values can coexist and how a community with a sense of solidarity can be realized.

The Public Intellectuals are the following;

Imtiaz Gul (Pakistan) M
Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies
area of specialty: security, militancy, FATA, Afghanistan, governance, and democracy

Miryam S.V. Nainggolan (Indonesia) F
Chair of Board of Directors, Pulih Foundation
area of specialty: industrial and organizational psychology, conflict resolution and peace building

Jehan Gregory Ignatius Perera (Sri Lanka) M
Executive Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
area of specialty: peace activism and conflict resolution

Elmer Velasco Sayre (Philippines) M
In-house Adviser, Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation
area of specialty: community development

Huong Thanh Vuong (Vietnam) F
Senior Researcher/ Director of Center for Education Information, Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences
area of specialty: education management, education for rural and disadvantage areas, and capacity building

Yali Zhang (China) F
Political Science Assistant, Department of Political Affairs, The United Nations
area of specialty: political science, conflict resolution

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tree Planting at the First Sign of Rain

A group of young urban professionals led by the beauteous chinita Ayn Daang visited the WAND Foundation to signal the start of tree planting season at the first sign of rain. We always await the coming rain with eager anticipation because it is the time we contribute to the improvement of our environment and because it means that the cycle of the seasons is normal. Ms. Ayn contacted us about her desire to do tree planting a few months’ back and it has come to reality. The tree planting did not start without the imperative discussion and showcasing of our ecological sanitation approach and it ended with a simple meal at a small cottage atop a hill. For me this tree planting activity by the group of Ayn Daang is a more relevant use of energy for young urban professionals compared to just wasting it in the malls and movies. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grand Challenges Explorations Winner

For Immediate Release

Elmer V. Sayre, Ph.D.
Principal Researcher/In-house Adviser, WAND Foundation
Mobile: 63-9218041573

The Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation Receives US$100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Ground-Breaking Research in Global Health and Development

Libertad, Misamis Oriental, Philippines   Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation  announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Dr. Elmer V. Sayre will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled   “Ecological Sanitation for the Base of the Pyramid”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Dr. Elmer V. Sayre’s project is one of over 85 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“GCE winners are expanding the pipeline of ideas for serious global health and development challenges where creative thinking is most urgently needed.  These grants are meant to spur on new discoveries that could ultimately save millions of lives,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Dr. Elmer V. Sayre and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 6 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas: polio eradication, HIV, sanitation and family health technologies, and mobile health.  Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 7, will be accepted through May 19, 2011. 

Dr. Elmer V. Sayre will explore the viability of low-cost dry toilets and using human waste in small-scale agri-silviculture by conducting crop trials, use of vermi-composting and odor minimization and mainstreaming ecological sanitation in local financing. Dr. Sayre’s ecological sanitation initiative is aimed at helping the base of the pyramid (BoP) in terms of;

a) making available much needed fertilizer for the plants thereby improving nutrition, income and biodiversity, 

b) preventing the spread of diseases from open defecation, and, 

c. preventing contamination of the water table and water sources.  

Dr. Sayre’s approach is to   custom-design dry toilets appropriate in most conditions eg. coastal, urban slums, uplands, marshy areas, river settlements and dry toilets for persons with disabilities, toddlers and during emergencies such as flooding.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

The Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation provide social development initiatives with emphasis on improvement of the environment and agricultural sector, rural entrepreneurship, ecological sanitation and peace-building. The WAND Foundation has grown out of a pool of community development workers in Northern Mindanao truly concerned about the direct link between severe poverty, poor health and sanitation, local resource mismanagement and the absence of lasting peace.   The vision of the WAND is “empowering local communities so that they are able to live dignified lives and contribute fully to the life of the community.” Our website is 

“Service to Humanity is the Best Work of All”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fun Games

I realize that my blog should not always be about such staid and serious subject such as trying to solve health, sanitation and poverty issues. Here I will post a game (called "tomato game" but might be onion game or sweet potato game, whatever) that Filipinos love to play. Filipinos are party animals and champion backyard singers.  The tomato game is highly recommended for those not on speaking terms for a few decade or so....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Human-Waste Biochar Powered Garden

This is to feature my garden measuring 1,500 square meters located in Libertad Municipality. The garden is fully powered with treated human waste (vermi-compost) and urine. Urine is not treated and applied immediately as it is considered sterile and safe by WHO standard. Charcoal and other organic material is plowed to the soil directly. Note the urine-filled containers in the first picture and the double-vault ecosan toilet in the 4th picture. This garden is 100 percent organic and does not use chemical fertilizer and pesticides at all. Crops are mixed so as to minimize disease and pest infestation (note: pest of disease of a family of plants is different from another). My garden supplies products to our small restaurant located in-front of Initao town hall as well as it supplies fresh, nutritious products to neighbors. The income helps send 3 working students who tend the plants to college. The garden also serves as demo to neighbors willing to learn about terra-preta sanitation biochar (tps-b) techniques...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sanitation Solutions for Flooded Zones: The WAND Foundation Experience

Sanitation for poor communities living in flooded zones such as coastal areas and rivers is a challenge either because of lack of space, constant flooding, financial incapacity and landlessness. Most coastal zones in the Philippines are government property and the poor build their abode with this situation in mind: transient and insecure.  River dwellers on the other hand suffer from flash-flooding due to unmitigated cutting of trees in the uplands. Rivers change course making habitation transient.

The challenge is how to make a sanitation system that integrates the following design elements (as articulated in Bill and Melinda Gates Grand Challenges Explorations): a) prevent infiltration from surface and/or groundwater; a)  provide robust and safe containment during heavy rain and flood events; b) function in tidal, riparian, or floating communities; c) low lifecycle costs, robust, and locally available components; d) easy to operate, maintain, and service during productive life; e) incorporate user-centered design elements that are appropriate for women, children, and “washer” communities and that are affordable for the ultra-poor.

The current sanitation solution in poor coastal and river communities is plush-pour toilets. In coastal communities this scheme is problematic because of the difficulty in building a septic tank in sand so septic tanks are not at par with what is recommended. Desludging is also never done and or done in an unsanitary manner. In communities near the river the situation is no better, septic tanks are washed-out every time flooding happens.  So inhabitant practice what is for them most practical and that is to defecate in the open, thence the problematic situation of spread of diseases, diarrhea and host of parasites.     

The WB-DOH-EM pilot project in Sustainable Sanitation in East Asia (SuSEA, 2006-2010) has confirmed that sanitation remains a critical public health and environmental problem that needs to be addressed in a sustainable manner. Some of these findings are:

  • Access to basic sanitation in specific (target) communities is much lower than the national average, usually in low-income communities and those living on fragile environments, such as above water bodies, on isolated and remote islands
  • Those without toilets defecate in the open fields, shorelines or along rivers
  • While many of the households with pour flush toilets use septic tanks, but only a few have been desludged in the past 3 years
  • Most of the septage and wastewater flow to open canals, rivers and other water bodies
  • A large number of communities do not have any visible drains.

Open defecation, inconsistent hygiene practices, and low levels of investment in sanitation and in wastewater management results in high negative externalities for communities, municipalities/cities and even, water resource basins. Acute gastroenteritis is the second leading cause of morbidity in the country, while soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) continue to be endemic in a number of municipalities, making the Philippines the country with the second highest rate of STH incidence in Asia. (cited in DOH Administrative Order 2010 – 0021, “Sustainable Sanitation as a National Policy and a National Priority Program of the DOH.”

In mid-2010, we implemented an initiative which is geared towards promoting ecological sanitation in depressed communities located in coastal areas and river settlements with little or no sanitation being practiced primarily because of marginalization and the lack of space and resources. The project was funded by the  Sustainable Sanitation & Water Resources Management Network Asia (SSWRMNA) and the proponents are the WAND Foundation and Xavier University with Xavier University taking the lead because the WAND is not a member of the SSWRMNA. Total funding is 1,500 Euro or roughly Pesos 96,000.

The grant is divided into;

Cost of materials in building 100 coastal zone hanging UDD toilets (100 x 450 PhP) = 45,000.00 PhP

20 humanure collection drums (1 per 5 families; 20 x 370 PhP) 7,400.00 =
15,000.00 PhP

Flyers and other educational materials = 15,000.00 PhP

Small group discussions, orientation and meetings with the beneficiaries = 12,000.00 PhP

Monitoring cost (fuel, honoraria) =  9,000 PhP

Total: 96,000 PhP

Project Sites:
This initiative was piloted in Initao and Libertad Municipalites in Misamis Oriental with Initao showcasing ecosan for river settlements and Libertad showcasing ecosan implementation in coastal communities. 

Lawis, Initao, Misamis Oriental

The purok in Lawis, Initao Municipality consist of 120 families living near the Initao river. The Initao river inundates its banks during heavy rains making pour-flush toilets difficult to establish and maintain. Most of the families in Lawis are vendors and artisans. They were evacuees in the war with the New Peoples Army and the Philippine government in mid-80’s and they never return home to their farms in the mountains but opted to stay near the poblacion. Lawis is a stone’s throw away from Initao poblacion. Most of the residents in Lawis are ultra-poor, earning about 60 pesos a day. The river provides them with some nourishment by way of small crabs and shrimps. Most residents especially children suffer from diarrhoeal sickness. Most of those without toilets defecate in the river banks or in the coconut trees dotting the place. Since houses are close to each other, this is a difficult enterprise and undignified especially for women. The reason they have no toilet facilities is mainly economic, the 60 pesos a day income is not even enough to buy rice and salted fish which is the staple here.

Purok 2, Libertad Municipality

Purok 2 is situated near the coastline fronting the Mindanao Sea. Most of the residents are local fishermen. Fishing is now becoming a difficult enterprise with so many people getting into the trade and fishes thriving far off into the oceans. In the early 80’s dynamite fishing is rampant here but not anymore today. Houses in the purok are close to each other and it resembles a mini-slum. Toilet facilities are very difficult to build since the place is inundated when there is abnormally high tide happening during monsoons or when there is tropical depression. Libertad is near the typhoon belt and is affected by it. Septage is out of the question. Local people defecate in the coastal waters usually in the early mornings or in the evenings. No matter what time of day, this is difficult for women because with so many people/children milling around, there is no privacy.

Process conducted:

The idea of ecological sanitation is an entirely new conception for these communities and here lies the challenge when we started promoting the initiative. The re-use of faeces for agriculture is the most problematic since this has never been done before while the use of urine is easily understood because traditionally people use urine as fertilizer mainly for flowers especially for local orchid varieties. Observation here is that urine fertilized flowers produces vigorous stems and excellent flowers compared to flowers that are just left alone. 

When we started, we need to find what is called “trigger messages” in order for the inhabitants to adopt dry, ecosan toilets. There are various options we considered, namely;

a.       “Shaming” those without toilets.
b.      Invoking a barrio ordinance penalizing those without toilets.
c.       Informing them the problems caused by open defecation in terms of spread of diseases, intestinal worms and e.coli.
d.      Informing them about the varied values of ecosan toilets in terms of savings in water, sanitation, use in gardens, improving fertility and so on.

In all these, we fully used c and d but limited the use of a and b. Shaming is not feasible in the sense that the Filipinos’ “amor propio” (literally, “self-esteem” or pride) is legendary and once shamed the “shamer” is declared an enemy forever. In this case, no matter what you will say or do now and in the future will be considered with prejudice and opposition not only with the concerned individual but also with the rest of the extended clan. Family ties among Filipinos run deep.  Invoking a barrio ordinance we leave with the mandated authorities because this is their job and in doing so we achieve a sense of legitimacy and ownership by the local leaders.

In the information education stage, we touched-base with barrio officials and conducted with them focused group discussion on the benefits of ecological sanitation. What heightened their interest is when we brought them to see actual constructed ecosan toilets and talk to the beneficiaries already implementing ecological sanitation living near the WAND office in barrio Lubluban, Libertad municipality. We also brought them to an “early champion” living in Initao Municipality whose “hanging” ecosan toilet is serving as an early model for people to see and observe. We think that more than hearing about it, local people adopt when they see, observe and interact with actual users.  

Design elements: 

The basic ecosan toilet design we implemented consist of;
a.       a single detached ecosan toilet, and,
b.      an ecosan built into the house of the beneficiaries. 

The basic consideration for either a or b above consist of the choice of the beneficiary and/or the availability of space where the unit is to be built, eg. some of the beneficiaries prefer ecosan built attached to their houses for ease in using it while others prefer the stand-alone built just near their house.

The single detached ecosan toilet is much easier to build and pre-fabricate. However the ecosan toilet attached to the house of the beneficiaries takes into consideration the basic configuration of the house, its measurements, ease in use of the toilet, choice of the family and other factors.

In all these units, the basic materials are the following;

a.       drum cut in half as feces collector, or a big rattan basket, or woven coconut fronds,
b.      garbage bag and ramie sacks,
c.       container for urine collection,
d.      flooring, roofing and walling made of local materials.

The difference with dry toilets compared with the traditional plush-pour is that with ecosan one has to contend with collecting the faecal materials and urine and storing them in a storage area for re-use in agriculture later on or as needed. Urine can be used immediately but faeces need to be stored in 6 months in order to destroy all the pathogens. The ideal way in this situation is for the local residents to use/recycle the human waste for their own use but the problem is that they live in close proximity to each other without a land to do agriculture with. The only option is for a logistics arrangement involving a small truck, a storage facility and a farm/s where the humanure can be used. Some ecosan proponents fail to take this into account and they have mountains of faeces pestering in the countryside and or urine just dumped somewhere defeating the purpose of closing the loop between sanitation and agriculture. Ecosan implementers should take a system and cyclical view of its nature.

In our case, we did 3 things in terms of humanure re-use, a. feeding the faecal materials into our vermi-compost, b. incorporating it into the terra-preta biochar compost, c. using it as fertilizer for fruit and timber trees and the farmer not touching the faecal material.  Letter c may be controversial in the sense that if we follow the WHO standards, faeces should be stored for at least 6-8 months in order to destroy pathogens. For us, this is so if one handles the faecal material directly or if one uses it for vegetable production. These 2 conditions are absent in our case in that,  a. the “no touch” rule is followed, b. the material is used in timber trees.

Incentive mechanisms:

The idea of “shaming” local people so that they will realize the value of having a toilet and “jump and dig their own pits” is a disincentive for sanitation, at least in our local area. Letting a community draw an “open defecation map” and letting them stand where these OD happens (oftentimes near their houses) and in the presence of ministers or mayors will be a massive loss of face. People here kill each other over a game of pitch and toss. The “amor propio” character of the Filipino run thousands of years already.   

Our incentives comprise giving the users certificates of recognition, implementing local contests (eg. well-kept toilets, productive gardens, regular visits and praises).

a.       Running a contest

Contests are small-time, localized affairs. It is a fact in social psychology that people respond well when pitted against each other rather than doing it alone. In this case, we run two contests, a. for well-kept toilets, b. for productive gardens. The contests were occasions for pride by the contestants and they participated with gusto.  Of course there is also the possibility of getting a prize no matter how small it is. Prizes are household utensils, small cash, small animals that they can raise (chickens and pigs) and garden package comprising tools and seeds.

b.      Giving of certificates

A piece of paper with their names written on it and signed by the local official such as the mayor is with great value to local people, for us, we take this for granted already but for them it is something to crow about and hang in their walls.

c.       Regular visits and praises

Regular visits and inspections are no more than “pats in the back” but for those who are seldom recognized or supported, this is psychologically rewarding and an enriching experience.

Management cost

One of our aims in implementing these type of toilets is basically for us to pilot an innovative mode of improving sanitation in poor coastal and river communities and in order for us to generate a lot of waste for our humanure-based agriculture and small-scale forestry research. In terms of management cost, there are 2 scenarios. Scenario 1 is if the implementation of the whole system is localized, eg. local implementers use the humanure themselves for their vegetables, bananas or coconut trees, then management cost is nil. The beneficiaries can stockpile the faeces, wait for 6-8 months then use it as soil amendment while using urine directly to the plants when the container is full, or with regards faeces, the beneficiaries can directly fertilize it in coconut trees and not wait for several months. The fertilizing technique is to bore several holes around the coconut trees and bury the faeces there. The one handling the faeces should wear heavy-duty gloves and masks while doing this activity.

In the 2nd scenario, as in our case, we collect the urine and faeces and bring it to our farm demo area. In the case of Lawis, the distance is about 3 kilometres while in the case of Purok 3, Libertad, the distance is 2 kilometres.  Cost involve in the collection which is done once a week for 45 ecosan toilets comprises, fuel for the vehicle at 80 pesos and cost of a driver and 1 laborer totalling 70 pesos. Collection time is approx 3 hours for the 2 areas. Total cost is 150 per week for the collection activity. Note: 1 Eu = 63 pesos.

Allied activities:

Urine collection –

We collect urine in the case of beneficiaries who cannot make their gardens or whose gardens are very small and urine production is in excess. We are collecting urine from selected communities as a way to pilot-test decentralized, household urine collection and use it directly in our farms and gardens. When we started, we used black, recycled 18-liter containers but we found out that it is difficult to monitor the contents resulting in spills and bad smell. Because of this, we decided to use discarded mineral water bottles with the top cut and glued back inverted. In this way we are able to monitor the content and prevent spills. We pour the urine in the black containers, close it and put it on storage until use.


We highlight small-scale gardening activities because for coastal and river communities hampered by a lack of space for agriculture and in situation of constant flooding, small-scale gardening is an option. Vegetables can be grown using simple hydrophonics or soil-less cultivation and containers and in available spaces and using recycled materials as growing medium. Fertilizer comes from household wastes which comprises 90% organic and urine because urine can be used immediately as plant fertilizer.  Vegetables have shorter cycles, fast growing, require little space and very dependable and are resilient food security option for vulnerable populations.  Vegetables are expensive and difficult to procure and this cheap source of micro-nutrients like Vitamin A, iodine and iron is often absent in the diet, leading to poor mental and physical development especially among the young crippling local communities further.  Moringa for example is touted as a nutrient powerhouse and this can be grown in small, open spaces or in containers and hydrophonics with available sunlight.


There is much potential for scalability in using ecosan in flooded zones the Philippines and maybe in some other SE countries for the following reasons;

a.       The situation in coastal and river areas in the Philippines is similar, eg. poor communities, difficulty in implementing septage-type toilets, houses built very close to each other and our system is versatile and robust enough to be used in this type of situation.
b.       Providing incentive mechanisms.  Economic incentives such as awards and certificates and “pats-in-the-back” such as praises and visits by local officials are powerful drivers in order for local people to implement sustainable sanitation solution.
c.       Gardening in small spaces, vertical and horizontal and using simple hydrophonic system is applicable almost everywhere. We are in tropical climate and the sun provides energy for photosynthesis to occur.

Some notes on enhancing acceptability:

a.       In the case of the use of urine as fertilizer, using experiences with our grandparents as example are example since the locals can very well relate to this.
b.      Using plants growing near open-pit toilets as example of the response of crops to humanure. This is best exemplified in bananas growing luxuriant at the sides of open-pit toilets.
c.       Explaining the route of flies from faeces to food as cause of disease spread.
d.      Using powerful group facilitation methods such as the Technology of Participation or ToP.
e.       Piloting/modelling with early champions. This means installing one pilot ecosan model with a family in a village and then people to look and see for themselves.


The conclusion for this write-up can best be presented by showing the robustness of the system as against the criteria set by the Bill and Melinda Gates Global Challenge for sanitation;

a)      Provide robust and safe containment during heavy rain and flood events;

So far we can safely say that we are the first to ever think of designing a system that can contain human excreta during heavy rains and flood events. Our ecosan system is simple, easy to construct and when there is indication that flooding occurs, can be safely transported or evacuated.
b)      Function in tidal, riparian, or floating communities;

Our single-vault system can function in this biophysical regime by simply raising the posts or integrating it in floating houses or communities then installing a subordinate waste management collection system.

c)      Low lifecycle costs, robust, and locally available components;

Our ecosan system costs in the vicinity of 25 USD per unit, and the cost goes down as the beneficiary uses his own labor and materials. All components are locally available and robust. For example the recycled 200-liter drums are made of steel, the bamboo flooring and walls will last a long time, so too the cement ecosan bowl whose lifespan can be 50 or more years.

d)     Easy to operate, maintain, and service during productive life; 

The units are very easy to maintain and clean, there is even no more training needed for the beneficiary to understand how the system functions.

e)      Incorporate user-centered design elements that are appropriate for women, children, and “washer” communities and that are affordable for the ultra-poor.

The system is designed to be used for men and women as well as children, with the children being provided with additional toilet seats designed for their purpose.  The simple addition of a separate hole in the toilet floor makes our toilet system applicable for “washer” communities.