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

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