Ecological dry latrines
Letrinas Ecologicas Secas, commonly known as Eco-Latrines, are an alternative technology to the traditional pit-latrines that are used in most rural Nicaraguan communities, including those of Totogalpa. They are a project of PSAE’s natural construction team, who build them using local, natural materials.
Eco-latrines have two chambers for solid waste, both constructed above ground, and a separator that diverts urine into a different receptacle where it can be mixed with water to be used as fertilizer. The user “flushes” with sawdust or dry leaves mixed with dirt after each use, and when one chamber is full, the user closes it and moves the toilet seat to the other chamber. With proper use and maintenance, after a period of six months to one year the contents of the first chamber can be used to make compost.
Pit latrines, as the name suggests, consist of a pit—usually of about 3 meters, although the depth varies depending on who constructed it—with a toilet seat and structure above. While the advent of pit latrine was certainly an important development for sanitation in the area, there are numerous risks or disadvantages associated with them that can be resolved with eco-latrines.
- From a health and environmental perspective, pit latrines pose a threat to the groundwater, as the sewage can contaminate the water table if the pit is not properly lined with cement or bricks. This problem is especially significant in areas where houses are close together, and close to a community well, as is the case in parts of Sabana Grande. Furthermore, in the rainy season, the pits can fill up with water and overflow! Eco-latrines avoid these problems since they are constructed above ground.
- Economically, pit-latrines are unsustainable, as each time they fill up a new pit needs to be excavated and the household either needs to move the structure or build a new one. Digging a new pit is time-consuming and expensive, and in some cases families are unable to afford the construction of a new latrine and have to wait until a project comes from the government or an NGO to build a new one. Eco-latrines, by contrast, only need to be constructed once, since the chambers can be emptied and reused.
- Because the urine is separated, the contents of the latrine are dry and don’t smell as bad as traditional latrines.
In addition to these advantages, eco-latrines (if used properly) produce a high-quality organic fertilizer, improving the quality of the soil and making crops stronger and more resilient in a region with a history of deforestation, drought, and soil depletion.
Currently, there are three dry eco-latrines in the community: two constructed by the natural construction team in the Solar Mountain, and one at the house of Hilario, a member of PSAE and the head of the construction team. Partnering with students from the University of Dayton, members of PSAE have conducted an extensive survey of 409 families in Sabana Grande and Santo Domingo, assessing the current status of pit latrines, as well as providing information and gauging the level of interest in eco-latrines. The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and we are currently working with PSAE to formalize the budget, and create formal project proposals in order to partner with the local government and INPRHU.
Our plan is to run a pilot project installing latrines in 15-20 households, training the beneficiaries in the construction and use of the latrines and providing the follow-up that is necessary for a new technology to be successful. With the completion of a pilot project, we will be better equipped to implement a project on a larger scale. In the future, we envision eco-latrines having a widespread positive impact on the health and environment of rural communities, as well creating a source of local employment for those who are involved in the construction.
Latrine Prototype Construction
The premise of this program is to improve conditions in houses hosting long term visitors (2 months or more) and to give the opportunity to those who want to host to have the necessary conditions to be able to. The revolving loan fund offers the opportunity for 6 people to access loans for home improvements of $200 USD every once or twice a year, which they do not have to pay interest on. Loans are often used for replacing rotten door and window frames, buying new beds, building new pit latrines and washing facilities.
Once an application (along with budget) for a loan has been approved, specifying the type of home improvement intended, the recipient will receive their loan and will be given priority for hosting long term visitors. Once assigned a long term visitor they will receive payment for their meals but the payment for rent is retained to make payment on the loan. It takes approximately 3.33 months of hosting a visitor to repay the loan. The revolving loan fund was implemented in 2007 and till this day we have not had a payment default! We have issued a total of 61 loans to date totalling $11,200 USD. Through donations the fund has increased from $800 USD to $1,200 USD.
Quantity of Loans by Year
Small Business Incubator
An important part of maintaining a financially sustainable organisation is ensuring that we are not creating a lifetime dependence on foreign funds, which can so often be an issue with international development projects.
Our small business incubator is a key means of achieving this, by providing our members with the tools, support and seed funding to start their own business. These benefits not only the business owners, but also the wider community.
Bici-Futuro was started in early 2016 by two members of JPHF, Juan and Marcel, with the help of a donation of bicycles, as well as tools and parts by the Colavito family. The pair are currently running a repair workshop out of Marcel's house as well as renting bicycles, with the plan to sell bicycles in the future.
We are currently working with Bici-Futuro in the following areas:
- Development of business plan
- Marketing and publicity
- Implementing financial management systems
Ceiba de Oro
Ceiba de Oro is a concept for a community tourism business, again stemming out of JPHF. There are several notable attractions in the community, as well as existing accommodation infrastructure developed as part of hosting international volunteers and participants in our courses. The group are currently developing a business plan in order to seek funding.
ACESol has been a part of Grupo Fenix since it's earliest days. Now as the technology has become more affordable we see great potential for ACESol to become a self sustaining business, and extend it's reach and impact beyond Totogalpa.
We are currently developing a business plan with the ACESol team, and researching potential new products.