Dry sanitation is absolutely the solution
Post graduate students of the University of Freiburg (Germany) have conducted a study on different toilet systems in Namibia. They concentrated on existing solutions in this arid country, interviewed users, technicians of different Ministries and local authorities. Their conclusions are clear:
"Dry sanitation systems are very appropriate to give more Namibian people access to improved sanitation. This project study has shown that especially the Otji-toilet works quite well... although most interviewed people preferred a flush toilet, the financial capacities of the people and the natural conditions of Namibia with limited water sources do not allow an implementation of wet sanitation systems on a large scale"
The report gives detailed information on a study about dry sanitation which was conducted in Namibia by five students and their supervisor in a course of the German University (Master of Science Geography of Global Change), for which they had backup from Namibian NGO's and Government.
They collected detailed information in the capital of Windhoek as well as in small towns and rural areas, on implemented sanitation systems. They looked for the factors determining success and failures on a long term. They carried out standardized interviews with users and expert interviews. The accomplished survey in this context was structured regarding participation, financial, technical and maintenance aspects, cultural background and natural conditions.
When people without toilet facilities in the Capital of Windhoek were interviewed, they largely rejected any toilet solutions except for flush toilets with a municipal sewage system. However, most of them had no idea what a dry toilet was, and they totally rejected the idea of servicing them. This is obviously the critical issue, nobody wants to get in contact with faeces.
The city of Windhoek delegates an employee to change the bins every six months, the town of Otjiwarongo (the hometown of the Otji toilet) contracts a private company to do the same, the fee is added to the cost of the water. Wherever the toilets are installed in urban environments, the Municipality is organizing a collection system for the wastes.
This is different in rural applications. It seems people have less problem dealing with those facts of life and accept the fact that they have to do this twice a year. Of course, also waste disposal is much easier in the bush than in town.
In many places the toilets are being used by several families. Specifically in Otjiwarongo is has become standard that three or more families join for one toilet. This has led the Municipality to increase the service, the bins are now changed every three months. Bars and Restaurants with Otji toilets pay the contractor to do it on even shorter terms, some of them might use the toilet facilities to attract clients to their business.
The study also points out critical facts, like lack of compliance of the service to change the bins, toilets that are in bad repair (broken doors, pipes etc) and that are not kept clean. Many of those criticisms of course apply to any toilet solution. Otji toilet designer Peter Arndt claims that most flush toilets in Namibia host more pathogens in their bowls than the average Otji bowl. Taking into account the intricate design of flush bowls and the lack of water in many places, this probably applies not just for Namibia
The study is available to download (english) here: Evaluation of Dry Sanitation systems in Namibia, Africa, 2011 4.24 Mb