Conversion of Pit Latrines to Compost Toilets in Papoga, Uganda

Over the course of two weeks in April, an IMO team – which consisted of members from the United States, Brazil, and Uganda – converted 24 pit latrines to compost toilets at four primary schools, one nursery school, one agricultural institution, and five homes. After a year of discussion with the community regarding the health and agricultural benefits of a compost toilet, these first 24 toilets represent the pilot of our program to increase health by tackling one of its primary opponents: inadequate sanitation.

The current standard of sanitation in Papoga is a pit latrine, which is often uncovered and improperly managed once filled or the infrastructure fails. Not only does an uncovered latrine produce unpleasant smells within school grounds and homesteads, but these pits often contaminate nearby watering sources and allow flies to access human feces and spread it to food, fingers, and faces. The second option in Papoga is open defecation, which leaves human waste and its pathogens exposed to be trampled on by barefoot children.

Journalist Rose George, the author of The Big Necessity, states that these sanitation options can lead to humans ingesting up to 10 grams of human waste each day. Each gram can contain up to 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, and 100 parasite eggs. It seems evident that these sanitation trends lend to the 74% prevalence of intestinal parasites we found in the children of Papoga in our last Rapid Appraisal.

A compost toilet breaks down pathogens in human waste through the use of natural thermophilic bacteria via a composting bin. The pit latrine is replaced by a seated bucket, where human waste and sawdust (or some other internal cover material) is collected over time. The sawdust neutralizes odors and commences the compost process. Once filled, a compost technician empties these buckets into a nearby compost bin, where bacteria, oxygen, carbon-rich material, and moisture break down pathogens within the waste and create organic fertilizer. 

The following report offers a detailed description of the work undertaken by our team at each school.


Bethel Junior School

Four wooden toilets were installed in existing latrine blocks.

  • Three of the four existing stalls contained pit openings. These three were sealed and leveled with cement.
  • Each stall door was reversed to open outwards.
  • The four stalls were then each fitted with a wooden toilet (20-liter).
  • The trench in front of the stalls was filled and leveled with grave and cement.
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed adjacent to the toilet block.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • Consists of a four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 1.5 meters.
  • Compost bins are located adjacent to girls' dormitory.
  • The bins were lined with gravel perimeter to avoid flooding.
  • Bin #1 is covered by one papyrus mat for shade and protection from heavy rain.

District Farm Institute

Five cement toilets installed in previous boy's pit latrine. 

  • Four of the five existing stalls contained pit openings. These four were sealed and leveled with cement.
  • Four of the five existing stalls contained a large wooden door that opened inward. These four doors were cut in half, reattached with hinges, and installed to fold at the center.
  • A rod and curtain was installed on the fifth stall (no door previously).
  • A brick and cement toilet (50-liter) was installed into each of the five stalls.
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed adjacent to the path leading to the toilet block.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • Consists of a four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 2 meters.
  • Compost bins are located just behind the toilet block.
  • The bins were lined with gravel perimeter.
  • Bin #1  is covered by one papyrus mat for shade and protection from heavy rain.

Kaberu Nursery School

Two wooden toilets installed in existing two-stall pit latrine building.

  • Both bit openings were sealed and leveled with cement.
  • Both doors were reversed to open outwards.
  • Both stalls were fitted with a wooden toilet (20-liter).
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed in front of the toilet block.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • An exposed pit was covered and sealed its a large stump, rocks, bricks, wood, soil, etc.
  • Consists of a four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 1.5 meters.
  • Compost bins are located near the toilet block adjacent to a perimeter fence.
  • Bin #1 is covered by one papyrus mat for shade and protection from heavy rain.

Papoga Primary School

One wooden toilet installed in existing one-stall teachers' pit latrine building.

  • The pit opening was sealed and leveled with wood, soil, clay, and sand. A wooden floor was installed atop the leveled ground.
  • The walls were lined with mud and painted white with a lime-wash.
  • The roof was replaced with new metal sheets and a new timber frame.
  • The building was then fitted with a wooden toilet (20-liter).
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed adjacent to the toilet building.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • Consists of four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 1.5 meters.
  • Compost bins are located uphill from the toilet under the shade and protection of a mango tree.

Zale Primary School

Two wooden toilets installed in existing two-stall bathing building.

  • A small window opening in each stall was widened to enhance airflow and access to natural light.
  • Each stall was fitted with a wooden toilet (20-liter).
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed in front of the toilet block.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • Consists of four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 1.5 meters.
  • Compost bins are located just behind the toilet block.
  • Bin #1 is covered by one papyrus mat for shade and protection from heavy rain.

Zeu Primary School

Two cement toilets installed in existing two-stall staff latrine building.

  • Both of the pit openings were sealed and leveled with cement.
  • Both of the doors were reversed to open outwards.
  • A brick and cement toilet (50-liter) was installed into both stalls.
  • A tippy tap (3-liter) was installed adjacent to the toilet block.

Three cement toilets installed in existing three-stall pit latrine building designated for girls.

  • Each of the three pit openings were sealed and leveled with cement.
  • A brick and cement toilet (50-liter) was installed into each of the three stalls.
  • The path in front of the toilet block  was lined with gravel.
  • A tippy-tap (3-liter) was installed adjacent to the toilet block.

Four-bin compost site constructed of wooden shipping pallets.

  • Consists of a four-bin system with each bin measuring approximately 1 meter by 1.5 meters.
  • Compost bins are located in between the two toilet blocks, behind a classroom block.
  • The bins are located under the shade and protection of several large trees and smaller coffee trees.

Currently, the Ugandan members of the IMO team are on the ground expanding the project into some of the homes surrounding the schools listed above, starting with their own homes. These men act as ambassadors for the project, with an understanding of how to properly manage the new system. They are excited to spread the system to their neighbors and see these neighbors spread it to others.