Team Tiger’s Treasure Hunt in Ethiopia

Posted by Jenny Lamb Oxfam Public Health Engineer

4th Mar 2013

Oxfam is always looking at new ways to improve sanitation in its programmes and the Tiger Worm Toilet is just one novel method that is currently being trialled. With an estimated 2.6 billion people still without access to adequate sanitation, it's vital that we keeping looking for better, and more sustainable, ways of doing things. 

The Tiger Worm Toilet is a flushing system that treats both the liquid and solid waste using composting worms (Ensenia fetida). The worms eat the faecal matter (yes, they eat human poo), which reduces the pathogen load and the frequency with which it needs to be emptied. The system is smaller than a septic tank and the waste that is generated is safer and easier to handle.

A pilot Tiger Worm Toilet system has been running for over a year at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.  Oxfam feels that this technology has the potential to provide a much needed breakthrough in finding a sustainable sanitation solution. Our team in Dire Dawa, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, plan to construct 10 Tiger Worm Toilets to trial this technology. 

To get this project off the ground, Team Tiger's worm hunt began with an internet search in Ethiopia. Team leaders Claire Furlong and Jenny Lamb found a talented PhD student called Gezahegn at Addis University who had completed his research on the use of tiger worms for the vermicomposting or household vegetable waste. Gezahegn introduced us to his treasure chest of tiger worms, which certainly were cute red wigglers.  However, we were to find out that this chest would only provide us with 1kg of worms and we needed 20kg for the 10 toilets in Dire Dawa. Back to the drawing board. 

Team Tiger are now looking at importing worms from South Africa, growing our own in Ethiopia and seeking out other vermicomposting initiatives. Once we have the worms and provided them with prime conditions - bed, water and oddities like melon rind - they can double their weight in 60-90 days. 

Next on the to do list, is selecting an area for the demonstration model, the 10 toilet sites, and the completion of some infiltration tests.  More updates from Team Tiger soon. 

Blog post written by Jenny Lamb

Oxfam Public Health Engineer

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