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How tiger worms transform lives

Posted by Duoi Ampilan Oxfam humanitarian worker

13th Oct 2017

Previously emergencies expert Duoi Ampilan shared his experiences of fighting cholera in Yemen. He's now in Sierra Leone and preventing disease using a brand new idea: tiger worm toilets.

It's a simple but very effective innovation being trialled in Liberia and Sierra Leone: standard loos are built on top of a sealed system containing a layer of earthworms, called tiger worms. The worms break down the waste, stop germs from spreading and create a brilliant natural fertiliser - helping people to grow crops for their families.

In places where the alternative is often to dig a hole in the ground, tiger worm toilets are a safer, longer-lasting solution, and give people privacy and the big bonus of free fertiliser for crops. They can also be built quickly and cheaply in refugee camps, stopping diseases spreading in emergencies. Here's what Duoi had to say as he settled in to his new role:

Month one: A new start

This is a shift for me from faster emergency responses. That doesn't mean it's easy though, expectations are high, and I believe the tiger worm toilets will really make a difference. They have so many benefits: they are easy to operate and maintain, they don't attract flies and we can build them in all soil conditions. People will no longer need to dig pit after pit.

Month two: An inspiring encounter

I speak to a 12-year-old boy, Ibrahim, who had a tiger worm toilet built as part of a pilot project in Sierra Leone. He's very proud of it because he no longer needs to go to the toilet outside, and has taken responsibility for keeping it clean and explaining how to keep the worms safe. I love this innovative sanitation solution.

Month three: Demand is growing

I have already seen great interest from local leadership and communities. One of our main challenges will be higher demand. We will involve local authorities to ensure progress can be sustained through local initiatives. We need a lot of ground work and resources, but this innovation could be so valuable in growing towns, slums and urban communities.


Having a tiger worm toilet has made a big difference to Mary Isabel and Robert Zebedee. (Photo: Tommy Trenchard). Robert says he prefers the fertiliser from the toilet to the ones available in the shops - and their whole family is benefitting. "We sell what we grow and we eat some of it," he says. "It also helps our children. The money from the gardens will pay for their school fees and whatever they need to go to school."

Blog post written by Duoi Ampilan

Oxfam humanitarian worker

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