Submitted by: Architectural Environmental Strategies
Implemented country: Fiji
Title: Eco-Toilets for the Fiji Islands
Anna Sundman is a native of Sweden who spent two semesters of her architectural studies in Australia and the Fiji Islands. She especially enjoyed her internship with Architectural Environment Strategies (AES), and this was why, after graduation, Anna applied for and got a job with AES, an NGO organized by architects in 2009 with the goal of supporting needy communities with architectural skills to help develop projects and strategies for local communities to become more self-sufficient instead of maintaining their state of helplessness.
While working in the Pacific Isles, Anna saw that rural communities were having more and more problems because of a lack of fresh drinking waters as a result of human waste found in polluted coastal areas and reefs, but also because of flooding and a lack of insufficient sanitary facilities. More and more cases of typhoid and hepatitis A were reported. In order to prevent such problems and to help increase the standard of living especially in the smaller Fijian island villages, the following project was organized by first researching ways of disposing of human waste and to reuse waste for fertilization.
Four different types of eco-toilets were designed. They don’t require water and they don’t pollute the environment. The low-cost design of these environmentally-friendly compost toilets is based on traditional skills as well as implementing mostly local materials, but also through using sustainable manufacturing technologies as far as social, ecological and financial aspects are concerned. The main challenge was to make this type of toilet attractive to the locals so that they would prefer using it instead of traditional water toilets. “This required establishing a good relationship with the local population, which again needed patience, trust, and a high degree of cultural knowledge“, Anna Sundman reports.
The Fijian villagers were involved in every aspect of the project. Anna was the only non-local who was involved in implementation. The odor- and water-free toilets decompose human waste in above-ground compartments. The sophisticated drainage system is made from coconut shells and mangroves in order to reduce fluids. A perfect moisture-oxygen balance was achieved by adding wood shavings for efficient composting. The nutrient-rich compost can then be used for fertilizing vegetable gardens as well as for humus in planting trees on the coast. In addition to producing these eco-toilets, AES also organized lectures and workshops and published a handbook in order to pass all this knowledge on to other islanders and their offspring. As these eco-toilet prototypes were well received by the local population they are now being built in other island communities as well.
“Be the change you want to see in the world!”