Chic African Culture Blog

Sawdust toilets could save lives in Africa

Sawdust toilets can solve the lack of adequate good sanitation in African slums.

The severe lack of water and toilets is a major concern for slums throughout Africa especially in the large slums of Khayelitsha in Cape Town South Africa and Kibera in Kenya.

Densely populated slums are installing sustainable sawdust toilets using a container with a lid, a toilet seat, and a regular supply of sawdust.

In Africa’s largest slums housing conditions and toilets are unsanitary and sawdust toilets are an innovative environmental idea.


Sawdust sustainable toilets will solve the lack of adequate good sanitation in Africa.
Sawdust toilets

In the slum of Khayelitsha in Cape Town South Africa the lack of adequate sanitation, potable water and electricity, in addition to substandard housing and overcrowding, aggravates the spread of diseases and avoidable deaths.

About half of Africa’s 470 million city residents live in slums or informal settlements a number that will only increase as Africa's urban population will double to 1 billion people by 2040.

The severe lack of water and toilets is a major concern for slums throughout Africa; poor sanitation is feared to be a looming public health disaster. More than a third of the global population lacks adequate sanitation, a problem that is even more pronounced in informal urban settlements and slums.

Fortunately, there are a few cost-effective, eco-friendly, sustainable toilet solutions out there that work for all kinds of environments. Waste from waterless toilets using sawdust, in slums of Africa, are being processed into fertilizer and used to help produce animal feed.

It is creative thinking, compost sanitation, which can increase the number of people who have access to proper sanitation. Toilets are important in the fight against water contamination and disease.

However, because of water supplies and cost, conventional toilets do not always work in developing countries. One drawback is wood materials like sawdust and wood shavings are high in carbon, and carbon absorbs plant needing nitrogen in the soil leading to a nitrogen deficiency.

Sawdust toilet composting system is simple as it does not require a special toilet seat, or tubing to divert urine from the compost mixture. All you need is a collection container, privacy, and sawdust, leaves, or dried grass to keep the toilets in working condition.

Khayelitsha is the second-largest black township in South Africa after Soweto with a population of 391,749 and just like Kibera in Kenya only about 20 percent have electricity and 10 percent have access to clean water. There is currently no system of sewer pipes to collect sewage and take it for disposal in the slums of Kibera but sawdust toilets are changing the game.


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Being African in America I have grown up learning about different ethnic cultures. My father and mother are historians of African culture and history and their influence expanded my activities to several best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded products, and a popular African culture and food blog.

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