Composting as waste management (Molly) / by Claudia Bode

Dry, dry, dry

Dry, dry, dry

This week there has been a lot of talk about waste management.  Here, in Tanzania, septic tanks are the norm in town. In the villages it’s pit toilets, if there is a toilet at all.  Western-style toilets use a lot of water.  The Peace Home site is in the savannah where during the dry season there is very little water.  

This year, even the rainy season was dry.  More than have the crops were lost this year and the volunteers coming back from the mobile health clinics in the villagers further out are reporting a lot of malnutrition.

The original plan was to build a septic system for the new Peace Home but as we started exploring our options we realized the amount of resources that would be required to both build and operate, including the need for water every time someone uses the toilet, is too high.  After a brief exploration into capturing the methane gas from the septic tank and utilizing that for cooking, we decided it was not feasible because it is decidedly too complex and potentially dangerous around the little ones.  

Having been involved and researched compost systems before, we decided to use this approach.  Not only will the compost be usable for on-site trees and bushes (for health reasons we won’t use it on the gardens), but it will save a lot of water.  

The big win this week was convincing the planning office of this approach.  They expressed their doubts and questioned why we didn’t want to pipe water in.  Besides the fact that it is outside of our budget, the composting system brings long-term benefits for both the kids on the Peace Home and allows us to be more being responsible neighbors. This far outweighs the required maintenance.  

When compost is properly mixed and the ph-balance maintained there is no smell (the same can’t be said of a septic system).  Additionally both pit toilets and septic systems leach into the ground as undigested waste, which can get into the drinking water.  With a properly maintained and located compost system this can be avoided. Not only do we plan to have a well dug on site, but many of our neighbors have wells.

We aren’t kidding ourselves - this approach takes maintenance and training but in the long run it seems like the appropriate method to pursue.