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Does anyone have experience using a) birkaroons (sandbags) or b) treated wood for latrine pit lining?

In regions with sandy geology, where latrine pit lining is necessary, latrine costs are very high. Using sandbags as a lining is an interesting concept, which has had success in Kenya (see attached paper).

For a Sanitation Marketing project in Madagascar, developing low cost household latrine alternatives is a huge challenge. We are considering concrete blocks (still expensive) and plastic barrells (small capacity).

Local wood is also an interesting option, although it would need to be resistant to rotting.

Thanks for your thoughts.


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Dear Mark,

We are piloting an innovative method of latrine contruction for nomadic people in Niger which we call "Nomadrines". The idea behind the Nomadrine is to provide a suitable low-cost technology for unstable soils which can be reused.

The technology is essentially made up of a used 25l plastic jerry cans which nomads generally use to carry and store water. These jerry cans serve the purposes of both strutting on unstable grounds (sandy) and as containers for excreta. You can find the concept note here:

We are going to have an evaluation of its use in the communities this year with the Niger team.


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I was chatting with someone about sandy soils and collapsing pits a couple of weeks ago. The team they were working with had all sorts of clever but costly ideas but the locals took the approach of having covered superstructures to keep the rain off and they left the tailings around the outside of the pit so that the rain ran off away from the pit. Worked well for a couple of years until the pit was full.

You may want to track down the guys at Bushproof (Madagascar)- they will have the answer to this question for sure.

All the best,


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Hi Mark,

Not sure about the options you mention - other people would need to answer. However I have found this doc by... WaterAid! WaterAid - New sanitation technologies for communities with poor soil.pdf

I have done toilet pits with trapezoidal blocks, i.e. blocks with a hollow centre which use much less cement (and you can space them at the bottom to help infiltration if using water) see doc attached (BoQ for a pour-flush toilet in Tanzania with pit lined with these. BOQ - Pour-flush.docx

If you are in a dense urban settlement, using barrels (plastic or metal drums) may be an option if at the same time developing an emptying system such as gulpers. They often can't empty below depths of 1m so it's not useful to dig more than that, and it makes the toilet cheaper (admittedly only valid if emptying is an affordable recurring cost). But if sludge collected can composted / dried and used a soil conditioner or fertiliser, it can reduce emptying fees.


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Oh I have also seen this publication recently:

Rémi Kaupp gravatar imageRémi Kaupp ( 2014-09-18 09:32:21 +0000 )edit

Oxfam produced a technical briefing on the use of sandbags as linings. It was more of a how to guide rather than an evaluation of their effectiveness or durability. I have not come across their use in practice.

John C

REDR Expert

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