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Solar panels for latrines and ideal distance between mens and ladies?

I would like information on ways to light latrines when there is limited or no electricity. I know there are solar lights, but don't know much about them and whether they are a practical option. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Also, according to Sphere Guidelines men's and women's latrines should be separated. Based on your experience, what should be the ideal distance between men and women's latrines? (I don't believe that Sphere guidelines are specifics about distances in this case.)

Thanks so much for your help!

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Thanks for asking! These are two separate questions. I would suggest to ask them separately in the future so that it is easier to find the questions appropriate answers in the future when people do searches.

Nicolas Dickinson gravatar imageNicolas Dickinson ( 2013-12-10 03:06:33 -0500 )edit

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With all of the considerations, its difficult to put a guideline on the optimum distance between male and female toilets as it needs to be weighed up with all of the other constraints and maximised. It may make most sense to ask the local communities where they would prefer the location, if you have various options. If you do ask people make sure you ask both women and men!

If toilets blocks are segregated by communities, strangers will stand out more easily which is good for security. You may want to consider the prominent direction of wind for smells etc.

For your second query regarding solar lighting, I helped install some solar lighting with fairly portable panels in hotels in Nepal. The purpose was to provide lighting during regular powercuts. With power cuts that only lasted an hour or so, it was ideal. If you needed lighting for longer periods (throughout the whole night) it may be more expensive. The panels themselves were imported from China (via USA ridiculously) and were relatively cheap. For a 5 watt solar panel, battery, 4 LED lights, Cable and switches it would cost approximately £60 (including profit). If you can find anyone locally who already has a business set up it is certainly worth investigating. Nepal had a huge amount of NGOs working there and so there were more than a few solar charities, of which some were international. Solar Aid have recently distributed Micro solar lighting ravi kits which may be the kind of thing you are looking for?


Lucy Conrad

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All the bullets are "indicators" from Sphere Standard and it may be good to go back to Sphere itself to also read the guidance notes which are really helpful / contextual .... for example Sphere is qualitative and the indicators can be varied in some cases ..Its actually a bit of a fallacy to consider these as specific, which is the point made by Sphere. For example the 20 users can rise to 50 in some cases as we were obliged to operate briefly in Sri Lanka.. Sphere also suggests a ratio of male to female toilets and quite a lot else. Without a doubt the WASH cluster on the ground will know Sphere upside down, and as a cluster will likely be agreeing on the ground interpretations.

Sphere also makes some recommendations about lighting for security.

As a practical point be careful of bright internal lighting if the latrine is plastic sheet ... nice silhouettes form that are not very private. Internal lighting will also attract insects vectors more where as a security light outside that diffuses into the latrine is less likely to attract insects inside the latrine, will tend to keep insects more outside, and because it is outside may be less likely stolen or placed so it is harder to reach or easier to see someone taking it.

Kerosene is not ideal in most circumstances but if all else is failed ..... a well trimmed kerosene lamp is estimated to give up to 30 / 35 hours light per litre of kerosene.

Distance between male and female latrines will likely be a local issue, and it may not be so much a matter of distance ..... but of screening for privacy and dignity, ........ or separating latrines or the walking paths to them for security.


Chris Nixon

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I would like to reiterate comments about the separation between M and F toilets as being very culturally specific. The critical factor is not so much the physical separation but the visibility of people visiting the toilet to people of the opposite gender. The entrances could be next door to each other as long as there is effective screening between them and it is not obvious where people are bound when they are bound in that general direction.

The cultural factor is important and can only be ascertained by talking to the people who will be using the toilets, but beware, the importance can be overstated. For example, in Zimbabwe there is apparently a taboo about meeting your mother-in-law whilst on your way to the bog. Quite reasonable really if your are heading off into the bush, but probably not practical when the toilet is next to your house. In the whole of Zimbabwe apart from one province, this did not seem to be a problem (although it is virtually impossible to actually determine who is using a toilet), but in one they insisted on providing two toilets per household. This was not because there is a sharp dividing line in cultural preference at the province border, it was entirely due to the Provincial Health Officer’s insistence on the importance of the taboo, but the irony was that he was Afrikaans and not Shona. People are often far more pragmatic than they are given credit for and should be given the final say.


Jeff Broome

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Regarding latrine lighting, Sanergy's Fresh Life Toilets have a solar light which is charged during the day and provides light for the toilets during the night (see the discussion on this topic in the SuSanA forum).

The MyShelter Foundation, which became "world famous"with its solar bottle bulb (Liter of Light project) has also developed a solar night light (see their videos).

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2013-12-09 07:51:24 -0500
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Dec 09 '13