SafiChoo Story - a waterless, waste-separation system with a sit-squat seat (Kenya, Zambia)

  • JasmineBurton
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SafiChoo Story

We are a team of 4 interdisciplinary designers and engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and we have design SafiChoo- an inexpensive, mobile, sanitation system intended to reduce oral-fecal contamination and the spread of WASH related diseases. We were recently humbled by winning first place and people's choice awards that Georgia Tech's premiere Invention competition, the 2014 InVenture Prize. The winnings enabled us to travel to Kenya to pilot our toilet this summer, and this video chronicles some of work that we did while in Kenya! Our pilot was made possibly by our incredible partners and mentors- Sanivation, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Center for Disease Control, and of course our incredible University, the Georgia Institute of Technology. We are so thankful for them for their guidance and support! #everybodypoops #toiletsrule
We would love to hear any feedback, advice or guidance as we could use all the help we can get!



More information can be found at www.safichoo.com

**Disclaimer: The ending of this video features our dear Kenyan friends who were showing us their cultural sanitation practices known as washing so that we could better understand how to iterate the design to meet their needs!

Thank you so much for your time!
The SafiChoo Team

Jasmine Burton
Founder + President | Wish for WASH
Business Studies Officer | Toilet Board Coalition
Georgia Institute of Technology + London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Could you give us some more insights for choosing this rather unusual design?

It seems to me that it would soon be less hygienic than a regular squatting pan (no-contact) and it doesn't seem offer any significant ease of use for elderly and disabled like regular sitting toilets do.

I also imagine that using it could be a bit problematic for males (but maybe that is payback for all the male-centric designs of the past? ;) )

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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  • canaday
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Hi SafiChoo,

Congratulations on your creativity and successes.

Please talk us through the thought process on putting together your beautiful curves ... and the etymology of your catchy name.

I agree with Krischan that one of the biggest advantages of squatting and most squat pans is that the user's private parts do not come into contact with anything. B) :woohoo:

I also find unique that you divide excrement into 4 streams
( www.safichoo.com/our-solution.html ):
"urine",
"solids",
"non-usable pathogenic waste" :sick: , and
"liquid" (leachate).

How are these separated? (Or is this protected intellectual property?)
How can the urine be considered just urine, with the anal washing as demonstrated in your video?
Where do each of these 4 streams go and how are they treated?
How does the manual bidet work?

I would suggest that nothing should be considered non-usable, we just need to figure out how to best give everything back to our ecosystems. I would also suggest that the urine, leachate and washwater could be safely and productively dispersed immediately, 10 or 20 cm under the surface of the soil via perforated hoses (which could also receive graywater from showers, etc.), to feed and irrigate fruit trees, grass and other plants (especially in a refugee camp in the middle of the desert, where greenery and food must be very welcome).

I think the dividing wall between the urine section and the fecal section is at great risk of getting soiled, so I would make it as thin and easy to clean or replace as possible. I would not make it from wood or fiberglass, but rather cut a rectangular section from the cylindrical part of a 4-liter HDPE bottle (that chlorine, disinfectants, etc. come in) that would slide into slots in the slab.

I look forward to seeing more on your project.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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  • JasmineBurton
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Re: SafiChoo Story

These are all great questions!

In terms of the seat design, our goal was to design a toilet that enabled users to both sit and squat. Since squatting is a cultural practice in much of the world and is actually healthier for your intestines, it was really important to us that we created a design that maintained that squatting posture. However, our design reduces the stress and strain on the users knees that is typically caused by squatting by enabling the user to sit if they choose. So depending on where the toilet is placed (within a home structure or in a public structure) the user can determine if they would rather sit or squat based on hygiene and physical preferences. We are still working on improved features for elderly and disabled; however the sit/squat capability has been able to address some of their ergonomic concerns.

The males that we have been working with predominately squat while defecating, so they have been largely receptive to the design. We are definitely working to improve the diversion feature as well to enable more gender specific flexibility in terms of how they want to use the toilet, but as of now, most of the men that we have worked with have not had a problem squatting since they do that already.

Jasmine Burton
Founder + President | Wish for WASH
Business Studies Officer | Toilet Board Coalition
Georgia Institute of Technology + London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Thank you so much for your interest, questions, and feedback

SafiChoo means "clean toilet" in Swahili. Technically, Kenyans pronounce it "Choe-Safi", but the meaning is the same and the locals have largely appreciated our attempt to relate our design to their culture and language.
As for the curves, we are a team with 2 industrial designers and ergonomics has remained a crucial element in our design process. The SafiChoo system is intended to be a sit-squat toilet that allows users to maintain their cultural norm of squatting (that is actually significantly healthier for the users intestines than sitting) while also reducing the stress and strain on their knees particularly felt by elderly, disabled, and children. The the design is now, there is a deep cavity in the front with a urine diversion funnel. Most of the time their private parts on not coming into contact with the actual toilet because of the depth of the funnel and separation; however, we are still testing and improving this feature in our design.


The separation of feces concept was crucial for us as well since there is so much potential energy in solid waste (as well in urine). The consistency of waste is separate via a system of filters that collect solid, pathogenic (vomit/diahrrea) and liquid (washing water) waste. Depending on if the user urinates or defecates, the washing water can go in the urine cavity that is infiltrated into the ground. In terms of treatment, we have been working in tandem with Sanivation, a post-processing organization that specializes in using solar treatment to turn waste into energy. They treated the solid waste from our toilets, the "pathogenic waste" is burned, and the washing water treatment is still being developed at this point. The manual bidet is also still in progress as we were unable to test it this summer; however, we are working with different pistons to determine the most effective way to make this bidet work. Any suggestions for these elements of our design would be greatly appreciated!

I really like the idea of perforated hoses so we will look into that! In terms of the dividing wall, I agree! We are also currently working to improve our material selections to best meet the needs of the toilet while also remaining relatively cheap. A HDPE bottle could be really cool to test, so I will look into that as well!

Thanks so much again for your questions and suggestions!

Jasmine Burton
Founder + President | Wish for WASH
Business Studies Officer | Toilet Board Coalition
Georgia Institute of Technology + London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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  • canaday
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Dear SafiChoo (and the individual members of the team),

I have described the details on these perforated hoses to distribute urine in the soil in a number of places, such as:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/27-tra...ashing-stations#7121
www.ecosan.at/ssp/issue-06-toilets/issue-06-toilets
forum.susana.org/forum/categories?func=view&catid=34&id=123#124

I have also put them on the surface of the soil, but here in the Amazon large rodents, like Agoutis (Dasyprocta spp.) chew them up, presumably to get at the salt and other nutritious substances in the urine. This is all the more reason to bury them, to get them out of sight, out of harm's way, and to let the soil safely treat any pathogens that may be present.

Other types of plastic bottles could also be cut to form that dividing wall between urine and feces. I mention HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) because it is tough, abundant, and easy to clean, but other types of plastic would also certainly be fine, including transparent PET from disposable beverage and cooking oil bottles. One could also choose bottles of the color found to be the most aesthetic.

I am still curious about how the 3 fecal streams are separated. If this is protected intelectual property, please say so. (Remember that any user or manager of these toilets will be able to see this.) I do something similar, by collecting the feces in a woven polypropylene sack (the ones that 100 pounds of rice, flour, etc. come in), which allows any leachate to filter safely into the soil below the toilet, thus keeping the feces as dry, aerobic and smell-free as possible ... and was discussed here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...-southern-india#7558
www.chekhovskalashnikov.com/human-waste-disposal/

What percentage of your users squat above the SafiChoo toilet without touching it? It is convenient to have a toilet that can be used sitting or squatting, depending on the user's preferences, knee strength, etc. It may also be worthwhile to offer newspaper, banana leaves or something --with strategic holes cut in them-- as hygienic, single-use surfaces to sit on.

In all the great photos on safichoo.tumblr.com/ I have not seen any cover material for manually throwing on top of the feces. Is none used? How does the "odor reduction flap" work?

Please explain more about the concept of the manual bidet.
Does a jet of water get squirted right where it needs to go?

Good luck with everything. I look forward to seeing more about the SafiChoo.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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  • JasmineBurton
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Re: SafiChoo Story

We apologize for the delayed response! Thank you so much for your continued questions that are pushing our design thinking during this iteration phase of our redesign. I would love to speak with you more after we get the IP of our new design figured out.

Thank you so much again for your time!

Jasmine Burton
Founder + President | Wish for WASH
Business Studies Officer | Toilet Board Coalition
Georgia Institute of Technology + London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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  • canaday
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Hi SafiChoo,

You may find interesting this Japanese toilet for sitting or squatting (... even though it does not seem to be urine-diverting)
vimeo.com/26711948

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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  • mwaniki
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Hi SafiChoo & Chris

The SafiChoo Japanese squat and sit toilet is in itself a convenient innovation especially for the those who prefer using water for cleaning themselves after the convenience. I think if a toilet hand faucet is introduced long enough to reach where its intended, it would boost the purpose to the concept.

The other way of looking at it if its intended for the aged and the disabled is to raise the level of the seat. These people have problems of flexing their lower limbs especially the weak knees and if this is considered it would be an advantage to the model.

Hi Chris

On October 21, I wrote to Chekhovs Kalashnikov about the ‘The Shitty State of Human Sanitation Part 2′. I can’t find it on the website. We would kindly wish to feature it during the World Toilet Day 2014 in the Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Nov-Dec 2014 edition. But the inquiry is still awaiting moderation. Is this an oversight? Kindly advise.My e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kind regards / Mwaniki

Am the publisher of the Africa Water,Sanitation & Hygiene and the C.E.O. of Transworld Publishers Ltd.,Nairobi-Kenya.
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  • canaday
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Dear Mwaniki,

As mentioned before, you have full permission to reprint the Chekhovskalashnikov interview and anything else I have published on the internet, with proper credit and links. I hope you have room for the entire Part 2, but if not please make it clear that it is an excerpt. I would also be glad to prepare a smaller version of the article, if you do not have room for the whole thing.

The link for this article that explains an ample concept of UDDTs is:
www.chekhovskalashnikov.com/human-waste-disposal/

How is everything at Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Magazine? If we can be of any help, editing, proofreading or whatever, please let us know.

(Dear Moderators, sorry we are mixing threads. Would it be enough to put cross-referencing in the various threads, instead of picking up and moving bits?)

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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  • mwaniki
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Der Chris

As you may remember during the World Water Week 2014 WaterAid came up with a very important presentation on Disability Inclusive Toilets. The challenge was to come up with latrine facilities for the disabled in order to stop open defecation by year 2025. So this SafiChoo concept should make a lot of people thinking about solutions to the problem.

Therefore in addition to my earlier post, if some sort of adjustment could be introduced to a sitting toilet seat by operation of a miniature manual or electric winch, it would help a disabled person to fix the required height due to limited flexibility of limbs.

Now as for the part 2 of the Shitty, would it be possible to abridge it to max 2 pages on A4 format at 11 pts inclusive of pixes & illustrations / diagrams for publishing?

Its becoming increasingly difficult to publish the magazine as you know this is a free publication and overheads are sky high due to printing & other costs.Could your organization chip in for the 2 pages?

Regards / Mwaniki

Am the publisher of the Africa Water,Sanitation & Hygiene and the C.E.O. of Transworld Publishers Ltd.,Nairobi-Kenya.
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Re: SafiChoo Story

Dear Mwaniki,

In terms of disability, I think that the best option is to build a bench-style, sit-down toilet, as can be seen on various pages of my blog, such as:
inodoroseco.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-dry...weapon-to-fight.html
This allows the user to position and brace him or herself with hands placed anywhere out on the bench. (I have nothing to do with the Japanese video. I just thought people would find it interesting.)

I would be glad to abridge the article from Chekhovskalashnikov to 2 pages as indicated. When would you like to have it? Would your readers prefer to not see the word ''shit''? If that is the case, what word would be preferable? I do not have funds to contribute (as times are tough here, too), but would be glad to help with proofreading, etc.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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