Tiger worms: the ingenious solution to sanitation in refugee camps (Oxfam) - Ethiopia’s Jewi refugee camp

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: The Tiger Toilet which works with worms - like in-situ vermi-composting (field trials in India, Uganda and Burma) - Bear Valley Ventures Limited, UK

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for posting about Oxfam's work with tiger worms (a type of earthworm) which you are calling tiger toilets. Much appreciated.

Could you please explain what the relationship between Bear Valley Ventures Limited UK and Oxfam Great Britain is regarding this work? (see other forum thread here: forum.susana.org/290-vermifilters-for-bl...ley-ventures-limited)

Were they sub-contractors to you? The article that you linked to stated:

Meanwhile, at Loughborough University, Dr Claire Furlong is continuing research into worm-based sanitation systems and results so far have shown that a typical Tiger Toilet might last five years without needing to be emptied.

I know Claire was also part of the team of Walter Gibson who founded Bear Valley Venture and who had a grant by USAID for this research some years ago. I am just trying to understand how it is all connected and who is who in the zoo.

Also, did you see the comment by Dean who wrote in this thread one year ago (see above):

There is nothing "novel" about the system, but what I was hoping for was some hard data on its performance in terms of effluent quality.

Dean said tiger toilets is just another term for what is also called vermicomposting digesters (wet composting) - which is also now the name of this sub-category. Dean has also built up a Wikiepedia article about this, see here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermifilter

Actually, there it is called vermifilter. I find it a bit annoying that there are so many different terms for potentially the same thing. Why do we do this? Is it to confuse everyone or so that everyone can say it is "their" discovery? ;) (or are they fundamentally different?)

This is the first sentence of the Wikipedia article which mentions some of the alternative names:

A vermifilter (also called vermicomposting filter, vermicomposting digester, biodigester or biological filter with earthworms) is an aerobic treatment system comprising a passive aerobic biological reactor that treats wastewater by removing organic matter, pathogens and oxygen demand under a bio-oxidative process.

(actually now that I re-read it, I think it needds further refinement; is it really "removing" organic matter? Isn't it rather "converting" it? And why is it important that it removes oxygen?)

Edit 2 hours later: I've just changed it to this (but still not perfect):

A vermifilter (also called vermicomposting filter, vermicomposting digester, biodigester or biological filter with earthworms) is an aerobic treatment system comprising a biological reactor that treats wastewater (or fecal matter mixed with flush water in the case of vermifilter toilets) in an aerobic wet composting process. The treatment converts organic matter and reduces pathogens under a bio-oxidative process.


Note to Dean: we should probably also insert the term "tiger worm" and "tiger toilet" into the Wikipedia article so that if someone searches for it on Wikipedia, they find the article on vermifilter where it is mentioned.

Regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • jonpar
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Tiger worms: the ingenious solution to sanitation in refugee camps (Oxfam)

Please see article in the "i" newspaper :
inews.co.uk/essentials/news/uk/tiger-wor...ation-refugee-camps/

also see water.oxfam.org.uk/blog/tigers-in-the-toilet/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tiger worms: the ingenious solution to sanitation in refugee camps
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A team of British charity workers have come up with a simple, cheap and downright ingenious solution to the problem of providing safe sanitation to some of the world’s most crowded refugee camps – and it involves hundreds of bucketfuls of worms. Engineers working for Oxfam have created what they have dubbed the “tiger toilet”: a no-frills latrine which uses composting worms to convert human waste into useful fertiliser. The invention carries the added benefit of reducing the risk of disease. “I can see a point in the future where all of the toilets Oxfam builds in refugee camps are worm toilets” Angus McBride, humanitarian engineer The toilets, so named because of the striped tiger worms (Eisenia fetida) upon which they rely, were first trialled by a team working in Liberia in 2013. They proved such a success that more than 1,000 have since been built and are currently being used in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India and Myanmar.

As they can be constructed quickly and cheaply, tiger toilets are perfect for emergency situations. In a refugee crisis, where thousands of people are displaced and forced to live in makeshift camps, the regular emptying of communal latrines can prove immensely difficult. To build a tiger toilet, all humanitarian workers need to do is dig a pit and fill it with gravel, woodchips, a little bit of water – and of course the worms themselves, which thrive on decaying organic material. The outbuilding is constructed using iron sheets and a wooden frame. Refugee camps Angus McBride, a water and sanitation engineer with the charity’s global humanitarian team, is based in Ethiopia’s Jewi refugee camp, which houses around 50,000 refugees who have fled the fighting in south Sudan. The camp was constructed more than a year ago and is so large that it has four schools. Mud huts have replaced the primitive plastic shelters which originally housed the refugees, with some people growing their own vegetables around their houses.

“Tiger worm toilets are very simple: if they weren’t then they would probably be inappropriate for the context,” said Mr McBride, 28, who is from Fife in Scotland.

“The worms look after themselves, and are happy to sit in a pit below the toilet eating everything that lands on them. “It’s also very quick and easy to build. We are going to provide the community with paints so they can paint the toilets in the traditional way in which they paint their houses: very abstract shapes, flowers, animals, or however they like.” Each toilet needs around 1kg of tiger worms to function properly, so Mr McBride has been buying large amounts from a university in Addis Ababa. He is currently trialling another species found in the soil locally, which may in future provide a totally free alternative.

“If these work as well as we hope, I can see a point in the future where all of the toilets Oxfam builds in refugee camps are worm toilets. It’s so simple it’s a no-brainer,”

Angus McBride, humanitarian engineer
Dr. Jonathan Parkinson
Principal Consultant – Water and Sanitation
IMC Worldwide Ltd, Redhill, United Kingdom
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