VITA TECHNICAL BULLETIN
by Harlan H.D. ATTFIELD
Illustrated by Marine F.
composting privy described here consists of a covered pit and a
When the pit is full, the shelter is taken
down, the pit
a new pit prepared. The first pit,
after an interval of
at least six
months, yields compost that can be used to fertilize
gives guidelines for digging the pit, preparing the
building the shelter, adding other composting materials, and
locations when the pit is full.
Although prepared for use in
this privy could be constructed anywhere in the world.
It is low in
cost, easy to build, and requires no special materials.
It can be
designed to meet a number of cultural requirements.
Harlan H. D.
Attfield, the author, has been associated with VITA as
Volunteer for many years and is the author of a number of
articles, including Raising Rabbits, which is published by
Revised July 1981
VOLUNTEERS IN TECHNICAL
1600 WILSON BOULEVARD, SUITE
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22209, USA
as shown here, has been adapted from a booklet prepared
by Harlan H.
D. Attfield as part of an innovative and meaningful
community development underway in Bangladesh.
Package Program, as this effort is called, is funded by
Voluntary Services, Inc. (IVS), a US-based, private
organization, in cooperation with three local agencies--the
Training Institute, the Bangladesh Rural
Committee, and the Government's Integrated Rural Development
the "Package" project involves extension work to promote
vegetables, high-yielding rice, fish, and ducks;
family planning; functional education; and cooperative
composting privy is recommended when compost is needed for
When built correctly, it should help deter
through the nearby water system and it should not
or provide a breeding area for flies.
here call for a dirt floor, but if funds are available, it
recommended that a cement floor be used.
This will offer the most
protection against hookworm and other diseases.
composting privy can be built with one pit for a family or with
two or more
pits for a school, camp, or other concern having a need
for more than
All that is
needed to build a composting privy is:
bamboo poles; a
woven mat or
gunny sacks; a piece of plastic; leaves, paper, or
small piece of wood; and long grass or corrugated iron
is a killer.
live in open
This is a
The covered pit
privy can be
used if our
home is on
where the pit
will not fill
We would all
Why not build
instructions are designed for a pit for use by six to
for a period of ten to twelve months.
Dig a pit
45" wide, 50"
72" deep. Place
70" long, over
the pit as
shown. Place a
least 8" away
corner of the
These will be the
and the roof.
bottom of the
18" of grass
floor poles with half-rounds of bamboo, leaving a hole
6" X 13", in the middle of the floor.
woven mats or
everything but the
earth. The floor
can be raised
as much as
above the ground, if
flooding is a
A piece of
such as an
out) can be
Place a woven
the middle of
help keep the
handle. You can
piece of wood
(and a door, if
be made with
Leave at least 4"
top of the
walls and the
The roof can
sheets. The composting
privy is now
and ready to
Every five to
days, throw a
bad odors and
for later use
reach a level
below the surface
dig a new pit
move all the
Then place 6" of
the first pit
level it with
second pit is
the first pit
It will provide
that can be
or stored for
be safe to
the pit has
at least six
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
It is good to have the privy close to the
house so that it will
be used, but not too close.
If the privy's pit enters the ground
water level, or comes close to it when the
water is at its highest
level, disease germs will spread to the
water and endanger
Place the privy downhill (below) and at
least 50' away from the
source of people's drinking and bathing
Urine and cleansing water should be the only
liquid to enter the
The privy is not to be used for general bathing.
The weekly routine of adding grass and
leaves to the pit will
reduce odors and improve the quality of
the finished compost.
Animal manure, wood ash, garbage (except
plastic, glass, and
metal), and urine soaked straw can also be
The cover for the floor hole is the main
barrier against flies
and animals that carry disease.
Be sure everyone who uses the
privy is instructed to cover the hole
before leaving. Children
must be supervised from time to time.
Foot rests can be used,
but the floor hole cover should be made to
fit tightly between
them, closing the hole completely.
Removable rests (bricks or
bamboo) are best so the floor mat can be
and dried in the sun.
It is good to have openings at least 4"
wide at the top of the
privy's structural walls for airing the
The privy structure will have to be moved
when the pit is
This should be made easy or there will be people who
will let the pit become too full.
This will result in very
unsanitary conditions and extra work to
put the privy in proper
The time necessary for the pit's contents to
reach a level of
18" below the surface of the ground
depends on the number of
people using it and the amount of grass
and other materials
added each week.
The composting privy shown in this Bulletin can
be used by six to eight persons.
If grass and other materials
are added on a weekly basis, the pit will
fill in slightly less
than one year.
If the composting privy is used without the
addition of other materials, it becomes a
simple "pit privy" and
may last for three or more years.
For privies in markets, camps, schools, and
along the roadside,
the pit can be dug to a depth of
8-10'. It is also possible to
make the whole pit size larger and divide
the floor area into
two rooms with two floor holes.
At schools, separate privies are
one for boys, and one for girls.
important that someone take charge of
placing leaves and other
materials in the pit if good quality
compost is desired.
1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite
Arlington, Virginia 22209
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