A stunning low-cost piece of green technology is changing toilets around the world: The tiger worm.
As the ranks of migrants reaches 65 million and refugee camps swell, development agencies are facing up to a rather large problem – how to create a low-cost, flexible toilets.
Enter the tiger worm or the African Night Crawler. This worm measures 8 inches. It can exist purely on human faeces. And it has a voracious appetite.
“It’s a multi-national citizen and it has proven itself to be highly adaptable,” says Andy Bastable, Oxfam’s head of water and sanitation.
Andy Bastable became acquainted with the tiger worm in 2002 in Ethiopia and instantly thought it could be a better more sustainable, cost effective alternative for the 4 million people who use latrines that are unhygienic or unpleasant.
The toilets work like a sophisticated wormery – the worms sit on a bedding mix of coconut fibre to create a vermicompost that is passed through sand, gravel and charcoal.
As well as reducing the sheer volume of the waste by 70-80%, the end product – vermicompost – comes loaded with mico-organisms that helps to supress disease-causing pathogens. So it only needs to be sludged every five years or so.
In the past two years, Andy and his team worked on proving the effectiveness of the tiger toilet across semi-urban, rural and refugee camps in Myanmar, Ethiopia, Liberia, India and Kenya. So far, over 1000 tiger toilets have been installed.
“The tiger toilets have survived fluctuating temperatures, a monsoon in India, occasional overuse, and even flooding.” The only challenge? Getting your hands on this highly-prized piece of green technology. “You just need 1kg- 2kg of tiger worms to get you started. In some countries, like Ethiopia, this can be a challenge.
Caption: Women like Martha,45, no longer have to risk thier safety by defecating in the open at night or in dirty government-built toilet blocks that cost 10 Liberian dollars per visit. The value of a private toilet in your own home is evident in the pride with which women are maintaining their tiger worm toilets.