Yesterday, our correspondent, Esther Adeniyi was with Chief Raymond Gold at Daramola Community which is a slum at Ijora, Lagos state. As we speak, Biofill toilets are being built to help the community dispose their wastes effortlessly and stop the foul smell in the environment. Chief Raymond Gold works with a Federation known as Nigeria Slum and Informal Settlement Federation which is affiliated to Shack and Slum Dwellers International, SDI, Africa.
Below are excerpts of the interview we had with him on site as he showed us round the Biofill toilets.
NREH: What do you mean when you say Biofill toilet sir?
Chief Raymond: The biofill toilet is the way to go. This is the first of its kind in the country as regards slum upgrade. We started this process and once it is successful, the government may pick interest. We had a meeting with LASURA which is the Lagos State Urban Renewal Board. We have four toilets in a row, two for male, two for female. We are expecting some materials, the trap, from Uganda. When you use this toilet, with very little effort the waste drops, the washings drops, the trap covers back. So, no odour comes out, no fly goes in.
When the waste and waste water drop, the water flows through to the ground, the ground you see here (points to the empty space underneath the toilet construction) is treated with filtering media, you must have seen people have filtering media attached to their boreholes. When the water passes through the filtering media, it will get filtered and become harmless. The waste will have three macro organisms introduced to it. We have a type of worm that we call the African Night crawler and a type of beetle we call dung beetle. If you have lived in the village before, you would have seen these beetles. These beetles roll faeces and carry it away. They are a special type of beetle, we are breeding them somewhere.
We are building 34 toilets across Lagos state. Each building will contain 4 toilets each. We are also breeding these macro organisms so that when we need them we will have hem readily available.
There is also a special type of cockroach called the German cockroach. The African cockroach doesn’t eat much of human waste but the German cockroach feeds on human waste. So, we have the macro-organisms to be the cockroach, the beetles and the worms. When the water is filtered and the solid waste is retained, the macro-organisms will feed on them and then pass out their own waste, which is manure. When they eat, they don’t defecate there, they defecate somewhere else. The manure comes to this chamber (he points at a separate chamber) where we will do the cleaning. The manure can serve as fertilizer, to do your gardening, fertilize your flowers etc. This is actually organic and natural. Today, we are talking of going green. This is one good way of getting natural fertilizers.
NREH: Are there other countries that adopt this Biofill toilet system?
Chief Raymond: Yes. Our federation is affiliated to SDI. SDI stands for Slum Dwellers International. We have 50 countries, majority of them are third world countries, with slums. It is In Zambia, in Kenya, Uganda and even in Ghana but the Ghana version is standard flush. Standard flush is where you need much water to flush, in micro flush; you need little water to clean. It is happening in other areas. We are to start now so that we can also bring that goodness to Nigeria.
We also want to put solar on top of the roof. When we put a solar there, we will have solar batteries. We also hope to bring a charging point where those within this environment can charge their phones and anything rechargeable using the solar power.
NREH: How many of these toilets can be built to serve this community?
Chief Raymond: We are building one in another community very close to this one. This is the only biofill toilet building for this community.
There is no financial support from the government. This is out rightly our Federation funding. The name of our Federation is Nigeria Slum and Informal Settlement Federation and we affiliated to Shack and Slum Dwellers International, SDI, Africa and we are in over 50 countries. Here in Nigeria we have official presence in Lagos and Port Harcourt. These toilets are starting from Lagos and we hope to get it to spread across the country. Any place we are building these toilets are communities we have profiled. We use the data and figures to plan for each of this community.
We have more than 5,000 people in Daramola Community. We have the other side of the community, where we are building another toilet, called Orisunbare Community. Where the toilet is needed and will serve purpose is where we build these toilets.
NREH: Do the people of this community get to understand how this toilet works, do they appreciate this innovation? Are they oriented on how to use it?
Chief Raymond: The indigenes are very excited, they always come around. We know that once we have built the toilet before they begin to use the toilet, we will do community education. We have a community that does that in the Federation. We will gather the people together, tell them how the toilet works, the rules of the toilet. Only what is biodegradable falls into the chamber. No pads, pampers should be dropped into the toilet because these things are not biodegradable. You can use tissue paper and water to wash. Anything synthetic should not go in because that will get stuck in the filtering concrete and begin to affect functionality.
The design is such that the water must flow through, get filtered and the solid is retained. When you throw in synthetic material, it can even affect the life of the microorganisms there. All these we are going to tell the indigenes. The microorganisms in there, what they want are natural things.
NREH: How is the maintenance done? How will compliance be monitored to help the toilet function well for a long time?
Chief Raymond: We have the community education team. I am chairing the social housing and community upgrade committee. We have also sub committees in this committee and one of such committees is the one that will monitor the use of the toilet. At intervals we will be moving round all of them, inspecting them, see how they are working, ensue that they are working as expected and continue with the community education. It is not an easy thing, informal people can be really really informal so they will need a lot of training, a lot of talk, a lot of education and we will need a lot of tolerance too.
NREH: If the government were to come in when they get to appreciate this process, in what way can they assist?
Chief Raymond: I mentioned it today at the meeting that we had with LASURA , they picked interest in three of the communities we are working on, this Ijora community is one of them. I mentioned it that if the government partners with us we will be able to build more. The 34 we are building now is without the government funding. We are doing this to compensate or rather, compliment what the government is doing. This is just one part of the project; we are improving sanitation, which is environment. The next phase is housing, this is part of community upgrade. One thing we are good at in our Federation is to save costs, we are doing all these at minimal costs. We are happy that LASURA is coming in; we have been talking with them for a while now.