Our challenge: In Bairros dos Freitas, we met a community that’s caught in the divide between being rural and embracing the perceptions of an urban area. The common ground for the community members is that they all pour their waste, both greywater and blackwater, directly into the nearby river thus contaminating their waters. On higher ground, we encountered another environmental problem: the use of pit latrines, often connected to flush toilets, which contaminated the ground and thus the water table within a 30m radius. We came to realise that the only time the community felt the urgency of the situation was in the rainy season when floods lead right up to their doors and raw sewage backs up into their homes. As the USAFI team, we needed come up with an efficient, affordable, and economically sustainable waste management system that uses locally materials and skills.
Our opportunity: Having ACEL, an NGO based in Bairros dos Freitas, which was already looking into developing its own waste management system for the kindergarten that would meet the use of 35 users. The synergy in our relationship is that ACEL are willing to make an investment in the waste treatment system that we are developping, and thus serve as both a pilot project as well as an education centre on sanitation for the Freitas community. We are working on designing a system that incorporates a septic tank as a pre-treatment system which then leads into an evapotranspiration system that uses evaporation and transpiration to covert raw sewage into a harmless form, free of the polluting substances.
Our goals: To develop a waste management and treatment system that meets the needs of the NGO and caters for future growth in the number of users. We are also working on developping a user-manual and guide on simple waste management and treatment systems that can be implemented on a household level. This will be carried out hand-in-hand with ‘Build-It’ modules at the NGO eco-centre which are sessions during which the community members would get a hands-on experience in building their own grey and black water management and treatment systems on a smaller scale.