Rural Sanitation


We work with community members to build the infrastructure required to safely dispose of human waste, capture grey water, and convert raw organic material into valuable compost.


In part due to custom and certain religious proscriptions, in the past it was common practice for villagers to venture into the nearby fields when nature called. This meant people could only relieve themselves before sunrise or after sunset so as to avoid the gaze of prying eyes. The whole operation was generally more difficult for females and the elderly, and many people were ready to adopt a new approach.

We collaborated with community members to build stand-alone toilets that each serve the needs of a single family. Unconnected from any sewage or drainage system, these toilets are connected to a double-chambered underground storage reservoir. At any given time, only one chamber is opened to collect waste. Once this is filled, which takes about one year for an single family, the other reservoir is put into action. Meanwhile, moisture in the first chamber is able to percolate through ventilating slats in the reservoir’s underground walls. By the time the second chamber is exhausted, the first can be cleared out and put back into use.

These toilets make it possible for villagers to use the restroom in comfort, privacy and close proximity to their homes, all while shielding waste from exposure to the open air and eliminating a dangerous source of disease and infection from the community environment.

Soak Pits

Village homes generate most of their waste water in the washroom and kitchen. Since bathing and cooking are daily activities, a substantial amount of grey water must be disposed of each day. Previous attempts at safely channeling this water away have relied upon open drainage canals running past each house in the community. In order to work properly, these canals must be regularly cleared of debris and obstructions. Otherwise, standing water may form, which can become attractive breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other vectors of disease. Even when they do work properly, canals lose precious water to evaporation, and they can develop unpleasant odors.

To circumvent these shortcomings, we built soak pits. These walled-in sections of earth are designed to absorb grey water directly, without creating runoff or losing water to evaporation. And since they benefit from daily watering, soak pits are the ideal place to grow thirsty fruit trees.

Compost Pits

Manure, vegetable peelings and other plant matter are the raw ingredients of compost, and villages produce them in bulk. We observed that farmers were piling up this material on the side of the road, directly exposing it to the sun’s rays and drying winds.

To create a more hospitable environment for microorganisms to work their magic, we built compost pits. Farmers can deposit raw organic waste into these earthen holes, where the material is able to decompose under ideal conditions. Once the compost is complete, farmers excavate the pits and start the process again.


We have built 374 toilets, 540 soak pits and 660 compost pits in southern Karnataka in collaboration with the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), an Indian government agency.


Mission: Build sanitation infrastructure in villages

Beneficiaries: 660 households since 2001