Dreaming of Toilets

Virginia C. Li

Some dream of diamonds, rubies, and pearls.
Some dream of bravo, fame, and glory.
I dream of toilets.

One village sponsors one school,
Raising pigs and farming garden,
Biogas for lighting and cooking.

Toilets shiny bright, odor and insect free
Franchise to the disfranchised for living wage,
Lowbrow, low tech turns fecal combo to high yield.

Healthy children laugh and grow,
Learning science and conservation
Small steps today, a better world tomorrow

Note about the Dr. Li’s Poem: 

This poem is inspired by Dr. Li’s work with The Village School Eco-Toilets for Sustainable Development Project in partnership with UCLA, Hong Kong’s Children’s Caring Foundation, the Changning County Bureau of Education (CCBE) in Yunnan Province) and Fuzhou City, Fujian Province.

In poor and remote hillside villages, raw sewage runs from toilets to the school surroundings and roadsides and into the farms. Flies hovered over cesspools of sewage. As part of China’s efforts to alleviate rural poverty, new boarding elementary schools for clusters of natural villages have sprung up in mountainous and remote areas, replacing the one room village schools. These schools are modern and well equipped and the most beautiful building in the villages. But the toilets were mostly untouched because of low priority compared to other needs. The promotion of biogas school toilets stemmed from the needs to improve environmental hygiene to prevent gastrointestinal diseases, teaching children the importance of health and sanitation, and making use of available resources of human and pig excreta to generate methane gas for cooking and lighting. Thus, advancing environmental conservation degraded by chopping down trees for fuel, and using fermented residues for farming the best organic food. 

Eight village school toilets have already been constructed and are in operation in 2014. Our experiences indicate that the technology and the models work well in these poor and remote hillside villages. By fall 2015, a total of eleven school toilets houses are slated to enable Changning to become a demonstration site of the low-cost toilets for rural impoverished areas. A procedural manual for village school eco-toilet construction that describes the school sites, cost of material, equipment and labor, technology, and technical support for maintenance that includes a six-month evaluation will be available for sharing the lessons learned. Diffusion of innovation has already occurred, as other schools are preparing to reproduce the eco-toilet in their own locales to improve basic health and hygiene for village children and adults. 

This piece is from The Feminist Toilet #1. To go back and read more, click here.

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