Project Update: El Salvador Composting Latrine Project in Full Swing

composting latrine el salvador
A Salvadoran mother stands proudly next to her new composting latrine.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

In use for roughly six months, the five composting latrines funded by Catapult supporters are now in full swing. Each latrine has two compartments, and soon, the first compartment will be filled, capped, and left to compost while the other is put into use. In the time it takes to fill the second compartment, the first will have composted into a “humanure” to be used by families as a soil amendment – great for fruit trees and certain cash crops. This is the closed loop that many of us in the world of ecological sanitation strive to be part of, and for those without basic sewage services, it’s a huge step up from an unsanitary pit latrine.

Get personal

“It is gratifying that our work in El Salvador through Trees, Water & People leaves a trail of impact in communities and even public and private institutions and service organizations who use our support to develop projects that benefit the target population of their programs.” – Armando Hernandez, Project Director (translated by Sebastian Africano)

Risks and challenges

For anyone, the prospect of storing and then handling your family’s sewage is conceptually daunting. This is likely the biggest hump to get over when implementing a composting latrine project – getting people comfortable with managing poop. This is where appropriate design comes in – if a composting latrine is well designed, you shouldn’t smell anything, you shouldn’t see flies, and you should find nothing resembling anything but soil when you crack it open one year after first use. Getting people to that first “aha” moment is crucial in getting them to cross that conceptual hump and use their latrine year after year.

What we’ve learned

Visiting and monitoring a composting latrine program, or any ecological sanitation program, requires you to enter and speak composed and comfortably to families about some of their most personal household activities. It’s always educational, and it’s a great exercise in humility and in finding commonality with people who live in a completely different reality than you do. The important message to convey is that you’re there to learn and help rather than judge, and more often than not, families are welcoming and interested in hearing and discussing your observations. Sincere communication and education across cultural and societal lines are so important in our work.


Next steps

There is a great need for sanitation services in rural El Salvador. Working with our partners on the ground, we will continue to look for the funds needed to build more composting pit latrines for communities in need. In addition to our fundraising efforts, we will continue to monitor and evaluate the latrines that have already been constructed.

If you would like to support this project please visit our website to make a donation today!

Happy International Women’s Day!


Every year, on March 8, millions of people around the globe come together to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing the world’s attention on areas that still require further action. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and continues to be an important day in promoting equality for all women.

International Women's Day logoInspiring Change is the 2014 theme and “encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way”. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.

At Trees, Water & People, we empower women and inspire positive change by helping to fight energy poverty. Our clean cookstoves, solar lights, and composting latrines are some examples of the technologies we use to improve the lives of girls and women in Latin America.

These programs would not be successful without the leadership and hard work of local women. Throughout our program countries, these women provide us with the guidance necessary for implementing successful, long-term solutions to the problems facing their families and communities. Their feedback informs our cookstove designs, mobilizes community members and inspires change for a better future.

We hope you will celebrate this International Women’s Day with us by donating to our programs that improve the lives of women and girls in Central America and Haiti!

Photo of the Week: Improved Sanitation for Families in El Salvador

dry composting latrines El Salvador

About this photo

Poorly built pit latrines can harbor diseases such as Hepatitis A, Protozoal Amoebiasis, and Ecoli as well as contaminate the environment over time. Trees, Water & People began installing dry composting latrines in El Salvador to improve quality of life and the environment by providing more sanitary conditions and controlling human waste that otherwise leaches into the soils and surrounding water supplies. 

Working with our local partner, Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo, and thanks to donors on, we recently installed five composting latrines for families in El Porvenir, El Salvador. A total of 19 people, such as Vilma Antonia Rivera Montano (pictured above), are now benefiting from cleaner sanitation solutions and healthier watersheds.

Thank you to everyone who supported this important project on Catapult!

Learn more about how our latrines work >>

Photo of the Week: Improving Community Health with Composting Latrines

dry composting latrines_el salvador
A woman and her child stand next to their new composting latrine. Trees, Water & People and our partners, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), build improved dry composting latrines for families living in rural El Salvador. These improved toilets reduce diseases and improve soil and water quality.