San Fernando, La Union, Philippines (1)

Promotion and adoption of the use of urine-diverting dehydration toilets (UDDTs) in three low-income, water-scarce villages

Problems addressed:

  • Practice of open defecation due to lack of access to water-sealed or flush-type toilets resulting in the prevalence of diarrhea and soil-transmitted helminthes disease among children
  • Use of unsanitary open pit toilets resulting in contaminated groundwater sources
  • Scarce water supply

Target group and location:

Poor households within three low-income barangays (villages) in San Fernando City in the Province of La Union in the Philippines

Solutions applied:

  • Promotion and adoption of EcoSan technology for toilet facilities, particularly Urine-diverting Dehydration Toilets (UDDTs)
  • Participatory approach to construction, operation and maintenance of toilet facilities

Number of people served:

First phase:

  • Barangay Nagyubuyuban – an upland farming village with 1,300 people, 94 UDDTs installed in the households and 4 in the school;
  • Barangay San Agustin – a coastal urban poor village with 1,900 people, 40 UDDTs installed; and
  • Fishermen’s Village – a resettlement coastal village with 450 people, 97 UDDTs installed.

Second phase: Additional 358 UDDTs installed in all 3 villages including 3 elementary schools and various municipal facilities

Summary of main activities and results:

A consortium involving complementary non-government organizations was formed to implement the ecological sanitation (ecosan) projects in the city.  Prior to the installation of the UDDTs in the selected three communities, the households underwent capacity-building and social preparation on how to use and maintain the toilets, and to help them adapt to the ‘new’ sanitation technology and system.  An ecosan committee was organized in each village to coordinate the management of the newly installed UDDTs so as to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the toilet facilities, including regular urine and dried feces collection services and ash delivery. 

Use of the toilet facilities, however, was not sustained in the long run in all three barangays. The challenges faced were: (a) lack of sustainable sources of ash; (b) use of the UDDTs was considered time consuming; (c) the toilet facilities were easily flooded; (d) the feces collection service was hindered during the rainy season; and (e) most of the toilet facilities broke down due to inadequate maintenance.

Nevertheless, the project also had its share of successes including: (a) prompting the creation of the city sanitation strategic plan and amendment of the city’s sanitation and environment codes; (b) the city became a model for other municipalities in the province of La Union, resulting in a partnership with the Provincial Government to replicate the ecosan program in five other municipalities; and (c) CAPS teamed up with a ceramics manufacturing company to produce UDDTs locally, thereby removing the need to import the technology from India. 

Key lessons learned:

Key lessons identified include the need to:

  • Demonstrate strong and dynamic local leadership and political will and commitment by making improved sanitation a priority program that is institutionalized through enabling policies and local planning processes and supported by the allocation of a yearly budget.
  • Make use of local NGOs that possess the expertise on ecological sanitation to train and prepare users on how to construct, use and maintain ecosan toilet facilities properly including the safe handling, collection and reuse of urine and feces.
  • Establish relationship with the beneficiaries and encourage them to form committees enabling active participation and cooperation.
  • Establish a reliable and consistent logistics system which factors in the financial capacity of the beneficiaries to independently operate and maintain the toilet facilities.
  • Ensure that new technology is appropriate for local conditions.

The case study “Ecosan Projects in San Fernando City, Province of La Union” was produced by Center for Advanced Philippine Studies (CAPS) for United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), funded by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). To read the full case study visit: