The Loveable Loo

I witnessed the first loveable loo being installed in La Guajira.

Written by Kate Miller, Volunteer at Aguayuda in La Guajira, Colombia.

Imagine for a moment the sound of a toilet flushing. It’s a sound so familiar to many people that it is rarely ever acknowledged. But if you stop and think for a moment, the sound you’re hearing is the movement of water. And here in the Guajira Desert, that’s a problem.

Water is incredibly scarce in La Guajira, Colombia. Even in the wettest parts of this region, there is hardly ever more than 20 inches of rain per year, which means that every drop is precious. And even if there was enough water to spare for flushing toilets, the piping and infrastructure required to run such a bathroom would be far more expensive than many rural families here could dream of affording. As such, most people are forced to go off into the brush, which puts them at risk of coming into contact with snakes or disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Fortunately, where there’s a will (and a bit of innovation), there’s a way. On my first days in Colombia I was lucky enough to help Simón and the Aguayuda team deliver a Lovable Loo, a dry composting toilet, to José and his family in the community of Frijol. This small toilet structure is made from locally sourced materials and requires absolutely no water, only saw dust. It is easy to use, low maintenance, and doesn’t smell, which makes it ideal for communities like Frijol. We brought this toilet to José as a pilot project. If the family likes it and it seems to work well, Aguayuda will bring the Lovable Loo to other communities in the area. And so far, the family seems to really enjoy having their own bathroom for the first time. José has expanded the small privacy structure around the bathroom to include a second space for bathing, and his neighbors have been curious and excited to see this kind of progress so close to home. There still may be some challenges ahead with ensuring that this is the proper sanitation solution for La Guajira, but it’s certainly a start, and a good one at that.