One of the main challenges for human settlements is the provision of basic sanitation services that achieve a good quality of life and health. Aspects such as the provision of water, sewage disposal and solid waste management, have challenged man’s creativity to generate more and better solutions from the environmental point of view.

In recent decades, the evacuation of excreta through the sanitary sewer has taken relevance as one of the most socially accepted, with affordability (since the appearance of PVC) and technically allows transport and water purification large methods urban centers and whose economic capacity allows such investments.

In Bolivia they have developed significant investments in sewerage in almost all cities with populations greater than 5,000, although with limited treatment plants and yields even with treatment coverage deficit. That is why, like other developing countries, much of the wastewater is discharged into the environment without treatment, this action is the major cause of water pollution worldwide.

In this situation the consequences of climate change causing violent storms, droughts, floods and the decline or disappearance of glaciers and snowcapped mountains, which in many cases are the main source of water for human consumption, adds accordingly climate change exacerbates lacrisis water that feels increasingly in many parts of the world as in our country. This approach is unacceptable think of using water resources to evacuate our waste, worse if treated water.

For all of you emerges as a timely response practice ecological sanitation

reasons, whose basic principles:
The separation and isolation of solid and liquid waste (Protection and Preservation of the Environment)
No water required for operation (Water Care) Obtaining suitable organic fertilizer for food crops and reforestation from the treatment of organic waste bathrooms (Reuse of waste)

This paper describes the experience of the Sumaj Huasi Foundation in the implementation of ecological sanitation approach to excreta disposal several suburban neighborhoods of the city of El Alto in the Republic of Bolivia. This experience is important because it is one of the few cases worldwide in which it has managed to close the cycle of ecological sanitation; that is, from the awareness of neighbors on the use of new technology to the production of potatoes and vegetables with organic fertilizers of human origin, through construction, training, collection, transportation and treatment of excreta.

  1. Background

The city of El Alto is located at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level which makes it the second highest city in the world, being the youngest city in Bolivia has the highest rate of growth of the country, the 2010 had an estimated population of 1,184,942 inhabitants, largely a product of the migration of rural families and mining coming to town hoping to improve their income

As a result of this migration, mass human settlements originated mainly in the peri-urban area, this unplanned growth resulted in the lack of basic services to this situation, the consequences of climate change exacerbating water scarcity joined, all these factors expose families to suffer from water-borne diseases is estimated that around 180 thousand people lack clean drinking water and some 400 thousand people lack a safe disposal of excreta

To meet these basic needs, the Sumaj Huasi Foundation with support from the Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), has implemented the project “Water and Sanitation for peri-urban areas by applying Alternative Technologies” through which they have been built 900 ecological sanitation Modules (including a composting toilet and an area of hygiene or shower), with the aim of ecological solution to the sanitation needs of the peri-urban population, but also to apply completely the “Cycle ecological sanitation” as a viable solution to the Bolivian context.

The project has been developed since 1998 under funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), which has 5 components:

  • Component 1: Technical. Responsible for the design, improvement and construction of sanitary modules.

    – Component 2: Social. Responsible contact with the Neighborhood for planning intervention with ecological solutions, as well as in the organization and training of beneficiary families in the use and maintenance of sanitary modules.

    Component 3: Ecological Sanitation Service. It corresponds to the actions of collection, transportation and treatment of feces and urine from relatives ecological sanitary modules.

    – Component 4: Research. Development of health studies, handling and application of organic fertilizers of human, agricultural production yields.

    Component 5: Sustainability. Development studies citizen participation, determination of production and marketing costs, tariff calculations and social marketing of the processed products and agricultural production.

    By mid-2012 the end of the financial support of SIDA, why, the Sumaj Huasi Foundation is seeking and channeling new resources for continued long-term project, so is expected that CECI Canada and NODE Basic sanitation have been adding to achieve new lessons learned and develop a new form of sanitation in Bolivia.


  1. The implementation of the project

    The implementation of the “Water and Sanitation for applying Alternative Technologies peri-urban areas” project evolved since its inception in 1998 in a constant obtaining lessons learned. Then the state of the art of each of these components are presented.

3.1 Technical Component

From 1998 to December 2011 they have been built 900 toilets Ecological Modules Family, distributed in 27 areas of District 7 in the municipality of El Alto.

Each sanitary module is built with brick walls (exceptionally with adobe), indoor waterproofing cement plaster and fine plaster. Outwardly coated lime – cement – sand. Sanitary fittings are fiberglass toilet, urinal and shower. Depending on the economic capacity of each neighbor also installed several ceramic bathrooms.

Complement is an external laundry built in reinforced concrete on brick walls, allowing them to personal hygiene, washing utensils and other family, laundry and for general use.

Urine is collected in plastic jerrycans and plastic stool turriles 100 lts capacity.

3.2 Social Component

The procedure is performed with the knowledge and consent of the neighborhood leaders. In the first contact with the population socialization project in conceptual terms, scope and what you hope to achieve it is performed.

Then parallel with the construction of Family Health Modules training is done on the proper use and maintenance of these, with the aim of: “Getting families to appropriate practices and healthy habits, and alternative technology in ecological sanitation, thus forming a healthy housing ”

The social component is designed to carry a total of 12 interventions in each family through family visits and group workshops in each neighborhood unit. The social approach focuses on a holistic concept of health – sanitation – health with the goal that user families can incorporate into your lifestyle new concepts and practices that not only allow them to make a proper use and maintenance of its sanitary modules, but also, health behavior change within your home and neighborhood environment.

The workshops are participatory, which are used in dynamic aimed at the construction of new knowledge and the routine application of hygienic practices. has also focused training aimed at children as major elements of change, an aspect that is addressed with educational materials as shown in the photos below, then the corresponding tracked to assess learning and to make reinforcement if necessary.

Therefore, there have been 1,800 home visits, approximately 250 and 400 workshops group workshops reinforcement.

Approach issues were: Healthy Habits, housing hygiene, cleaning the kitchen and proper handling of drinking water.

3.3 Ecological Sanitation Service

The process begins with the collection of waste from households, this task is performed by two groups of collection that perform routing through areas at least once a week, each group is made up of two people and equipped with a vehicle and implements necessary work.

The collected waste is transported to a treatment center, where they undergo a process of stabilization and degradation to obtain organic fertilizers.

The treatment process of waste liquid storage is for a period of three months, at which time the health harmful microorganisms are inactivated, liquid manure being safe for use.

Solid wastes are treated by using California red worms, this process is done in a pit of treatment and an estimated eight to nine months vermicompost is an organic fertilizer very required for its characteristics of fertilizer is obtained and soil amendment.

Organic fertilizers, both solids and fluids have undergone laboratory studies to evaluate its composition and quality, the results certify that these fertilizers can be used in growing food without any risk to health.

The following table shows the results achieved with the ECOSAN fertilizers produced in the treatment plant in the town of Limani the municipality of El Alto are presented.


Were made complementary to the construction of the sanitary modules studies, these described below.

a) Use and maintenance of the Family Health Modules

To the question: “The family uses the module? These are the results achieved:
Frequency percent
If you use 594 64.98%
23.91% do not use 209
Absent 11.11% 97
Total 100% 900
b) study the impact on health and well-being of families

The Area Health Research of the Sumaj Huasi Foundation conducted another study on the Impact on Health and Welfare in families receiving dry composting toilets and families without health services, to determine the impact on health and improving quality of life which occurs as a result of the implementation of dry composting toilets, this study was conducted in 200 families District 7 of El Alto and received the cooperation of Sweden Stockholm Environment Institute, Emory University and the Institute of Biology and biotechnology of the Faculty of Pure Sciences of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.

The results of the prevalence of acute diarrheal diseases show a decrease of 23% from the use of dry composting toilets.

c) Study on the feasibility of helminths in the process of composting of fecal waste Ecological Dry Baths

sampling was performed in the collection turriles stool for the presence of parasites, viruses and others. Subsequently, the feasibility study of parasites was performed in the chain of organic waste composting of organic baths in the treatment areas Villa Andrani and San Roque.

The results obtained from samples composting reveal parasite viability values below the tolerable parameter given by the World Health Organization. That is, the organic humus is safe and suitable for use in agriculture and poses no health risk.

d) occupational health research related to human handling of organic waste composting toilets.

This study was conducted in coordination with the National Institute of Occupational Health (INSO) under the Ministry of Health and Sports to detect possible effects and health risks of staff of micro, during handling of organic waste from the bathrooms ecological dry during activity pickup and processing. The result does not report related to the handling of waste due to the correct use of work clothes diseases.

e) Comparative study between the service cost ecological sanitation and urban sanitation alternatives

An economic study on the costs of pre-investment, investment, operation and maintenance services conventional sewerage, condominial sewerage and ecological sanitation service was performed. The results show that ecological sanitation is more expensive in the investment phase, but long-term operation and maintenance of a service of this kind is cheaper than the conventional and condominial sewage system. Comparative costs are

presented below:


COST PER CAPITA (Bolivianos)

Technology         Cost

Bathroom (1) 




Total p / technology

Conventional sanitary sewer (2) 





condominial sewerage (2) and (3)






Urban ecological sanitation service





(1) Costs calculated for bathrooms with brick walls, floors and cement plaster. Bathrooms are paid by users. For the project Sumaj District 7 Huasi received grant 70%

(2) Cost of collection: Evaluation of the technical, quality and performance of Three Services Sewerage Systems Condominial Pilot Project El Alto. Inchauste & Wafers, 2011

(3) Cost of transportation. Source: MMAyA, condominial sewerage project Concepción- Santa Cruz. Database projects requested in August 2011.

(4) Source: Foundation Sumaj Huasi, economic evaluation D7 Project El Alto – SIDA. 2009 – 2010



COSTS PER CAPITA ANNUAL (Bolivianos / year)

Bathroom (1)




Total p / technology (8)

Conventional sewerage Santa Cruz – SAGUAPAC (2)





Conventional sewerage Sucre – ELAPAS (3) and (4) 





Lomas conventional sewerage Payer – CBBA – Agua Tuya (5) 




condominial sewerage (6)  





Urban ecological sanitation service (7) 





(1) Estimated cost of use of bathrooms. Consultant estimate based on common uses of each type of bathroom.

(2) Source: Costs executed O & M Management SAGUAPAC 2008. Direct costs for collection and transport to treatment. AAPS – Information updated July / 2011

(3) Source: Evaluation of Treatment Plants Wastewater. Cost data wastewater treatment. SENASBA – 2011.

(4) Source: Costs executed O & M Management ELAPAS 2010. Total cost of O & M sanitary sewer. AAPS – Information updated July / 2011

(5) Source: Foundation Agua Tuya. Total cost of O & M sanitary sewer and wastewater treatment plant in Lomas del Payer – CBBA. Information provided junio / 2011

(6) There are no data on O & M condominial sewer systems.

(7) Source: Foundation Sumaj Huasi, economic evaluation Project D7 El Alto – SIDA. 2009 – 2010

(8) For the total amount of the cost for technology, it has not been considered spending in bathrooms because it is absorbed by users. It has included the cost of O & M of the bathrooms in this table, only for comparative purposes and analysis.

f) Study of Application of Fertilizers

Fertilizers obtained from the treatment of organic waste from health modules were applied in temperate environments (greenhouses) and opencast land.

28 species of vegetables (leaf, fruit, root and others): In the first case optimum results reflected in crops was obtained.

In the case of opencast crops (potato, bean, oats and quinoa) obtaining larger products, very good quality, more and high nutritional content, whose laboratory results of composition and safety attachments are

By using PURINA (combining Humus and urine) was obtained 46 kg / 4m2 potato (quadrant III), instead using MANURE VEAL was obtained only 23 Kgs / 4m2 (quadrant IV) This means that doubled (100%) production with the use of ECOSAN fertilizers, improving quality, quantity and size

Opencast crops have been carried out by the technique of the quadrants to obtain and evaluate crop yields using traditional fertilizers compared with humus and urine ECOSAN. The results are presented below:
I Humus Ecosan 34 Kgs
Beef II Esti ?? rcol more urine 29 Kgs
Urine Mas Humus III Ecosan 46 Kgs
IV Esti ?? rcol Beef (Witness) 23 Kgs

The First Harvest Pope in the community Villandrani the April 14, 2012 marked an important milestone in the application of organic fertilizers of human origin, it is the first experience documented and controlled in Bolivia in which they have managed to prove improvements in agricultural yields for the production of potatoes.

Currently still being evaluated yields of applying human urine humus and other crops such as beans and oats.

3.5 Sustainability Ecological Sanitation Periurbano

Today (July / 2012) vision of the project is to achieve sustainability of ecological sanitation in the peri-urban area of the city of El Alto.

To this end, they are developing different activities that seek to achieve the provision of ecological sanitation sustainable in the long term, including highlights:

Cost assessment and analysis of economic sustainability.
Social marketing for the marketing of fertilizers and agricultural products.

a) Study costs and economic sustainability analysis Ecological Sanitation Service

Study of Costs and Analysis of Economic Sustainability seeks to calculate the actual expenses required Service Ecological Sanitation for District 7 of the city of El Alto and on the other hand, how payment of these costs can be made from tariffs, subsidies and marketing of agricultural products and fertilizers.

The study is medium term and depends on the amount of built sanitary modules and opening new markets for the marketing of fertilizers and agricultural products, ie, there is no single mechanism or stable scenario to establish sustainability economic service.

This study is ongoing and is expected to have initial findings for the last quarter of 2012.

b) Implementation of Social Marketing

It is being developed Social Marketing (Communication and Promotion) to understand the components of the project, positive impacts on the environment and commercialization of humus, fertilizers and agricultural fertilizer products produced with human source.

The Communication and Promotion program promotes greater dissemination of the activities and achievements of the project that implements the institution in the 7th district of the municipality of El Alto, through strategies, means and processes of communication and dissemination of mass character. Supports generating awareness among the population about environmental protection, moderate water use and reuse of organic waste.

For the dissemination of the project focus groups, it is being made the journey to health modules beneficiary families; presentation training on the use to users; I gather of turriles observation and drums containing organic solid and liquid waste; plant visits storage and explanation of these treatment processes organic waste (plant Andrani Villa); inspection laboratory study and finally planted grounds of Andean products which have been used liquid fertilizer and vermicompost, and the presentation of the harvested products, as final products

Education campaigns are aimed to sensitize the community on the following topics:

  •     Climate change
  •     Efficient water use
  •     Ecological sanitation
  •     Hand washing
  •     Personal hygiene
  •     Maintaining healthy housing.

It is taken as the main actors to schoolchildren and students who are the most comparable to the changes in attitude and better practicing healthy habits, which constitute the multiplier factor in the home, the family and social environment population. It is also important to have the participation of teachers, administrators, school boards components and comunarias civil authorities.