Closing the Loop between Sanitation, Disaster Resiliency and Food Security

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By Mike Baños
March 23, 2020

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A local foundation based in the boondocks of Mindanao was awarded the 2011 Raanan Weitz International Competition on Integrated Development Projects in Israel.

Elmer Sayre and his sonJed Christian Sayre of the Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development
(WAND) Foundation based in Libertad, Misamis Oriental received the award at the Weitz Center for
Development Studies in Rehovot, Israel on December 19.  
"The design of the project focuses on ecological sanitation and the prevention of the spread of diseases,
including the conservation of water, minimizing pollution and conservation of valuable fertilizer," said
Elmer Sayre.  
WAND Foundation is a local NGO that promotes social development via ecological sanitation (EcoSan),
by addressing climate change and extreme poverty through sanitation, food security and biodiversity
improvement
 Elmer Sayre, WAND in-house consultant, said the project aims to address the sanitation needs of the
“base of the pyramid” (BoP): households too poor to buy their own toilets, those in remote areas not
reached by government services, those with inadequate or no access to clean potable water, and those in
conflict and/or disaster-hit areas.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region 10 statistics show a slow uptake in this
regard especially in the rural areas where the proportion of the population using improved sanitation
facilities over the last decade hardly approached the target reduction of 50 percent from 2000 (59%) to
2008 (69%).
Present sanitation systems based on the flush-pour toilet as the main technology operate on the premise
that human wastes are better off disposed. But it is not effective in areas where there is no water or where
septage is difficult to build as in slums or flooded zones.
EcoSan has addressed sanitation issues in a sustainable manner by using dry or waterless toilets
and recycling and reusing nutrients in human wastes in a hygienic way rather than disposing them where
they can contaminate groundwater aquifers, rivers and seas.
Mr. Sayre startedEcoSan in 2007 when the concept of “closing the loop” was first introduced to him by
Peter Wychodil of the German Doctors for Developing Countries. He gained more knowledge from
Ulrike Lipkow, GTZ adviser to an ecosan project in the Visayas, and Dr. Robert J. Holmer of the Peri-
Urban Vegetable Project in Cagayan de Oro City.

 In 2008, WAND built some 17 double-vault ecosan toilets with fund support from the German Doctors
for Developing Countries. Most of these were located in elementary schools in the Misamis Oriental
towns of Initao, Libertad and Manticao.
 But the P28, 000 cost of the double vault model was too expensive for its target users. In 2009, Mr. Sayre
won a research grant from the Science and Technology Innovations for the Base of the Pyramid in
Southeast Asia (iBoP-Asia) to explore alternatives to the double-vault model.
Now four EcoSan models are available from the hanging ecosan toilet for coastal communities;
lightweight, mobile arborloo toilets for mountain areas; single-vault ecosan toilets suitable for households
and deployment during conflicts or calamities; and urinals (EcoPees).
 Mr. Sayre’s custom-designs dry toilets that can be used by those living in urban slums, uplands, marshy
areas, river settlements and coastal areas (flood-prone areas), and dry toilets for persons with disabilities
and young children.
 The designs were executed at the WAND demonstration area in Libertad and pilot-tested in Barrio Tuod
in Manticao municipality, Barrio Oguis in Initao and a coastal area in Initao municipality.
Michael Brown, project manager of the Floating Community Waste Management Project in Cambodia,
noted the high acceptance rate of ecosan in the primary school, beachside and mountain communities
where it was piloted. Brown is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Engineer by profession, and is
also affiliated with Live & Learn Environmental Education, and Engineers Without Borders, Australia.
“Every user of the ecosan toilet was very happy with the toilet and spoke very positively about their
experience with it,” Brown noted.
Local beneficiaries, who were mostly poor farmers and fishermen, were able to use, manage and take
good care of the pilot units with little fuss.
Most of the materials used in the designs were indigenous materials like bamboo, coconut palm fronds,
wooden poles, gmelina wood and rattan baskets. Recycled drums, containers, black plastic sheets and
heavy-duty Manila hemp sacks were sourced from a junk store in Cagayan de Oro.
The design of the dual chamber ecosan and hanging toilet for beach communities was very innovative,
and made excellent use of local materials and skills for construction, noted Mr. Brown.
 “The special ecosan bowl is produced by our local masons,” Mr. Sayre said. “The result is a much
cheaper ecosan toilet.”
“Some of the biggest obstacles facing the ecosan design are misconceptions about the smell and dirtiness
of the toilet,” Mr. Brown noted. “WAND has done an excellent job educating the communities on the use
of the toilets and the ecosan process, and users were happy to have the ecosan toilets in their homes,
which in my experience is very challenging.”
With proceeds of a grant from Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), an initiative funded by the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, WAND is conducted an innovative global health and development
research project entitled Ecological Sanitation for the Base of the Pyramid.

 
GCE funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold on persistent
global health and development challenges.
To win the grant, Sayre had to demonstrate the viability and potential impact of EcoSan to address
pressing issues in sanitationand family health technologies, one of five critical global heath and
development areas.
“These grants are meant to spur new discoveries that could ultimately save millions of lives,” said Chris
Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
These ecological sanitation initiatives aim to help those at BoP by making available much needed
fertilizer for plants to improve nutrition, income and biodiversity; prevent the spread of diseases due to
open defecation; and prevent contamination of the water table and water sources.  
When Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) ran amok in Southern Philippines in November
2013, WAND was one of the first NGOs in the disaster areas, training survivors to plant their own
gardens and become self-sufficient.
Typhoon Haiyan caused over 5,000 fatalities and displaced some 4 million Filipinos, and affected 14-16
million more, according to the Government of the Philippine’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring
and Information Center (DROMIC).
With donations from all over the world, the WAND Foundation trained 120 survivors/trainees in Ormoc
City, Leyte, with trainees required to train their neighbors back home.
The core training was led by WAND staff, Annie Jane Lagawan, who undertook a 9 month Rural
Leaders Training Program at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan. Training included active labor and
theory that familiarized trainees with concepts as plant growth, agronomic requirements, organic
fertilizer, soil conditioners, vegetable harvesting techniques, vegetable planning and budgeting and
preservation of vegetables.
Apart from training survivors with gardening and harvesting knowledge, Lagawan set forth ARI’s
philosophy called Enrichment of Foodlife, an ideology that encouraged the ‘value of producing and
sharing healthy food in a manner sustainable to the environment and to the community, through the
cooperative efforts of the community’
With the aid of private donors, the food resiliency program implemented by WAND provided
displaced households with proper farming training, vegetables seeds, garden materials and
garden tools, helping over 440 families, with each of the original participant trainee reaching out
to 3-4 other families in Leyte. This has allowed bunk-house residents to raise crops in small
family plots, communal gardens and in containers when space became an issue.
Now, previously idle lands have developed into lush gardens yieldingpotatoes, kangkong,
onions, peppers, okra and squash. Families with a surplus of vegetables are able to generate extra
income.

With gardening, WAND, has not only provided survivors with a source of sustainable nutrition
and income but has also built a sense of community. People share what they have planted and
gardens have become a communal point of conversation, meeting and work. As a tool of therapy,
harvesting, has helped millions of people cope with the misfortunes and hardships in life,
germinating seedlings of hope. URL: https://www.wordsinthebucket.com/philippines-post-
haiyan-gardening-tool-social-impact
Samaritan’s Purse, an international nonprofit based in North Carolina, partnered with WAND to scale
up Sayre’s attempts to provide toilets to neighborhoods at risk for contaminating fresh water sources and
to provide tools for the gardens.
Sayre provided the design for an efficient toilet and Samaritan’s Purse provided the resources and hired
Filipinos in the disaster area to produce donated bathrooms, said program director Gavin Gramstad.
Toilets made by WAND and Samaritan’s Purse are made through sweat equity. Families are provided
assistance and materials but must build the toilet themselves.
“He is so tied into the community. Elmer says exactly what the needs are and how to address them
directly,” said Yen Pham, a 2009 UCLA alumna who worked with Samaritan’s Purse in Tacloban.
The toilets are crucial to keeping illnesses like cholera out of communities that are already very
vulnerable to infectious disease, Sayre said.
Samaritan’s Purse outfitted four municipalities with Sayre’s septic tank and bowl designs so that the
towns were completely free of raw sewage by 2016. The whole process requires 10,000 donated toilets.
Samaritan’s Purse enrolls every recipient of a toilet in a class on the role of proper sanitation in water-
borne illnesses like cholera that can devastate communities in the Philippines.
For now, the people who have learned to garden from WAND’s trainings are reaping the rewards of their
newfound green thumbs. With harvests once or twice a month, people have plenty of vegetables to eat,
and enough left over to sell sometimes, Sayre said.
Already, the Eco-San project has taken wings and diversified into organic agriculture with the next
generation.
Jed Christian Sayre, Elmer’s son, was awarded a grant from The Pollination Projecton May 21, 2016
for his Philippines Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Project, which sought to restore essential micronutrients
lost by Typhoon Haiyan’s destructive passage in the town of town of Albuera, Leyte.
Jed recognized the importance of vegetable farming to help bridge this gap and thus created the
Philippines Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Project, providing open pollinated high-valued vegetable seeds to
750 youth backyard gardeners. While the project addressed food security and nutrition, it also provides
economic security for its participants.URL: https://thepollinationproject.org/grants-awarded/jed-christian-
sayre-philippines-heirloom-vegetable-seeds-project/
Two years later, it was Elmer’s wife Cora to be selected as one of GlobalGiving’s ten 2018 Disaster
Feedback Fellows from community-based nonprofits spent who spent one week in Washington, D.C., in

early October 2018 learning from each other, promoting their disaster recovery projects to peers and
funders, and speaking at and attending the 2018 Feedback Summit.
The Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving funded the fellowship to foster collaboration
and community feedback in disaster recovery projects around the world.
“There is no more crucial time to foster this exchange than now, as disasters are increasing in
frequency and severity around the world,” said Britt Lake, GlobalGiving’s Chief Program
Officer and the Director of the Disaster Recovery Network, which pioneers a model of effective,
community-led relief and recovery through locally focused grants, information exchange, and
training programs.
During the Feedback Summit, fellows shared the innovative ways they collect feedback from the
people they serve and learned new ways to integrate feedback into their everyday work.
“I am very greatly honored to be chosen as one of the fellows. I’ve learned so much, especially
about interventions other NGOs use,” said Cora who co-founded WAND with Elmer in
2008.https://www.globalgiving.org/learn/2018-fellow-cora-sayre/?rf=cm
Cora has seen the increasing intensity of typhoons over the last decade—and made it her life’s
mission to help rural farming communities in the Philippines become more resilient to
devastating disasters and volatile economic conditions.
“Both of us were born poor,” she said, “and it kindled a desire in our hearts to really uplift
ourselves and help other people who are like us to gain their voice and be active partners in their
development.”
The destructive power of typhoons in the Philippines has intensified by 50% in the past 40 years
due to warming seas, according to a North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
As a resident of rural Philippines, she noticed major gaps in disaster recovery services after
Typhoon Haiyan. WAND filled the gaps, bringing water and sanitation solutions, as well as food
security programs, to remote villages. Because they’re based in the Philippines, they’re able to
provide long-term support.
Building community resilience to disaster, Cora explained, doesn’t happen in a matter of days or
months. It takes decades.
“It’s not only about tree planting,” she said, using one of WAND’s Typhoon Haiyan projects as
an example. “It’s about tree growing. You have to monitor the trees you planted to make sure
they grow.”
Reforestation is important, Cora said, but the people WAND collaborates are the real key to
disaster resilience.

“Before, the rural folks used to only be on the sidelines, but now because of our engagement,
training, and partnering, some of them have become village leaders and counselors. Women are
involved in cooperatives. They are now agents and stakeholders in their communities.”

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