English (en) | Change Language

A “how to” guide to successfully install a natural, sustainable latrine using vetiver grass

The use of vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) replaces the need for a concrete block lined pit, creates privacy and actively helps decompose the waste. Jiji grass (Achnatherum splendens) can be used as an alternative in colder or harsh conditions where vetiver does not grow. Banana and papaya can be planted around the grass hedgerow to convert the waste into a healthy fruit harvest. Vetiver grass can be harvested and used for many purposes.

In Haiti the material costs can be as low as $25 (1/10th that of a conventional latrine).

Review by Bob Hargrave: 

Many of our readers do not have access to good options for sanitation. One technology to consider is the pit latrine or "long drop"; there are many designs for constructing them. Dr. Roger Gietzen has presented an option using low cost materials that incorporates composting capabilities in his booklet "Vetiver Latrine Guide."

The design of this vetiver latrine boasts several advantages. For one thing, the materials are less expensive than those used to build more typical latrines. For another, vetiver grass, which provides the privacy screen, can also be cut for other uses; meanwhile, vetiver roots help reinforce the pit walls.

Gietzen’s booklet is a very detailed and amply illustrated guide for constructing a vetiver latrine. The process includes choosing the site location, digging a pit, constructing the floor slab and supporting beams, and establishing the vetiver grass. The booklet also includes plans for incorporating a banana and papaya circle around the latrine.

A vetiver latrine is a good option for sanitation, as long as local laws allow for it, vetiver grass is available, and the design would be locally acceptable. The booklet is available in multiple languages.