So I'm back, and having picked up something on the plane home almost back to normal now so its time to finally update the trip I took. The purpose was to build a composting toilet for the Axim Catholic JHS. Composting toilets have started to become a popular way to build toilets without a water supply. Ours in this case was built to accommodate 350 students about double what the school currently has enrolled so that it can grow over time. 8 stalls and a male and female urinal with a separate space for the girls during that time allowing them to clean up in private.



The school buildings.


The students.


The blessing of the site and first shovel full. Once the proprieties were over the engineering half of the team got to work with the construction.


Setting the profile and construction area.


With the soil removed the building could start. In the background is the current toilet facility for 170 students along with a urinal on the other side of the compound.

By the time we left they were just ready to pour the slab and we got pictures yesterday of their progress.


Shown are the 16 chambers that will hold the waste solids for a year to compost them. Above that will be the 8 stalls. One chamber will be in use and when full the second will then be used until the first is finished composting. If the school grows it can be removed sooner and allowed to finish composting in an off site spot.


While the engineer was busy with that, I was working with the school to make lesson plans on how to teach how these work since they are a new technology. Some students volunteered to help draw posters showing how the toilets work, the proper way to wash hands since this plan provides tanks filled with rain water from the roof to allow easy washing at last.


Since their school garden was laying fallow I also helped build a small raised bed to hopefully get them back into it after the last harvest was stolen while they were on break. A man on national service I'm hoping is following through with showing them how to build a seed nursery and a regular compost pile to help show what is happening inside the new toilet. The soil there is hard enough to require a pick ax to dig, the raised bed should grow far better from that alone as well as mixing in better soil. It will be there to take compost along with the entire garden at the end.

It is hoped that as the process continues they will be able to sell the product, and perhaps collect and use the urine as fertilizer if they can find a farmer with the need.

We are looking at finding ways to spread the technology to the community through small household sized toilets of this nature. Or perhaps another school, or community toilet. This one has to get finished first.


A few months ago I posted about a trip to Ghana I was taking to get a composting toilet started at a middle school there. Well a second trip was taken by our group not long ago and I can announce it is finished now.


It's a far cry from the old one they were using for 250 people.


The school is excited to try out the new toilet and they had a huge dedication where they taught the community how they work. I would have loved to go back and see all the festivities.


The toilet is built for about double the school population, with an area set aside for girls to wash up during their time of the month hopefully improving their attendance year round. The resulting product can be sold in the future or used for the school garden.

#ghana #travel #uddt #compostingtoilets

Driving south toward Kamburu dam on the only paved road you will soon enter the traditional area of another tribe.


The Mbeere are a close cousin of the Embu and share many cultural traditions. Mbeere district is divided up into 4 divisions with major market centers in Siakago, Kiritiri, and Ishiara. There are several smaller ones as well. Siakago is by far the most cosmopolitan with English and Swahili being spoken readily. The others however will be manned by those speaking primarily Kimbeere as the further out you go the amount of schooling drops off.

Mbeere sees so few tourists that the skills of bartering you honed in Nakuru or any of the national parks will go dull here. If a price is offered then that is the price, perhaps asking for a discount might get you an extra potato or a handful of beans but the price stays the same. Siakago might be the only exception then its not that you’re a tourist but that the district offices are located there and there is more money in the economy. Bartering still is rarely used but things cost more.

The following should get you by easily.


Often greeted with Nay Atia essentially how are you? the answer is Nikwega meaning good or nikwegamano, which means very good. Tigwa na wega means goodbye. The elder members of the tribe appreciate being called shosho for grandmother or Umau for grandfather. It is a sign of respect.


1-Imwe pronounced Imway

2- Igiri pronounced Igaray








10- Ikumi

How much is the price? - ni mbeca cii gana?

Note (a bill) – noti

20 shilling note – kifau

100 shilling note - Igana rimwe

5 shilling coin - Kingori or kubari

Ikumi or Kifau will be the most common answer.

There is one begger in Kiritiri market, he is readily recognized by his asking please me give me one shilling. He is harmless and when he has received enough money, he will buy fat and flour and make chapati in the middle of the street. Those in Siakago avoid at all costs.

Once you have mastered market you might wish to learn more of the local language. This is harder said than done. After three months of lessons an American asked his teacher, so how do I make sentences of my own? The teacher replied you don’t make your own you know how to say it. The lessons stopped shortly after that.

#kenya #travel

South of Embu, Kenya about 30 kilometers is the small market town of Kiritiri surrounded by bright red soil. Shaped like a square with the market in the center, a ring of shops circle the sellers of everything available in the area. One side of the only paved road in the district holds all the food while the other covers the used clothing market and everything else. Radiating like spokes off each corner are the only other streets that vanish into the scrub acacias not far out of the center, there on the south west corner it holds the Kigwambogo café. Recommended by a local mama, the café painted bright red and blue and accented with a large bulls’ head was the best food in town. (Bonus I never got sick there, I can’t say the same thing for the place next door.) The hand plastered walls are stained with smoke, long bench like tables fill the one room, while a small counter in front blocks access to the open kitchen serving window. Out back some bandas are available for use, like a plant filled hideaway so different than the dining room up front. I never ate back there though, I don’t really know why. With just a few open fire burners the kitchen put out about half of what was on the menu. Ask what they have and you’ll never go wrong. The beef and potato soup was filled with these small whole potatoes that never seemed to fall apart. They were waxy, but soft and I’ve never found out what variety they are. (I could find them occasionally mixed in with the other potatoes at market and they called them Irish, it didn’t help finding them upon returning home. Just like green grams were a surprise find at the Asian markets since they were mung beans. And those bananas the thick short ones as round as a silver dollar were like eating candy. I don’t as a rule like bananas even and these just disappeared around me. Spindly Ladyfingers don’t come close and the name in Kimbeere means nothing outside of there.) The cabbage was more of a soup surrounded by a clear broth, hardly seasoned more than with some salt, onion and a rogue tomato most likely and I felt like swooning. Githeri is the local staple food and large kidney beans and maize filled my bowl, so much that I could hardly eat it all, for little more than 20 shillings at the time. You could eat every meal out there for about a dollar a day. I don’t know how they made it taste so flavorful with just a couple bulk ingredients from the market, but I treasured every bite. Their real outstanding dish was the chapati, an import from the Indian rail workers a century before, they were crisp, flaky and as big as a dinner plate. Fresh they were magnificent, even a day old torn up and thrown in the soup they were something special. Enough oil was in them that they never grew gummy, just chewy. The chicken, while on the menu, I never found available, but I would never discount them on that count to not make frequent visits. Café’s in the nearby Siakago didn’t come close especially being almost twice the cost, though to be fair the beef stew at Roots Café there, was worth the trip. So many years later and I crave tearing up a fresh chapati and pressing the pieces, fresh or not, beneath the broth of their cabbage with some lovely potatoes on the side. Sigh. I’ve tried to recreate it, and I don’t know if it’s the heat difference on a stove compared to an open fire or a difference in ingredients, but I’ve never made it quite as spectacularly. A decade and I’m happy with my tries, but it’s not the same.

Jennifer Mueller served in Kiritiri market for two years in the Peace Corps. One day she’ll make it back and hope that Kigwambogo hasn’t changed one bit even if she knows its folly to think that.

#food #travel #kenya