Transforming the Desert into a Food Forest With Treebog
The Treebog Concept
The Treebog is a conceptual approach to decentralized sanitation. A Treebog
is a compost toilet that can be self-built and self-managed, and can
safely convert toilet ‘wastes’ into biological resources – trees, shrubs, other
plants and soil.
Although this is a simple concept Treebogs should not be constructed without
reference to the local culture and conditions, as well as the materials available
and the resources at hand.
Treebog is simply defined as a raised, platform-mounted, toilet cubicle,
closely surrounded by densely planted and heavily mulched trees and
shrubs. The trees and mulch are integral to the effective functioning of the Treebog
In terms of its structure, there are many possibilities when people self-build,
using local resources
The Treebog has a soil surface compost chamber – not a below-ground pit
As there is no pit, the mixing of liquids and solids does not occur within the
Treebog helps to prevent odor nuisance.
The enclosure underneath the raised platform, the composting chamber is
surrounded by a double layer of chicken wire. This double layer is filled with
straw or some other carbon-rich material. In Senegal where straw is too
valuable as animal fodder, they use peanut shells. The chicken wire mesh also
acts as a visual screen.
The Platform is mounted, directly above a compost pile
The Treebog cubicle can have either a toilet seat or a squatting platform
whilst directly below this raised platform, in the compost chamber, is the
a compost pile, onto which the daily offerings are deposited.
This simple use of gravity, to create the compost pile underneath the cubicle,
results in users only ever having to move the pile when it has fully
decomposed into compost, users never have to move any non-composted
Separation of liquids and solids
The feces deposited in a Treebog form the compost pile, and the liquids
drain off this pile, soaking into the surrounding earth, into the root zone of
the planted trees.
A Treebog directly integrates sanitation with resource production
Different species of trees provide various yields: fruit and nuts, fodder crops,
firewood, pole wood for building, mulch, and the material for charcoal
If we use plants like bamboo or trees which can be coppiced to produce
pole wood we can use this to build more Treebogs
Thus the Treebog is a sanitation methodology that creates both soil and
biomass resources, enabling people to take control of, and benefit from
having their sanitation needs to be met naturally, often with a self-built Treebog
Ventilation and Airflow for Aerobic Decomposition
Ventilation is of crucial importance within a Treebog to maintain aerobic
conditions in the compost pile underneath the Treebog Platform.
Only with good ventilation can aerobic composting occur.
This airflow enhances the breakdown of the solids in a microbial degradation
process. Having non-airtight sides of the chamber underneath the Treebog
platform helps to keep the process aerobic.
Some people use chicken wire, but others in the UK have used hazel/willow
hurdles or overlapping wooden slats which allow good airflow.
Many Treebogs have straw stuffed between the chicken wire, and others have
woodchip, and in Senegal peanut shells have been used effectively (in the
role of carbon source) filling the space between a double chicken wire screen.
Treebogs have also been fitted with a black plastic pipe (in effect a chimney)
which connects the composting chamber underneath the platform with the
the air above it.
The black plastic pipe warming in the sun creating heats the air in the pipe
causing it to rise to create an airflow that pulls air through the composting
We are looking towards other kinds of projects in order to serve the people here better, and with some guidance from Jay Abrahams, we have decided to build the first Treebog composting toilet here in the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
I attended the Re-AllianceTreebog Webinar and feel that Treebog will be a great benefit to us in the camp. With Treebog we are able to give people a simple form of regenerative sanitation which builds soils, shades from the sun, as well as many products from the planted trees, fruits, nuts and fuel wood as well as poles for building with, and so help us to transform the desert into a Food Forest or Forest Garden.
We manage to install 5 Treebogs in different areas of Kakuma Refugee camp, such as Kakuma 1, Kakuma 2, and Kakuma 3 planning to build in Kakuma 4 and kaloboyei Settlement.