Can we safely recycle human feces in a developing country?

Jeffery Deal

Water Missions International

This project ended on:
2 September 2014

The proposed research complements a community development project in Honduras. The project includes construction of 80 latrines in two communities. The pilot test will randomly assign households to receive either a traditional flush toilet or one that allows for recycling of the waste products as fertilizer. While this type of recycling is done elsewhere, there is no data to guide organizations on potential health risks of recycling human waste.


Budget Overview

Water Missions International, a water engineering nonprofit, seeks to obtain additional funding for a research study to complement a community development project funded by a coalition of Rotary Clubs from California, Oregon, Illinois and Venezuela.

The Rotary funded, community development project includes construction of 80 latrines in two Honduras communities as a pilot test prior to implementing additional latrines for the remaining households in the future. The pilot test will randomly assign households to receive either a traditional flush toilet or a composting toilet that allows for recycling of waste products as fertilizer. This pilot test allows WMI the rare and unique opportunity to study related social, technical, and health-related issues.

Without this research, the health impacts of different toilet systems will remain unknown, and nonprofit, nongovernmental, and governmental institutions that work in this area will remain motivated to choose technologies which may not be in the best interests of the people being served.

Donors will be given access to a database/website where they can track the project's progress, see maps and reports, and even track actual expenditures in real time.

Meet the Researcher


Dr. Deal presently serves as Director of Health Studies for Water Missions International and is an adjunct professor of anthropology for the College of Charleston.

He is a member of the London International Development Centre, a Fellow in the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons. He holds Board Certification in Tropical Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians and is a member of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

A Land At the Centre of the World (Markoulakis Publications), his ethnography of the Dinka Agaar of South Sudan is now in its second edition. In addition to writing fiction, his previous publications span the fields of microbiology, anthropology, and surgery. When not working in the field, he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife of thirty-seven years.

Typical Latrines in Developing Countries:

Project Backers

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