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Sanitizing the dirtiest job on earth

Client/ Funder: North Carolina State
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Catapult Service Line: Design
Thematic Area: WASH


According to a study published in 2013, an estimated 1.7 billion people, primarily in developing nations, rely on pit latrines, a simplified toilet that collects feces in a hole in the ground. While the positive health impacts of using a well-designed latrine are well documented, proper management of fecal sludge remains a persistent challenge in many developing nations. Consequently, an engineering research team at North Carolina State University received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve a prototype and field test a novel pit latrine excavation technology that is capable of accessing remote areas.


To advance the technology developed by the research team into a commercial product, North Carolina State and Catapult Design have teamed up to improve the pit latrine excavation device from a human factors and manufacturing lens. Over the next few months, Catapult and NC State will evolve the design from Nairobi, Kenya, to test with fecal sludge management operators in select regions of Africa. Our goal is to develop a product that is intuitive to use, simple to maintain, and can be manufactured at an accessible price point.


The output of this collaboration is a tested prototype, moving NC State a significant step closer towards a commercial product and viable solution for improved fecal sludge management. For more info, check out NC State Professor Francis de los Reyes’ TED talk on sanitation.