Profiling Tepehua – March 2021

Profiling Tepehua

By Moonyeen King

President of the Board for Tepehua

Ironing Out The Wrinkles In Tepehua’s 2021 Project


Tepehua 1

The purpose of the project is to bring sanitation and health to Tepehua.

Every barrio has the problem of disposing of human and animal waste. Those who live on the paved main streets with lights and City maintenance have plumbing access if they can afford to attach to it. Those living outside the main roads who are not on a City waste or water line or have utilities in their home, dump their sewage in the fields or anywhere they can expect nature to take care of the problem for them. Which it does after time with the help of cleanup crews like dung beetles who diligently roll up certain parts of the waste for food and parts for lining their home.  Whatever is left behind is nature’s form of fertilizer and topsoil. This is recycling in nano-slow motion, and if we let nature take its course, we will be buried in our own waste and pollution.

The heavy rains take care of the final clean out: the remaining waste gets washed away and finds itself in surface water and eventually seeps into the unmaintained wells that service not only the barrio but the town as well. 

Open defecation becomes everyone’s problem . . . and it is up to everyone to change it. The practical answer to the problem is portable toilets. Why portable toilets? The land which hugs the towns of Lakeside is fully taken, every lot has a title owner. Many people who have invested in barrio land on the outskirts of towns, like Chapala, have no intention of building; it is inheritance for their children. With no available lots to build communal toilets in the barrios, the task of cleaning up open defecation is impossible. If we “borrow” the land and in return pay their taxes, under a contract the owners can take back their land any time they need if they decide to build, and we take back our investment, namely, the portable unit, and place it somewhere else.

The tax for one lot is $100 pesos a year, so it is far less costly for the community center to “rent” the lot than to buy a leasehold. Units come in all prices, sizes, and designs. There are also those that turn the waste into recycled fertilizer much faster than the beetle can, providing topsoil mix or soil for box gardening. In fact, it turns an environmental and health risk into an opportunity. The cost is doable, as portable toilets range from $500 USD to $2,000 USD per unit or double (male and female).   

The labor challenge would be just the same as for the 300 garafone a day reverse osmosis unit that sustains our Tepehua potable water plant. Some people said that there wouldn’t be people to run and maintain it. But they were wrong. The locals are waiting for a chance to change, learn and work, taking charge of providing for themselves. Everyone needs dignity, and defecating in public spaces is the most base act there is.

Sustainability is another aspect. This has to be worked in phases. The first is finding the interested parties to invest in waste management, and those who will lend their land to the project. The second phase will involve locating and installing the units. As it is all prefabricated, once set into motion, it should be accomplished fairly rapidly. Opportunity for business abounds. Like bagging the finished fertilizer and selling to the agricultural community as well as garden landscaping. Therein lies the sustainability.

This is also a call for help in this project. If any of the readers out there are proficient in the area of portable toilets, the Tepehua Community Center would appreciate your help to get this off the ground, so to speak. We especially would like to identify the sales outlets for the actual units available in Guadalajara, that would start the breakdown and the base for fertilizer soil. We have a few but would like the whole range of choice. Knowing the range of prices at this time is also of importance. We are also surveying the community to find the areas where people congregate and the availability of vacant land. It is a community-led initiative to help the community help itself; everybody gains. 

In 3000 BC, the Romans built the first communal toilets for men. Pretty much like the steam houses, the men would sit and chat. It is unclear what the women did, it was probably the potty system: out the window into the moat. It is so incredible that in 2021 AD, we are still in need of toilets and waste control for the poor.

Meanwhile, we put another Band-Aid on the fight for equality. Until we figure that out, let’s save our planet and our dignity . . . one barrio at a time, one street at a time, until we get it right.

E-mail Moonie if you have experience you would like to share. You could make all the difference.


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