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Papua New Guinea:

What have toilets got to do with deforestation?

Deforestation isn’t all bulldozers and beefburgers. It’s a broken leg. It’s needing cash to send your kids to school. It’s waste polluting your crops and causing sickness in your village.

That’s why we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to our partnerships. If a community is continually becoming ill and unable to progress due to a lack of suitable sanitation, this is what we will help with. It’s essential to address local needs from healthcare to basic education if effective conservation is to take place.

A group of young men stand behind their freshly poured concrete toilet.

The people of Wabumari working together to construct a new toilet.


Wabumari is a village that lies on the coastline of Papua New Guinea. It is renowned for the cool, gentle breeze that comes in from the sea and through the forest. But life there wasn’t always so tranquil, with a recent household survey identifying safe water and basic sanitation as a pressing community need.

It reported that 94% of households lack access to clean water, and most families make at least two trips per day to collect water from streams and springs. Lack of proper toilets means frequent contamination to the beach and land, which is only worsening due to rising sea levels.

The seasonality of rainfall has become more erratic and unreliable. A recent project has therefore aimed to improve clean water supplies. Rain-water collecting tanks harness the monsoon-like rains that come through, and store the water for use in the dry season. It’s key that local people can have a steady supply of water year-round, for their families and gardens to thrive.

The tanks have proved so helpful that the local committee are planning to expand the use of the water tanks to help more isolated settlements nearby.

Closeup of a hand holding the handle of a shovel whilst a bag of cement is emptied in the background.

A toilet is cast out of concrete in Wabumari.

Liquid concrete is poured into a fibreglass mould of a large round toilet top.

Reinforcing wire is set into the liquid concrete before it dries.

The next challenge was how to manage human waste in the community. Three community members from Wabumari had training from ATprojects to build long-drop toilets and flooding-resistant waste systems. These are set to be a game changer. With a reduction in contaminated water, health will improve and crop yield will increase. Those trained to build toilets will also find employment in surrounding areas to help others build toilets too.

Basil Matasia, who attended the training, told us that these toilets are the first of their kind in the area, and have made local people happy.