BY THE NUMBERS: Digging pit latrines as tall as buildings

Let’s be honest. We’re a small nonprofit working in a specific region of Uganda. We have fewer staff members than the average Taco Bell. We also don’t tend to measure our success with data points on charts — we measure it through sustainable behavior change and intangibles, such as robust communication and inclusivity.

But when we took inventory at the end of 2018, we realized something that filled us with pride: Our numbers are solid.

Take latrines for instance.

Have you ever dug a 10-foot hole in the ground? How about a 40-foot hole? Go ahead, try it. We’ll wait.

The kind of work ethic necessary to perform such a feat shows how much our partner communities value hygiene and sanitation after working with Kibo. Each time a person in the village decides to dig a latrine for their family, it shows the magnitude of Kibo’s influence on that person’s thought processes and values.


This past year, our WASH staff oversaw 1,169 confirmed new latrines.

That means that WASH convinced 1,169 households to revolutionize their lives and to construct a latrine. If we assume that the average latrine depth is 15 feet — which is a conservative estimate; many are much deeper — that means that our partner communities collectively dug 17,535 ft. into the ground.

They dug the height of 12 Empire State buildings into the ground. They dug through Mount Whitney, plus quite a bit extra. They almost dug the height of Kibo peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest freestanding mountain. They dug a lot.

* The pits are not as wide as the Empire State Building. No one needs a toilet that big.

* The pits are not as wide as the Empire State Building. No one needs a toilet that big.


But that’s just distance into the ground. Let’s talk about volume.

The sheer amount of dirt our community members moved using a shovel and a pickaxe is roughly 140,280 cubic feet. That’s a lot of earth.

To give you an idea, if you covered a basketball court with that amount of dirt, it would go 18.8 feet into the air. If you dumped it on top of the house of our Director of Strategic Initiatives, Ben West, it would cover the house with 116.9 feet of dirt (which is sure to put a dent in his property value).


Our partner communities also used 350,700 bricks to construct their latrines. Each brick was likely made by hand or purchased at great personal cost. Some of the latrines in our partner communities are meticulously crafted — the pride of that household.

If you stacked all the bricks used to construct latrines in 2018, at an average height of 3 5/8", the resulting stack of bricks would be 105,729 ft. That’s more than three times the height of Mount Everest. That’s twice the maximum height commercial planes can fly.


Six new villages became officially free of open defecation in 2018.

This means that in those six villages:

  • People will be far less likely to contract preventable diseases, like cholera and dysentery.

  • People will spend less money on hospitable bills and medical fees because of those preventable diseases, which means they’ll have more money for food, school fees, and business investments.

  • People, especially children, will be far less likely to die from preventable diseases.

We only count a village as open-defecation free if every single household has a pit latrine. That requires total community-wide transformation and commitment.

Let’s turn to trees.

This year, we planted 1,175 Mvule trees, 800 musizi trees, and many others. These trees will help provide shade, clean air, and many other community goods for decades to come. But they also provide future income in Ugandan communities.

Timber is a great source of income, and it can even act as a retirement account in poorer communities without access to traditional financial institutions. But we always encourage people to plant many more trees before selling one for timber. That’s the Kibo Way.


At Kibo, we love trees, and we love sanitation facilities, but people are our main concern.

In 2018, our meetings featured 26,712 attendees.

While this number includes repeats, 26,712 people is more than the student bodies of Pepperdine, Lipscomb, Harding, Abilene Christian, Oklahoma Christian, and Rochester College combined.

And it’s a diverse group. More than half the members of our water-user committees in the villages are women. We work with people who speak dozens of languages. We work with people who are Christian, Muslim, or none of the above. We work with kids, adolescents, parents, and the elderly.

In more than 1,000 trips to the village in 2018, we were inspired by our partner communities, and we saw real change in the ways they interact with each other.


Numbers aren’t everything. Love can’t be quantified. But they sure can show how long and deep and wide Kibo’s influence is in our partner communities. Be sure to tell our staff how much you appreciate their work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!