Karamoja is one of Uganda’s poorest regions, located in the semi-arid, northeast of the country near the borders with Kenya and the Sudan.

Gathering firewood for cooking, a job assigned to girls and women, is an increasingly risky venture. With wood becoming a scarce resource, girls often need to spend hours outside their villages to gather a sufficient amount. This is valuable time they could otherwise spend in school or on other activities.

A breakthrough in an unlikely place – the school’s latrines – has the potential to free the girls from their increasingly arduous errand.

Karamoja’s schools are being outfitted with bio-latrines, or toilets connected to air-tight underground chambers in which waste breaks down into a combination of gas (made up of methane and carbon dioxide) and slurry. The slurry can be used as a fertilizer, and the biogas generated through this process is used to fuel the schools’ kitchens. The arrangement is safe and hygienic because the connection between latrine and biogas digester requires no contact with excreta.

UNICEF estimates that the biogas generated through this process can offset at least half of the firewood needed to fuel the schools’ feeding programme, reducing the burden on the girls whose job was to collect the firewood. It protects the environment and also provides valuable fertilizer for the school garden – as well as a topic of conversation for the students!