Let’s Talk Kak

Posted by on 6th April 2015

(words: H)

As the Logistics Coordinator for Tankwa Town’s Department of Public Works I get to juggle a lot of balls – I lay awake at night running timelines and crew numbers, to-do and to-buy lists and general ‘what is the most effective way of…’ options through my head.

Photo by Simon O'Callaghan

Yet, when people ask me about my job and what the hell it is that we do in the desert for seven weeks, I usually end up talking about kak. Toilets. That is our main game. Over the last two years since I started working year-round on DPW, we’ve tried really hard to make sure our beloved pit toilets get optimised. How do we keep the ‘loo-with-a-view’ going while still keeping it clean and fly-free once 10 000 people start to take a daily dump?

We have looked at many options, consulted many experts. It is easy to say ‘I was once at XXX and they had a very simple solution and you guys have no clue’ but our situation is unique in the sheer volume of crap our loos have to handle over a short time period.

And so, after much debate and even exploring the budget and footprint implications of having ONLY portaloos on site, we have decided to still go with long drops (150 this year!) for 2015.

Photo: Cameron Richards

There were concerns about contaminating ground water but, says David Still “Don’t worry about contaminating the groundwater.  There’s no chance of that happening for a short term event with dry sanitation in the Karoo. I have been involved in detailed monitoring of the impact of septic tanks and pit latrines on the ground water and even in worst case scenarios (groundwater table less than a metre below the surface, plus sloping ground, plus high rainfall) the zone of impact is typically less than 10 metres and that’s temporary.”

David is the founding partner of Partners in Development (Pty) Ltd (PID), established by in April 1993. The company offers consultancy, design, project management and construction services focussed primarily on developing communities, and in that sector on water supply, sanitation, roads and agricultural infrastructure in particular.

Photo: Helena Sheridan

In consultation with PID staff we’ve established that basic improvement of our current long-drop loos needs to focus on making the pits airtight to keep out bugs and flies, and to get you to CLOSE THE TOILET SEAT EVERY TIME…

We will still supply EM treated sawdust (scoop it in after doing your business!!) and crews of us will come past every morning to fill up the sawdust and toilet paper buckets and spray the whole area with EM – ‘effective microorganisms’ to keep the odours at bay and speed up decomposition.


Photo: Helena Sheridan


Having said all of this, we hope that this blog post might let people know that we give a shit because you do, and that we’re constantly looking to improve the crappers and welcome anyone with knowledge or experience on the subject to approach us to help. Do you know shit? Step up!

Take a moment to think about it while you take your morning crap on a loo with a view at this year – then come and meet us and get involved in planning for the next versions, in June.

See you out there.

Yours in sawdust, EM and 10 000 rolls of toilet paper,




Interested in making the toilet experience better for everyone this year? Ladies and gents, why not pimp your loo?

Pimp Your Loo is an initiative started by Melanie Brummer (otherwise known as the dame of tie-dye) to encourage everyone to adopt a loo, pimp that sucker and keep ’em clean for the sake of everyone’s experience, and health. Here’s the blurb from the Pimp Your Loo Facebook page:

“Be the change you want to see…Every year at the Burn we hear people say “but the toilets were DISGUSTING!” Really? Our loo was wonderful throughout the event last year. It all started with a radical idea. What if we take ownership of our loo. What if we love it and care for it? We even went so far as to pimp it with dealy-boppers and decorations. And it worked! It was magical! Our loo was wonderful to use throughout the event.

I hear you say “Not possible! Toilets are ALWAYS grim.” Not true.

Every one of us in our camp who used that loo made sure that we left it in a better state than we found it in. Our Gift to the Burn and, ultimately, to ourselves. Each time we went there we would tidy up, clean up, disinfect, wipe, spruce or whatever was needed to leave it a better place. A small task each time undertaken by many individuals had a radical overall effect. The space never went critical. It did not get a chance to.

Word got out and people from the Binnekring began to sneak in early in the morning to make use of it. It even attracted a violinist late at night who would play while you pee.

By the time we left it was still as we had found it. Fresh. User-friendly. Love your loo – it can radically change your Burn experience. Pimp your loo at the Burn this year and see the power of collective effort!”




Thanks to Mel for taking up the challenge – now spread word to your campmates and adopt a loo! Even portaloos – and hey, if you have any great reading material to paste up, get busy: after all, it’s a captive audience and everyone likes to read when they’re on the jazz.


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