Human waste makes better fertilisers; experts

Human faeces and urine make better manure for cultivation than manufactured fertilisers since they do not damage the natural water, underground, experts have said.  The remarks were made by experts attending the 13th meeting of Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) held at the sidelines of the third AfricaSan conference slated to kick off today.

Human faeces and urine make better manure for cultivation than manufactured fertilisers since they do not damage the natural water, underground, experts have said.

The remarks were made by experts attending the 13th meeting of Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) held at the sidelines of the third AfricaSan conference slated to kick off today.

According to an official from the German Development Cooperation (GIZ),   Dr. Elisabeth von Munch, there is a lot of experience worldwide about the use of human waste as fertiliser and that soon or later, its usage would rise.

“The use of human waste is one option that can be used but it can only be so when people have the need for the fertilisers that come from the toilets and if they understand how to use it in a safe way. It is not something that can be forced on the people,” Dr. Munch said.

She added that since manufactured fertilisers are expensive and soil fertility is declining, there is need to adopt new and adequate measures.

“Urine and faeces composed make very good fertilisers; so it would be a wasted opportunity not to use it,” she said.

Although scientists have proved that use of human sludge is more efficient for agriculture, health, soil and organic experts have continuously expressed their reservations over the use of human waste-based fertiliser claiming it can be a health hazard to the users.

However, Munch revealed that experts working closely with SuSanA under the productive sanitation sector have put forward some guidelines and publications that explain exactly how it can safely be done.

“Urine is free of pathogens or infectious germs but there are pathogens in faeces; that is why there is need to kill them before the faeces are used for manure but it needs guidelines,” said

“If faeces are dried, the pathogens can’t survive and with the use of ecosan toilets, we try to dry the faeces for a period of six months before they can be used as fertilizers. Additionally, we encourage people to bury the faeces under the soil so that there is no direct contact between farmers and faeces,” she said.

Currently, the use of human sludge as manure has spread out worldwide and according to Munch, about two million farmers use the said type of manure.

She added that currently, some areas in Rwanda have volcanic soils where area residents can’t dig pit latrines, hence providing a better alternative for the usage of human waste for manure.

Meanwhile, the program manager of WaterAid, Noella Jouyeuse Urwibutso said the use of human sludge is better for agriculture since it is natural.

“Other fertilisers are composed of different chemical substances but the human waste fertilisers from ecosan toilets are natural and can’t cause any environmental damage. Other fertilisers could damage the underground water,” she said.

Urwibutso added that the use of ecosan toilets is currently being implemented in Rwanda.

“Before we introduced the ecosan toilets in Rwanda, we had to conduct a thorough mass education because if the ecosan toilets are not used well, they can cause a dangerous health threat to the people,” she added.

Ecosan toilets are currently used in the several parts of the Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces.

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