Posted in Easier said than done

Potential in Waste- Ecological Fertilizer from Human Urine

Long term development strategy for both emerging and advanced economies is drifting towards marrying the business goals and the environmental goals.

The way a society manages its resources determines the development rate of that society. Resources must be used in a sustainable way through careful management and scientific and technological advances. Research into new methods of cleaner production, prevention or minimization of waste and improved use or re-use of what is being wasted must be given high priority politically, scientifically, technologically, economically and ecologically. With the increasing need to optimize development and cut the effects to environment, resource recovery cannot be an overemphasize.

To illustrate, urine is a locally produced resource that is free. Normal urine output of an average person is 1-2 liters per day or 50-60ml/hour. In adult humans the average production is about 1 – 2 L per day. Given the case of a household, a family of four produces enough urine to fertilize 1/3 of an acre. With the increase of ecological sanitation facilities all over the country which make use of a waterless dry toilet system facility for urine recovery especially in public places such as railway stations and other public transport stations where millions of people using these facilities could present an enormous source of unutilized resource in the form of urine for agricultural use and with the separation of urine from the faeces in ecological sanitation, a whole range of options exist on what to do with the separated urine including using it as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.

The Ecological fertilizer is organic and therefore free from heavy metals unlike the chemical fertilizers that have always been used by the farmers and whose side effects on the environment are enormous. Urine recovery and reuse is the best direction to take on the amount of Urine at our disposal as a country as it ensures availability of locally manufactured urea products with specific agronomic variability. Investigating the use of human urine as fertilizer for different crops is much more than just scientific research but also presents a social challenge as it will need measures and approaches to break the taboos that come with issues related to sanitation and hygiene. In most societies there is a taboo on the use of human waste and sewage as an agricultural input. This limits the market for compost and other agricultural inputs products produced from human waste. Additionally there is a risk of spreading disease by using untreated human excreta, a reason why authorities have strict rules to protect the public health. However, with strict adherence to the established rules and regulations that are scientifically proven, human waste presents opportunities for resource recovery in terms of biogas and organic fertilizer.

The use of Urea in the Urine to make Ecological Fertilizer in Kenya presents a solution for 21st century agricultural problem in Africa and beyond. Food production has declined in Kenya — largely as a result of rapid land degradation. Depletion of nutrients and soil organic matter and erosion are some of the major problems facing agricultural production in Kenyan smallholder farms today.

In some parts of the world, for instance in India, urine trials have been conducted for a few years now. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore, south India working with a local organization have already harvested two crops of paddy grown with urine fertilizer and two crops of bananas, and analyzed the findings – which were safe for human consumption, besides being cheaper. Professor Abdul Rahman, a well-known salt scientist is conducting trials on crystallizing urine for safe and cheap transport and hopes of making the technology available are very high. This does not only present an opportunity for Inter- University scientific consultations but also for best practice sharing in environmental management and resource recovery.
Climate change, securing long-term water supplies, dealing with salinity and protecting our clean, green environment pose challenges and offer opportunities. Recognizing these opportunities and developing new approaches to tackling these challenges is a starting point to securing a sustainable future. Human waste recovery such as urine reduces the weight and volume of waste, and produces inoffensive, useful products benefiting agriculture and biodiversity and can be a profitable business activity providing income and employment opportunities for the poor.
With the right policy coordination, technical knowledge, strategic partnerships and collaborations with Universities, organizations and communities, human waste recovery such as urine can offer a solution to the current environmental and agricultural challenges in developing countries.