August 2015

STUDENT PROJECT: Human Waste Based Fertilizer 2015-16

The second cohort of students in UniWASH project continued in 2015 from the findings of the student teams from the first year and focused on developing the concept further. Two sub-projects emerged: Human Based Waste Fertilizer –service model, and a low-cost pit latrine emptier of which the HWBF concept will be described in more detail.


Human Based Waste Fertilizer –service model, which consists of:

The Composting Hub – a concept that creates an economic incentive for existing latrine emptiers to handle the latrine sludge safely after emptying by turning it into compost. For the operation a composting site is constructed in a central place that is close to schools and communities. This way emptiers save in transportation costs which trickles down to lower emptying fees.

The School Demonstration Garden – a concept that demonstrates the value of faecal sludge as fertilizer in farming activities. This generates a direct revenue stream for schools stemming from the sale of human waste-based fertilizer and crops which were cultivated with the fertilizer in a demonstration garden. To produce the fertilizer and crops a group of pupils’ parents operates a composting and a DG on the school’s premises - for their work they also receive part of the sales. As the revenue is just created when the latrines are emptied, the incentive for the school to really spend it for the emptying of latrines is strong. Moreover, through an agricultural school club the pupils can also participate in the activities and learn valuable skills.

In the Local Emptying Service concept, the fees a school has to pay for the emptying of its latrines are reduced by establishing an emptying and composting business in the community. The service is run by a small group of locals who use low-tech emptying equipment such as a Gulper, a simple direct lift pump, to empty the latrines. The sludge is transported to a composting site on the group’s premises where it is turned into HWBF and sold subsequently. As the sales from the fertilizer are expected to be significantly higher than the revenue generated from the sole emptying of latrines, the business has an incentive to keep the fees low in order to keep demand for services high and empty latrines more regularly. The upcycle of the sludge will also enable safe treatment of the sanitation waste.


Piloting the concept in Phase II

Human waste-based fertilizer concept was chosen for further testing. Water for People, a Ugandan NGO has been working on testing business models for safe faecal sludge management that include building and supporting latrine emptying business for local small entrpreneurs, and creating value from the reuse of faecal sludge into fertilizer or briquettes. UNICEF decided to partner with Water for People to support this piloting in two towns Kitgum and Kole during 2017-18. This Sanitation as a Business project component included also the enabling environment aspect where local authorities were supported in town sanitation planning, budgeting and improving regulation.

Project timeline