Organic fertiliser links WASH to Agriculture


As SNV Rwanda launches the ecological sanitation (ecosan) project this year, one of the target communities are already seeing a way to link WASH and agriculture.

This community in Kabatwa sector, Nyabihu district of Western Province traditionally uses the industrial fertilizers known as NPK: 17:17:17 (17% Nitrogen - 17% Phosphorus - 17% Potassium).  They have also introduced a second fertilizer they fondly call “NPK 20:20:20”. Unlike its commercial counterpart, this is manure from the village pit latrines. Once a pit latrine fills up, the owner empties the cubicle and looks for another site to dig new hole. He covers the filled pit and waits for about three months. Then, the faeces in the pit are no longer considered as waste but fertiliser that he sells to farmers at 15,000 Rwf. The manure is named NPK 20:20:20 for its efficacy.

While this community understands the added value of human waste in fertilizing their crops, three months is hardly enough to complete decomposition. Unsanitised waste that is still smelly represents a huge threat to their health and could eventually pollute their water sources and soil.

Ecological sanitation is designed to protect the environment from pollution while providing adequate facilities to communities and manure for agriculture. Solid and liquid wastes are stored and sanitized naturally for use in agriculture.

Ecosan technology is being seen as the scalable model for Rwanda as it is responding to an existing need in Rwanda especially in the volcanic region where the rocky terrain causes communities to dig shallow pit latrines. It is also promoting use of organic fertilizer for crops, while solving issues of pollution from pit latrines in flood prone areas.

The project will no doubt contribute to improved sanitation and hygiene practices in schools and villages. However, in order to better harness the benefits of ecosan toilets, there is need to boost awareness on the benefits of ecological sanitation for health and agricultural production, to improve local capacity in construction and operation of dry toilets as well as promotion through stakeholder platform meetings.

With the help of SNV, local organisations and the community WASH mobilization team, the people of Jenda will learn the process of sanitizing solid waste and the health and environmental risks related to wrong management of human waste. In the meantime, they plan to contribute money to build proper ecosan facilities to produce safe NPK 20:20:20. Lucky for them, ecosan toilets are built to last, so they need not shift.