Urine fertilizer use by smallholder farmers in Uganda - short film and open-access article by Elina Andersson from Lund University, Sweden

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Urine fertilizer use by smallholder farmers in Uganda - short film and open-access article by Elina Andersson from Lund University, Sweden

Dear all,

I'm happy to announce the recent publications of a short film and a peer-reviewed, open-access article on urine fertilizer in Uganda. They are both outcomes of research that I've carried out in collaboration with local farmer groups as part of my PhD project "Fertile grounds? The political ecology of soil management in Uganda".

The film, which is a guide on the reuse of urine in smallholder agriculture, is intended to be used efforts to up-and out-scale the practice. It can be accessed here:



An instruction pamphlet that summerizes the information given in the film has also been developed (see attachment).

The article "Turning waste into value: using human urine to enrich soils for sustainable food production in Uganda" was recently published in Journal of Cleaner Production and focuses on an action research process involving smallholder farmers in collaborative experimentation on the practice. It can be found as an attachment to this post or downloaded at:
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652614000948

Abstract:

This article builds on an action research process involving Ugandan smallholder farmers in collaborative experimentation on the use of human urine as a crop fertilizer. The aim is to explore farmers' perceptions and evaluation of the practice as a potential and partial solution to soil productivity problems. Findings show that urine fertilization is valued as a low-cost and low-risk practice contributing to significant yield increases, suggesting important contributions to food security and income, especially for those who have few options in soil nutrient management. Weaknesses identified by farmers relate mainly to limitations in collection and storage capacity rather than to inherent traits of the practice. In conclusion, urine fertilization should be acknowledged as a valuable strategy for supporting sustainable agricultural intensification. Furthermore, the importance of social norms and cultural perceptions should be recognized but not treated as absolute barriers to diffusion of the practice. Collective action, where groups of farmers jointly develop new procedures and adapt practices, serves as an important arena for social change and negotiation of norms and taboos, which can otherwise limit the acceptance and diffusion of alternative soil management practices. The research finally illustrates that transdisciplinary research can guide pathways towards sustainability through locally anchored and solutions-oriented knowledge generation.

Feel free to use and distribute!

Best regards,
Elina Andersson
Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS)

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  • gdrum01
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Thanks for great the video Elina!

During your research in Uganda, did you come across any companies that are collecting urine to sell to farmers as a commercially viable fertiliser? Are the benefits of using urine as an organic fertiliser great enough that you think farmers in Uganda are willing to pay for it?

George

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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Dear Elina,

Thank you very much for sharing your experience this will be very useful for the development of sustainable sanitation options in peri-urban Santa Cruz, Eastern Bolivia, where child mortality rates can be up to 50% for under fives.

Thank you
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Thanks George!

No, I did not come across any companies collecting and selling urine fertilizer to farmers. The practice of using urine fertilizer is indeed very new in the area and was not practiced by farmers before we initiated the experiments. Some of the involved farmer groups are now thinking about how to facilitate urine collection from schools etc. to sell it. My interviews show a growing willingness to pay for it among those who have already tested and learned the practice. The practice has for sure starting to take off in the area, but market creation would have to hand in hand with information campaigns to overcome social barriers and ensure safe use. I believe that urine collection from peri-urban areas in particular offers great opportunities.

Best,
Elina
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Dear Elina,

Thanks for posting this information, great little video and information sheet and good to see that you published in an open access journal.

I am wondering if you managed to establish any connections with any government institutions about this? You mentioned in the article:

Many thanks to Onesmus Semalulu at the Kawanda agricultural research institute (NARO) for valuable advice on the experimental design as well as your support and input to the soil analysis.

Also, were you able to connect yourself with others doing work on urine reuse (ecosan) in Uganda, like the projects in the Southwest (I saw you were in the North) which were once funded by Austrian support:
Kwikiriza, L., Asiimwe, A. Nuwamanya, H., Schattauer, H. (2012). Large-scale peri-urban and rural sanitation with UDDTs, South Western region, Uganda - Case study of sustainable sanitation projects. Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)
www.susana.org/en/resources/case-studies/details/1558

Other similar case studies on reuse in Uganda are here:
www.susana.org/en/resources/case-studies?search=uganda

Is there going to be any knock-on effects from your research in Uganda, is it embedded in a larger project or is it more like "there was this nice Swedish lady that came to us once and told us about urine reuse in agriculture, but that was a long time ago and we have forgotten all about it"? :whistle:

And is your PhD thesis available yet?
E. Andersson, Fertile Grounds? Collective Strategies and the Political Ecology of Soil Managament in Uganda, Centre for Sustainability Studies. Lund University, Lund (2014) forthcoming

Again, thanks for sharing here, much appreciated!

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. As I am continually updating Wikipedia pages, I have cited your work in the Wikipedia article on "reuse of excreta" please see here under examples:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reuse_of_excreta#Urine
(if you spot anything that can be improved, please do, or tell me what should be changed)

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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Dear all,

I received this reply to my questions by Elina on 25 June (she had sent it to the wrong e-mail address, namely This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. but it should have been This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - I only found that out now). Also her e-mail address bounced. Does anyone have a new one for Elina Andersson by any chance? Formerly she was with Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS).

++++++++++++++


>
> Dear Elisabeth,
>
> Thanks for your email and interest in my research. Besides the short film I've made a few humble outreach attempts. My research was, however, not part of a larger project so resources are limited.
>
> In the end of the project, I organized a local workshop to disseminate the research and provide an opportunity for the farmers involved be to recognized for the efforts. A number of international organizations and government institutions, mainly from the districts level (Tororo, in south-eastern Uganda), were present. Also Dr. Semalulu from the National Agricultural Research Organisation (acknowledged in the article) was there, as well as staff from the national agricultural extension services.
>
> It was great to see that the action research process where farmers were involved in all steps and carried out the experiments on their own farms indeed led to a sense of ownership and pride of the project and the practice itself. They are now doing a great job in educating others and have made both songs and drama performances to disseminate the practice. It has now spread to many households beyond those what were directly involved in the research. So whatever happens in the future, I'm pretty certain that it won't be recalled as "there was this nice Swedish lady that came to us once and told us about urine reuse in agriculture, but that was a long time ago and we have forgotten all about it". I can’t promise any knock-out effects but for sure it has contributed to positive change. J
>
> Last year I also tried to organize a second workshop in Kampala together with the Uganda Soil Health Consortium in order to reach central government institutions and better connect with organizations working on agriculture and sanitation. Due to various reasons we eventually failed to actually organize the workshop, but during the planning process I was in contact with quite many different organizations and researchers (mainly at Makerere University) which was valuable in itself.
>
> We are now also in the process of making a second short film about my PhD research project as a whole, which will be an opportunity to communicate the research to a wider audience.
>
> I’m happy to send you a copy of my dissertation. Just give me your address.
> Great work on Wikipedia!
>
> Best wishes,
> Elina

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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Hello!

Apologies for sending my reply to the wrong address. I'm still at LUCSUS and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Here is also a ahort TV-reportage about the project in Uganda:



Best,
Elina Andersson
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

I've been requested to post the links to my PhD thesis, "Fertile Grounds? Collective Strategies and the Political Ecology of Soil Managament in Uganda". Its main focus is land management and social organisation in smallholder agriculture, rather than sanitation and urine fertilizer as such. One of the articles focuses on an action research process on urine reuse though.

Here is the thesis 'coat' (introductory chapters and overall conclusions):
lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloa...7976&fileOId=4437977

Open access article on urine reuse:
Andersson, Elina. "Turning waste into value: using human urine to enrich soils for sustainable food production in Uganda." Journal of Cleaner Production 96 (2015): 290-298.
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652614000948

The other published articles:
Andersson, Elina, Sara Brogaard, and Lennart Olsson. "The political ecology of land degradation." Annual review of environment and resources 36 (2011): 295-319.
www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/an...nviron-033110-092827

Andersson, Elina, and Sara Gabrielsson. "‘Because of poverty, we had to come together’: collective action for improved food security in rural Kenya and Uganda." International journal of agricultural sustainability 10.3 (2012): 245-262.
www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1473....666029#.VdxdmvntlHw

Thanks,
Elina
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Elina - Beginning at 0:17 in the second video Mr. Mathias makes passing reference to "smell neutralizer" that is added to stored urine presumably to reduce its odor. Can you please provide more information about what this compound is and how it is used? Thanks! :)


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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Hello Elina,
We are supporting an Eco School project in Ghana in the Volta Region, where we are about to build the first UDDT toilets. We would like to use the diluted urine on our vegetable fields and give it to farmers who are interested, could you please tell us what you use as odor reducing agent? I heard about coal dust and lactic acid bacteria. And in what quantity per container?

Thank you in advance!

Best greetings

Brigitte Rasmus
Kukumba e.V.
www.facebook.com/viecotech
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Re: Urine fertilizer in Uganda - short film and open-access article

Hello,

I've received from you a few questions about the "smell neutralizer" mentioned in one of the videos. Thanks for this.

The additive is mentioned is an innovation that one of the farmers have come up with very recently. He is operating a small oil processing facility and has started to use the water that comes out as a byproduct of citronella oil extraction. This “citronella water” is added to the urine: 4-5 liters to 20 liters of urine. He says it is also possible to add a bit of pure oil but then I’m not sure about the quantities (or the cost-effectiveness…). I have not been able to experience the results myself, but I hear it is effective. However, the availability of this byproduct is of course a key constraint in most contexts. But great to see that a lot of creative innovation is taking place!

Best,
Elina
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