Featured User (12) in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany

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Featured User (12) in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany


We have the pleasure of announcing our 12th featured user today: It is Hanns-André Pitot from Germany! (See previous featured users here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/145-featured-users )

As technical advisor on water and sanitation, "citizen of the world" and passionate about the recycling of wastes, Hanns-André has inter alia lived in Mauritius, New York, Gouda, Delhi and Uganda gathering a vast working experience that ranges from the design of municipal waste composting facilities to the irrigation of greywater in his backyard in rural Uganda.

Starting with his studies in mining engineering, he found his pathway with his Master´s degree on Environmental Pollution control at Pennsylvania State University (USA) where he developed an interest in low cost sanitation technologies and resource recovery.

His passion for sanitation issues is reflected in each post he writes. For example: These threads have explained his viewwes in getting down the costs of rural sanitation facilities (in this case: UDDTs).
Hanns-André (left) with two colleagues on a field trip to a town in Western Uganda in 2010

Since Hanns-André joined SuSanA in August 2012, he has made 72 posts, received 21 likes and was given 13 karma points. They are always clear, polite and helpful. See his forum profile here:
forum.susana.org/forum/profile/userid-1974

Congratulations Hanns-André for being selected as the Featured User of the month December and looking forward to hearing more from you in the coming months and years!

Find below more about Hanns-André, his professional life, his interests on sanitation and what he would recommend to have in Mauritius (we have split the interview into three parts):


Interview Part 1: About Hanns-André as a person and his work

1. You registered with SuSanA on 30 Aug 2012. Do you remember what made you join the network then?

I think it was because the SEI discussion group about ecological sanitation, which I used to loosely follow, was being closed and taken over by Susana. And what has certainly helped was the support that I was getting from Elisabeth for my work in Adjumani, Uganda when she was still in charge of the sustainable sanitation project of GIZ.

2. What is your nationality and where do you live currently? Have you lived somewhere else before? Where and why – if relevant?

I’ve experienced quite a lot of movement in my life. I am now staying with my mother in Seesen (Harz), Germany in order to be able to support her with her health problems. I was born in Mauritius, and I am still holding that nationality. I grew up on that island and later in my mother’s country Germany, at that time already close to the Harz mountains.

So, I grew up living an outdoors oriented life, close to an extinct volcano with a formidable view of the island towards the ocean and spending many weekends on the sea-side in Mauritius, and frequenting the forests in Germany. Still today, I like to return to Mauritius, where I like to walk along the rugged cliffs along the coastline (not so known to tourists), across the small national park, or up the steep peaks of the island, where there are still some remains of the original vegetation - and enjoy the superb Creole food.
Along the coastline of Mauritius

After Mauritius and Germany, I stayed in Canada and the US for studies and some work, then in the Netherlands and later in Uganda for work.

3. What and where did you study, and why? Which further trainings were important for your career?

I started out studying mining engineering in Clausthal, Germany, and in Montreal, and later at Penn State (Pennsylvania State University, USA), where I changed over to environmental pollution control in order to learn more about my long time interest in recycling of wastes. And that’s where I started getting into those areas of composting and nutrient recovery in which I am still working today.

In terms of further trainings, the one that is standing out is a training in biodynamic horticulture, i.e. biological/ anthroposophical, which I performed during my time in the Netherlands. Another useful training has been about the maintenance and repair of small waste water treatment systems offered by DWA (German Water Association).

4. What were your main employers, work locations or career milestones?

After getting my degree in environmental pollution control from Penn State in 1987, I worked with the Centre for the Biology of Natural Systems of the City University of New York under the leadership of the then legendary Barry Commoner. We were working on intensive recycling studies for the municipalities of Buffalo and East Hampton – at a time when recycling was just starting in the US (like what ‘Eco Action’ was doing on the Penn State Campus), and I was working on engineering aspects, in particular on the design of municipal waste composting facilities.

From 1990 to 1992, I worked with the WASTE Foundation (also known as WASTE Advisors) in Gouda, the Netherlands on waste recycling technologies that would be suitable in developing countries, the Nairobi slum areas in particular. The idea was to transfer what was being done in countries like Egypt, India or the Philippines to a place like Nairobi. In that job, I also visited Ghana and Mali where we studied the local composting activities.

From 1992 to 2007, I continued as a freelance consultant being stationed in Gouda. During that period, my biggest project was “Domestic Waste Management & Recycling in a 'Basti' of the Outskirts of Delhi”, where we attempted the separation at source of organic waste in a low income neighborhood, and composting in a small manually operated facility in a wooded area located nearby. Other recyclables were sold to scrap dealers. For about a year, it worked out quite fine, except that, partially due to the huge size of Delhi, we had problems reaching the compost markets with the means at our disposal (hand-carts in particular). At the time, human waste wasn’t part of the project yet, but I later attempted to get funding for a similar project that would have included the promotion of ecosan toilets.

From 2008 to 2013, I worked for DED, later GIZ as a technical advisor of the Adjumani Town Council, Uganda (in the North-West of the country), on projects whose sanitation components I have already presented on the forum, e.g. here where I wrote about “Low-cost UDDTs in Adjumani, Northern Uganda - supported via surcharge on water bill“: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...charge-on-water-bill . I also wrote about it here under the topic of: “Operating costs of dry sanitation (UDDTs) - and is 5% of household income a reasonable target?” ( forum.susana.org/forum/categories/164-fi...-a-reasonable-target )
Hanns-André shaking hands with the Town Clerk of Adjumani, Northern Uganda (Hanns-André said about this photo: "local VIPs and a former GIZ colleague in front of the Adjumani Town Council building. The one shaking my hand is the Town Clerk of Adjumani, Northern Uganda, and the one standing behind is the Mayor. The photo was taken in 2014 on the occasion of an evaluation of the GIZ supported sanitation project in that town during the years 2008 to 2013.")

It concerns a ‘two-track approach’ with one track addressing servicing and sludge disposal for existing toilets, pit latrines and some septic tanks in particular, and with the other track promoting ecological sanitation. The latter consisted of the promotion of UDDTs (urine-diverting dry toilets, which we called ecosan toilets in our project in Uganda) using a sanitation surcharge on the water tariff. It also included trainings, the collection of both solids and liquids if requested by the users, the collection of biodegradable wastes mainly from the main market, co-composting of the solid organic materials in a small, manually operated composting facility, and the preparation of marketing tools like user instructions for the composting facility.

As a conclusion from this project, I would say that the promotion of ecosan toilets on an individual level has done well in that town, with about 100 toilets constructed with private means when GIZ made an evaluation in 2014. However, both facilities (sludge treatment and composting) were facing a lot of problems, to the point that the composting facility has now been out of operation for years. You can find more information, incl. quite detailed photo descriptions, in the following albums on flickr:
www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157630727680876/
www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157631160051774/
www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157648589254468

The next assignment (2013 -2014) has been in Moroto, Uganda (in the Karamodja-region in the North-East), again as a technical advisor on water and sanitation giving advice to the municipality and seconded by GIZ. In that project, the water supply component was dominant, but in sanitation, in terms of practical results, I think the most interesting has been the irrigation of greywater in my backyard:
www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/sets/72157654565638740

5. How is the daily life of a GIZ technical advisor in Uganda? And what has been the most challenging situation you have faced professionally?

The daily life of a water and sanitation advisor of a municipality in Uganda is characterized by constant challenges on an almost daily basis. It can start in the morning, usually before work, with your employees at home – I had three watchman taking turns and one housemaid - asking for advice or support, or at work, where you can hear about a breakdown of the water supply, implying you need to find out the reason. The challenges can be more extreme, like a broken pipe causing a huge flood, or some members of the army illegally servicing private households with an army cesspool emptier and possibly dumping the sludge somewhere in the landscape.

I think probably the most extreme challenge was when the sludge treatment facility in Adjumani with a capacity of about 8 truckloads per day went up in flames for the second time. The first time there was a fire at that facility (when the grass was dry during the dry season), it was relatively mild with just a couple of poles of the barbed wire fence burnt up, most of the plants we had planted for life fencing killed, and possibly one of the PVC pipes burnt. But the second time, it was a scene of devastation: the artificial wetlands had burnt from the inside and almost all of the PVC piping above ground was destroyed. We have then never been able to nail down the suspected assailant, and the facility itself has never completely recovered from that attack.

Then, there were the frequent dealings with the municipal administration, especially in Adjumani, about accountability, a broken contract, etc., concerning things like road maintenance. In Mototo, the major pain in the neck was the refusal of some - a lot of times very big customers - to pay their water bills. The worst of all was the Ugandan Army, more precisely the barracks hosting hundreds if not thousands of soldiers and their families, thus a major, major consumer, who didn’t pay their water bill during all the time I was there, and who could virtually not be disconnected for reasons I don’t need to explain.

I could probably continue with such stories for a couple of pages, but I don’t want to bore you with that. And, of course, not everything is challenging if you work as a technical advisor in Uganda. The successes are truly rewarding, and coming home after work, you can relax: In Adjumani, I had a wonderful tropical garden, which was dominated by a huge flame tree and which had plenty of tropical fruits, most of which I had planted myself (and which got ‘fired up’ by the ecosan derived compost and fertilizer I was producing from my own UDDT), attracting lots of bats at night, or at times a chameleon or a usually harmless snake.
His housemaid posing with her weapon against spiders
Mixing a neem brew against termites

In Moroto, my house was located on the outer slopes of Mt. Moroto in such a way that I was able, on clear days, to look out for 150 km or so into the landscape, the savanna of Karamodja, with some chains of mountains in the distance. Here, I made sure I was at home at 6:30 pm at the latest every day: when the sun was turning red, I used to sit down to watch the sun going down in a usually spectacular display, lining the clouds with all kinds of colors from pink to silver, and I was chatting with my security guard or whoever was around. So, life is relaxed in rural Africa, in spite of all the challenges.

6. What are the three things you would take to a remote island? Or what are the three “things” that are really important for you in practical terms?

Do you mean Mauritius with “a remote island”, or perhaps Rodriges Island even further out into the ocean?? I’ll assume Mauritius, given the strange nature of the island, with its giant tortoises, its funny mix of people, and its Dodo legacy (the now extinct strange looking large walking birds).

In Mauritius, I make sure I have the following items with me: a) my mask and a snorkel for snorkeling around the corals on the sea side, b) some good maps in order to find my way in the forests (one is usually not enough) – most of the maps you can buy in Mauritius are horrible, they show paths where there aren’t, and no paths where there are, so, if you use them for serious hiking, you can only get lost, and c) the book that I inherited from my father (I left it with a friend in Mauritius and therefore, I cannot tell you the precise title) explaining for ALL the peaks of Mauritius how you climb them, around 30 of them, from the Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire (the highest of them), to the three peaks of the Trois Mammelles, etc.
Mauritius at a glance
[/i]

With that book, I can guarantee to you, you NEVER get lost when you attempt to climb a peak in Mauritius! And on Rodrigues Island, you can use the mask and the maps, if they show the island, but of course, that wonderful book would be useless, and I would recommend a light weight water tight tent in order to camp and wander around within the filao (casuarina) trees on the coast line… I hope you now have a rough idea of what is required on a remote island!

7. What books or magazines can be found on your bedside table?

At the moment, there are two books waiting to be read: a school book on biology, and James Tumusiime’s “What Makes Africans Laugh?”

8. What are your hobbies?

Hiking, mountain climbing, biking, snorkeling, gardening, reading, listening to music, …

9. Do you have a personal slogan or a motto that keeps you motivated at all times?

I don’t have a motto, but what I find useful is to think for some time as you wake up in the morning about the coming day and what you plan to do.


The next two parts of the interview will be posted in the coming days.

Posted by Evelyn (on behalf of the SuSanA secretariat)

Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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Re: Featured User in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany

Dear SuSanA Secretariat,

Thank you so much for awarding this recognition to me - I am very, very pleased to hear about it!

A small but possibly important addition to the post: the group of important looking people in the 3rd photo are not my staff but some local VIPs and a former GIZ colleague in front of the Adjumani Town Council building. The one shaking my hand is the Town Clerk of Adjumani, Northern Uganda, and the one standing behind is the Mayor. The photo was taken in 2014 on the occasion of an evaluation of the GIZ supported sanitation project in that town during the years 2008 to 2013. *

Some of my former staff are actually shown in the two following pics of the post.

Thanks again,

Hanns-André


* The correction to the caption of the third photo in the post above has now been made by the secretariat (comment added by moderator)

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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Re: Featured User in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany

Dear SuSanA members,

Let's continue with the second part of our interesting Featured User Hanns-André. Take some minutes for reading and asking more questions. We are sure Hanns-André will be happy to answer them!

Interview Part 2: Hanns-André's interests and thoughts on sanitation

10. Where do you work now and what does your organization do? How is it funded?

At the moment, I am still looking for new work, for something that would allow me to remain close to my aging mother in Germany who currently needs me. I am thinking of either doing consulting work again, or doing something that would allow me to draw upon my professional experience and be stationed somewhere in Europe.
Typical African style neighborhood of Adjumani

11. What would you recommend to youngsters from countries in the global North who want to get involved in development work – how should they go about it? And does it even make sense?

To start with your last question, I think it can make sense even though many development projects have failed. Others have succeeded, and an international job is something completely different from working at the same place in your home country for most of your life. First of all, I think it would be a good idea for those youngsters to first get to know one or two developing countries. Then, once the idea has been tested, he/she could check the job openings for junior positions or development workers, for example on the site of GIZ, to see whether there would be jobs that he/she would like to perform and what qualifications are required.
Outing with students in order to enhance interest in the Environment, showing river Nile

12. What do you see as the biggest threats and the biggest opportunities for Uganda’s future? (In terms of sanitation and public health or in general)

Of course, this is a big topic that would in itself cover at least an article of its own, so I would prefer to focus on sanitation and hygiene. But these issues are linked to Uganda’s future in general, so I cannot exclude that ‘big issue’. I would like to see the promotion of sanitation and hygiene as a demand driven process that can be supported by government in a couple of ways: education and coordination by local government, in particular.

In terms of education, what I was seeing is that most youngsters can at most complete primary school, which is financially supported by the government. However, for secondary school starting from age 12, there are tuition fees that most parents cannot pay. Others save up all their money in order to be able to pay for the school fees of their children.

At the local government level, there are many positions that are essential and that are not filled (like in Moroto, there was no water officer). In addition, both school teachers and the lower ranks of government positions, including policemen, are very poorly paid, and the motivation is accordingly low.



The health inspector of Adjumani at a small exhibition on the occasion of environment day in 2010
[/i]

Another big problem related to public health is that many people can hardly afford the money for medical treatment even though it is supposed to be free, but the supposedly free medicines are lacking and have to be bought.

So, the first threat that I would identify is the misallocation of government funds: the army is getting way too much, whereas essential services are getting too little.

Another fundamental threat is the exploding population: in a couple of decades, the population of Uganda is supposed to have reached more than 80 million – more than 2 times the current population and equivalent to the current population of Germany, while the size of Uganda is just over half the one of Germany! Where is the education and where are the jobs for all these youngsters going to come from?? And the toilets? (According to Wikipedia: Uganda has the fifth highest total fertility rate in the world, at 5.97 children born/woman (2014 estimates). Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda . With a trend probably, and hopefully going down.)

Then, there is the degradation of large stretches of the North of the country due to regular man made bush fires and deforestation – natural resources are virtually the only opportunity that Uganda has! Plus tourism, but that also requires a pretty and welcoming landscape.

In terms of opportunities, “Uganda could be the Perl of Africa” as Churchill has put it: a beautiful, at times breathtaking landscape, soils that are, generally speaking, still very fertile, and a lot of generally still unknown mineral wealth.

13. What kind of research topics are needed in the sanitation field?

Recycling and organic farming are both concepts that are dear to me and shouldn’t be in each other’s way. That is why I am so upset that no compromise has yet been found between the certifiers of organic farming and the ecosan community, see the discussion on “The connection (or lack of it) between Ecosan and Organic Agriculture”:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/174-sa...-organic-agriculture
Could that compromise possibly be promoted with some research?

Otherwise, I think a lot has been researched in the field of sanitation, and it’s more a time of making things happen, especially with regard of SDG # 6 - reaching the goal about sanitation will mean that more than two billion people will get or start using a toilet within the next 15 years. That said, I think it would be a historic mistake if that opportunity wasn’t used to make sure these toilets are recovering nutrients. Does that require any more research? – I don’t know.

The third part of the interview is coming soon :)

Posted by Evelyn (on behalf of the SuSanA secretariat)

Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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  • Posts: 661
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Re: Featured User in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany

The interview has come to the end with this Part 3 (see below). Thank you very much Hanns-André for sharing with us those amazing experiences. Wish you all the best for the future and hope to see more of your posts in the forum!

Interview Part 3: About Hanns-André's opinions about the forum

14. Do your colleagues or people in your network also use the forum?

Some read the posts, but I know of very few who actively post on the forum.
Sunset seen from Hanns-André's veranda
[/i]

15. Which topics or categories on the forum do you feel most passionate about?

My preferences are still with the resource recovery and low cost issues, and with business models related to those issues. And, at the moment, I think that for me, the most useful postings are the job openings.

16. What don’t you like about the forum or about other forum users?

I think SuSanA is a wonderful site, but where I feel a bit weary is that it may be getting too broad and therefore lacking focus.

17. What is your advice to the forum moderators?

I think the moderators are doing a great job and don’t need advice from me.
No worries...Everything went fine

18. What developments are you observing with the discussion forum?

At the moment, I have some time to check out quite a lot of things on the site, and I am following some of the research of the BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and the developments at SOIL, Sanergy, and concerning the Biofil toilet.





The beutiful people and peaks of Karamodja
[/i]
19. Which developments taking place on the forum do you like, which don’t you like?

I think SOIL and Sanergy are doing really great work, and I wish them good luck

20. Which of the improvements to the forum from last year did you like the most / the least?

I think the recent thematic discussion series ( www.susana.org/en/resources/thematic-discussion-series ) has been good and very interesting, but there were too many topics in a short period of time to be able to follow all of them.



Mauritius in a nice way
[/i]

Have a nice day dear SuSanA members.

Regards,

Evelyn (on behalf of the SuSanA secretariat)

Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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  • HAPitot
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Re: Featured User in December 2015: Hanns-André Pitot from Germany

Thank you, too, Evelyn, for presenting this interview in such a nice and attractive way!

H-A


PS: In fact, the previous day on the road shown in the picture, we had to turn back for at about 50 Km in order to spend the night, but on that day, the Uganda Roads Authority came with the solution: an excavator.

The truck in the photo turned out to be filled with alcohol - all the jerry cans filled with alcohol for those drunkards in Karamodja!


Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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