Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

  • Adrianm318
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Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

Hi,

My name is Adrian Mallory and I'm a PhD candidate studying at University of Edinburgh looking at reuse of faecal sludge as a business. I am currently in Mzuzu with the centre of excellence doing a case study looking at reuse of faecal sludge, particularly in agriculture as that is being practiced and implemented here in Mzuzu in different ways already.

There are a group of farmers near the designated disposal site that pay for sludge to be disposed directly on their farm, and a number of ecosan toilets have been implemented in different areas. Here I am planning in depth semi-structured interviews to understand peoples experiences and the risks/benefits. I also plan to test the soil where farmers have applied faecal sludge to assess the nutrients and the health risks. For this I would be interested to hear from anyone who has conducted soil tests to assess the risk of faecal sludge application in agriculture.

Any contributions would be greatly appreciated,

Thanks,

Adrian Mallory
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  • canaday
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Re: Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

Dear Adrian,

Welcome to the Forum and congratulations for embarking on such an important study.

Here are a few suggestions:
--Planted Drying Beds (as described in the FSM book) would seem to be a good way to start, in order to remove most of the solids and Ascaris eggs (?), while producing abundant grass for animal forage and excellent soil for agriculture.
--The effluent from these would still bear abundant nutrients but also considerable health risk, so it could be used to irrigate fields via Subsurface Drip Irrigation, or, if that is too expensive, simply perforated hoses under a layer of mulch.
--Hydroponics and aquaculture may also be very productive.
--It would be great to emphasize the fertilizer value of source-separated urine from UDDTs and especially urinals (which would have minimal risk of fecal contamination).
--I think Ascaris eggs are our best indicator, since they are the most resistant fecal pathogen, they infect about 1/7 of all humans, and we can actually identify them under the microscope (in contrast to bacteria and viruses).
forum.susana.org/component/kunena/207-de...ce-a-better-way#8176

What do the local farmers currently do with the faecal sludge? How much do they pay for it?

Please keep us up-to-date on your project and let us know how we can help.

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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  • Ela
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Re: Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

Hi,

I am looking into a similar topic for my MSc graduation research, nutrient recovery from domestic waste streams for a project area in Amsterdam. I will be looking into biogas production and struvite precipitation from the effluent, but also urine separation.

For project areas where space is not of major concern (like Malawi?) storage might be quite a good low tech option, according to WHO for urine (which contains major parts of N and P and usually no pathogens) 6 months, for fecal matter 2 years - is required for safe reuse in agriculture.

If you are interested I can recommend you some literature.

Groetjes, and success!
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  • Adrianm318
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Re: Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

Hi,

Thanks for the responses.

Chris:

Interesting suggestions and many thanks for them. Unfortunately there isn't equipment for testing for ascaris here currently. Having done an inventory can mainly test for nutrients as nitrogen and phosphates which will help assess suitability for agriculture and there's also COD testing equipment.

I'm not sure currently but hoping to understand more about what the farmers do with the sludge and what they pay for it. I've seen some ecosan projects and groups applying waste from latrines after 5 years of non-use. Hoping to get more of an understanding of these processes as I progress with data collection. I'll keep you posted

Ela:

Thanks for suggestions, space is an issue in some of the denser, poorer areas where currently they build a new latrine every time an old one fills which has limitations in terms of space. Some projects have implemented Urine Diverting toilets in the area which I'm hoping to look at to see how they are maintained and peoples use of them.

As I say I'll update you more as I get more of an understanding of how things currently work here.

Adrian
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  • goeco
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Re: Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

In my view the biggest gaps in research are in changes to levels of helminths over time. The 5 year rest period seems to be the magic number but I haven't uncovered any research data to support that. This is a hugely important area, the number one limiting factor to reuse of sludge in agriculture. It's an unknown, and fear of the problem is sometimes more important than the problem itself. If you can't test for ascaris, then either get someone else to do it, or else don't bother with studying reuse of faecal sludge as a business.

cheers
Dean

Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Go-Eco Sustainable Solutions
www.go-eco.co.nz
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Re: Reuse of Faecal Sludge in Agriculture in Mzuzu, Malawi

Hi Adrian and Ela,

Searching for Ascaris and other Helminth eggs is not so high-tech, beyond having access to a microscope, which should presumably be feasible (e.g., at university or a health ministry malaria lab). Under the microscope, Ascaris eggs are quite distinctive and sort of look like beautiful, intricate, golden sculptures, so it is a bit like an Easter Egg Hunt, except that you will not want to eat them.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascaris_lumbricoides

Here are some simple techniques, which are aimed at use with animals, but would also work here:
www.fao.org/Wairdocs/ILRI/x5492E/x5492e05.htm

I have also suggested here that these sorts of techniques be fine-tuned for looking for Ascaris eggs in treated feces:
forum.susana.org/component/kunena/207-de...ce-a-better-way#8176

Ela, one of the big challenges is to safely and productively direct urban residents' urine to urban agriculture, thus avoiding the need to process and transport large volumes over long distances. These could be roof-top gardens, vertical gardens on walls, and micro-farms in vacant lots. This could be after struvite extraction and the urine could be mixed with graywater.

We also discussed other urban options for productively using urine in this thread:
www.forum.susana.org/component/kunena/17...n-anaerobic-digestor

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
inodoroseco.blogspot.com
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