Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

  • KumiAbeysuriya
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Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Dear Colleagues,

I'd like to share work we presented at the recent WASH Futures conference in Brisbane. We presented learnings from two pilots run by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in Nepal, using EM-based lactic acid fermentation to treat faecal sludge/septage for reuse in agriculture. The use of EM in composting (usually cow dung and green waste) is promoted by the District Agricultural Office in Nepal, while some farmers use raw faecal sludge on their land without any treatment. So the objective was to explore safe faecal sludge reuse using the WHO’s Multi Barrier Approach including this 'treatment barrier'. The choice of the EM-based treatment was also inspired by earlier work done by GIZ in Afghanistan.

The pilots showed that the EM treatment was insufficient for reducing helminth eggs and hence not producing a safe product. So more effective treatment before further use is a definite recommendation from the trials! (There is literature on lactic acid fermentation being effective for inactivating indicator bacteria, and the pilots suggested that the treated product was ‘adequately safe’ for reuse taking into account further reductions from exposure to the sun etc).

The EM-treated faecal sludge seemed to perform well as a fertilizer, at least as good and in some cases better than the common fertilizers used for comparison, although it is not clear that it was the EM itself that made this so. However, the fermented faecal sludge was a cheaper fertilizer and hence delivered more profit per hectare cultivated – so it’s worth looking into further to improve the safety.
There’s a Learning Brief (including photos) about it here and a longer article in Water Practice and Technology Vol 13 No 1 2018 ( link )

Your inputs regarding effective low-cost treatments for helminth eggs in the ‘wet’ sludge will be greatly welcomed!

Thanks and regards,
Kumi

Dr. Kumi Abeysuriya
Senior Research Consultant
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
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  • muench
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Dear Kumi,

Thanks for posting about your interesting research here. I like your learning brief. Whenever I read something about EM (effective microorganisms), I feel skeptical because there are so many vague claims about it... (we have discussed it in several threads of the forum before; if anyone wants to find earlier threads, just put "EM effective microorganisms" into the search field)

I have copied here some paragraphs from your paper about the EM aspect (the paper is behind a paywall but I have the pdf file from Kumi if anyone wants it):

The pilots investigated the viability, safety and social acceptability of fertilizing offseason
crops using FS treated on-site using the relatively unknown fermentation-based treatment process
based on effective microorganisms (EM). EM is a common additive in composting cow dung and
crop wastes (green manure) in Nepal where it is believed to enhance the decomposition process and
improve soil fertility, and its use is promoted by the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO)

– key reasons for choosing this treatment in the pilots.

There is limited documentation on EM fermentation of FS, compared to the extensive literature on
EM fermentation of organic fertilizers noted above. Much of the available literature relates to testing
claims that the addition of EM to septic tanks and pit latrines can reduce volumes of FS build-up –
claims which are refuted (e.g. Szymanski & Patterson 2003; Grolle 2015, SuSanA Forum 2015).
Pathogen inactivation by EM fermentation is not discussed by these sources.

The Birendranagar pilots used a locally available preparation on EM, understood to be derived from
EM-1 MICROBIAL INOCULANT (Dr. Teruo Higa’s Original Effective Microorganisms), which was
the EM product used by the GIZ project on which the pilots were modelled. Before adding EM to
the FS, a pre-culture was prepared by adding molasses and water to the EM and allowing it to develop
in a warm environment for 5–14 days. A similar pre-culture was prepared by Anderson et al. (2015)
who explain that this enables exponential growth of the lactic acid bacteria population.


So EM use in composting is widespread in Nepal? Is it effective? And how much does it cost?
If EM was used routinely for faecal sludge treatment how much additional cost would it add to the treatment process and is it worth the additional cost?

Are you going to continue with this research about EM or are you planning to focus more on other aspects for faecal sludge reuse in Nepal?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • pkjha
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Dear Elisabeth
Cost analyses of use of EM should be vis-a-vis outputs in comparison to control set ( without EM). Kumi should send complete information -technical and financial before it is accepted. It is largely believed that EM is not effective for wastes containing human excreta.
regards

Pawan

Pawan Jha
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Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
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  • sujaya
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Hi Kumi,

Please could you share the journal article. I am currently working on collating resources for the FSM Toolbox , and would like to include your paper as part of resources .

Thanks
Sujaya
On behalf of FSM Toolbox Team

Sujaya Rathi, AICP
Principal Research Scientist

10th Cross, Papanna Layout, Mayura Street, Nagashettyhalli
RMV II Stage, Bangalore-560094, Karnataka, INDIA
Phone:+91(80) 66902534 Mobile:+91 9900087161
Skype: sujaya.rathi

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  • KumiAbeysuriya
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for the questions. Use of EM in composting is reportedly promoted by the District Agriculture Development Office where the pilot study was conducted by SNV and their local partners. I don't have any data on how widespread the use of EM is in practice, or any specifications of the EM product that is marketed locally.

On costs: the EM used in the pilots cost around 125 Nepalese Rupees per liter (USD 1.15), and they used around 6 liters to treat 2000 liters of faecal sludge. Since faecal sludge was much cheaper than composted cow dung or composted green waste (also composted using EM) the production costs for fermented faecal sludge were lower. The low cost meant that the farmers were able to fertilize the crops more frequently with the fermented faecal sludge, and anti fungal additives may also have helped keep the crops healthier compared with the other fertilisers used. It must be remembered that the study was broad ranging and indicative rather than narrow and scientifically rigorous in terms of knowing whether equivalent quantities of key nutrients were being supplied in the comparative study. But the final outcome was that the fermented faecal sludge yielded higer profits per cultivated hectare than the traditional fertilizer used.

Pawan is correct that EM treatment was not adequate for pathogen inactivation of faecal sludge - especially regarding helminths. So SNV will not be continuing with this line of research. If an additional treatment step that is effective in inactivating helminths can be found, that doesn't destroy the low-cost advantage of treated faecal sludge as a fertilizer, this research may well be revived - so please do write in if you know of any promising treatments!

Kind regards,
Kumi

Dr. Kumi Abeysuriya
Senior Research Consultant
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
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  • KumiAbeysuriya
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  • Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS, Australia) with a passion to enable developing countries to ‘leap frog’ to the leading edge of sustainable urban sanitation services.
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Dear Sujaya,

Thank you for your interest. The journal copyright doesn't permit me to post the paper online at the moment, but I am allowed to email it if you send me your email address.

Kind regards,
Kumi

Dr. Kumi Abeysuriya
Senior Research Consultant
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
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  • sujaya
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Re: Faecal sludge reuse in Birendranagar, Nepal: a case study of the world health organisation's multiple barrier approach

Thanks, Kumi.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sujaya

Sujaya Rathi, AICP
Principal Research Scientist

10th Cross, Papanna Layout, Mayura Street, Nagashettyhalli
RMV II Stage, Bangalore-560094, Karnataka, INDIA
Phone:+91(80) 66902534 Mobile:+91 9900087161
Skype: sujaya.rathi

www.cstep.in
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