It is dirty. Everyone fears to associate with it even when they have just excreted it because it smells. But little do they know that human waste is a source of wealth.
For five months now at Otangula Village, Ilera parish in Kole District, human waste also known as faecal sludge is a business venture to more than 50 youth while promoting sanitation and hygiene in their district.
Mr Jasper Obong, 30, says people have been using deep pit-latrines for on-site sanitation which is costly in terms of construction when the old ones get full.
“At our homes, we have been digging deep pits and these are expensive and pollute the water table. These deep pits cannot be emptied easily once they are full which requires construction of new one. But this has an impact on land usage but because of the cost, many households end up failing to construct a pit latrine,” says Mr Obong.
He explains that with the introduction of a decentralised faecal plant, they are now encouraging households to dig shallow pits to ease emptying and subsequently drying it and turn the faecal sludge into briquettes for fuel and fertilisers.
“We have embarked on sensitising people on the benefits of digging shallow pits because they are cheap to manage. You only need between Shs50,000 and Shs100,000 to empty the pit using a gulper compared close to Shs1 million required to dig and construct a new one,” narrates Mr Obong, a sales manager and member of a Lango-based community based organisation; Youth without Borders.
He says the fees include transportation from site to the faecal plant where sludge is separated from water and dried before being mixed with carbonated material to make charcoal briquettes. The water is then used for irrigating demonstration garden for farmers. He says a kilogramme of charcoal briquettes costs between Shs700 and Shs800.
“With the use of charcoal briquettes, a household saves upto 40 per cent of the fuel required. This reduces pressure on natural resources like vegetation in a home,” says Mr Obong.
Water for People with partners including Kole District authority, commissioned a faecal sludge treatment to improve sanitation and create business opportunities for the youth in the district.
The 10 cubic metre capacity facility comprises of sludge drying bed, a manual gulper that empties unlined pits, a tricycle and tanks for transporting the sludge.
Mr Osbert Atwijukye, a Sanihub Coordinator with Water for People- Uganda, says the initiative comes at a time when improved sanitation remains a challenge in the country where more than 90 per cent of the population uses on-site sanitation and most towns are completely non-sewered.
“Unfortunately, most of the latrines are not lined while others are dug very deep without giving due consideration to the water table. The major reason for use of substandard latrines is lack of access to affordable and reliable emptying and treatment facilities,” says Mr Atwijukye.
He says the district was selected to benefit from the project due to lack of a faecal sludge treatment plant, only relying on a few waste water stabilisation ponds in neighbouring Lira District.
Mr Atwijukye says the plant contributes to modern and drainable latrine facilities and reduces the costs for making new pit-latrines especially in schools.
“We expect the plant to improve pit emptying in the area, reduce illegal dumping of sludge and result in the preservation of water resources which are currently deteriorating because of poor management of sludge,” says Mr Atwijukye.
The decentralised faecal sludge treatment plant has also trained entrepreneurs in briquette making.
He says the appropriate business models will be applied to ensure sustainability of the business to reduce pressure on the natural resources.
“Sludge smells due to poor management when it is fresh or decomposing. But when it is dry, it does not once it is properly managed,” says Mr Atwijukye.
He says the Ministry has established a fully-fledged sanitation and sewerage Department to address the issues of urban sanitation.
Mr Steven Sugden, the sanitation global manager for Water for People, explains that turning waste into an income-generating activity is expected to improve the cost of living among the local people.