14-15 August 2012
IWMI’s Josiane Nikiema (left) and Olufunke Cofie flanking Hon. Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, The Ghanaian Minister for Local Government and Rural Development at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle.[/box2]
Bill Gates has issued a challenge: Can the world’s innovators develop a cheap safe toilet that can save over two billion people from having to use unsanitary, and frankly unpleasant, alternatives?
The ‘Reinvent the Toilet’ fair held in Seattle last week showcased the ingenious designs that are already being tested. The vision is to create a ‘reinvented toilet’ that is clean, safe, durable and affordable for the poor and does not need to be connected to electricity or a sewer.
Also invited were IWMI’s Josiane Nikiema and Olufunke Cofie who lead the Ghana-based Fortifert research project on the reuse of fecal sludge.
“We were amazed at the range of innovation on display,” said Josiane. “Everything from solar power to worms is being deployed to help meet this challenge.”
IWMI’s work on the use of fecal sludge had attracted the attention of the Gates Foundation some time ago. In sub-Saharan Africa, once toilet sludge is collected from households, it is usually dumped in the environment without appropriate treatment. Some farmers are keen to use the nutrients and organic matter it contains as it is rich material for crop production. This practice is suitable for some farming systems, but can pose health threats. The solution is to sanitize the sludge and sell it as dried and pathogen-free material. The IWMI project, together with local partners, has modified the nutrient value and also pelletized the product, converting the excreta into safe fertilizer pellets referred to as ‘fortifert’. The process involves dewatering of fecal sludge, sanitization (e.g., through aerobic composting), enrichment (fortification) and pelletization.
“There was considerable interest in Seattle about what we were doing,” said Olufunke. “Waste disposal is a critical part of ‘toilet reinvention’. Turning human waste into a profitable resource can create real business opportunities both for fertilizer production and improved sanitation.”