Human excreta is not waste but resource for energy, fertilizer
Mr. Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, on Thursday said human excreta should not
be seen as a waste but resource for energy from biogas and organic fertilizer for plants.
Speaking at the launch of Safi Sana Ghana Limited (SSGL), an environmental NGO, in Accra, Mr Yieleh Chireh said urine and faeces offered tremendous opportunities for organic fertilizer of equal quality as artificial fertilizer.
SSGL is a company in Ghana founded by the Aqua for All, a Dutch NGO, which is interested in producing biogas as an energy source and organic fertilizer for the agricultural market from human excreta and providing access to water and sanitation by building toilet blocks in the densely populated areas.
He said worldwide, 2.5 billion people had no access to improved sanitation whilst 1.2 billion people practiced open defecation, which was the most dangerous form of all the sanitation practices.
In Ghana, UNICEF has put the percentage of population having access to improved sanitation at 10 per cent although there is some level of disparity between the various regions.
Even in the Greater Accra Region where sanitation coverage is highest, the recent Demographic and Housing Survey indicated that up to four per cent of the population of the city of Accra had no toilets and therefore resorted to open defecation.
He said currently in Accra about 58 per cent of the city's population lived in low-income areas.
These areas exhibit a wide range of environmental problems such as excessive congestion, rapid population growth, and inadequate water supply, lack of basic sanitation facilities and total disregard of approved land use allocations.
He said lack of sanitation had been identified with poverty and the leading trigger of diarrhoea diseases, typhoid and cholera that was known to be one of the biggest infant killers.
There was a need for a change in negative behaviours and attitudes to sustain the new measures in ensuring a clean environment to promote good health, the Minister said.
Mr Yieleh Chireh said due to the gross disregard for approved development plans most of these areas had evolved into slums.
Provision of household water and sanitation facility is almost non-existent. Many of the residents, especially women and children have no choice than to rely on unorthodox methods such as open defecation and “flying toilets” (toilets in polythene bags) to satisfy their sanitation needs.
The Minister noted that a well-maintained shared toilet, communal toilet or public toilet offered a real relief to those people lacking private toilets at home and this tended to minimize open defecation and “flying toilets”, which had been identified as the source of many communicable diseases.
He said most governments were confronted with the high cost of providing sanitation facilities. This was because people did not see sanitation services as a utility service that was worth paying for.
“Unlike water which is a product that one can consume and therefore worthy to pay for, defecation is considered as a waste, worthless, something you want to get rid of and therefore not worth paying for.”
Mr Yieleh Chireh said Ghanaians needed to see sanitation as a business serving the bottom of the pyramid which required a smart mix of financial instruments from equity funders as well as the government, NGOs and banks that needed cooperation from consumers, small-scale service entrepreneurs and large scale processing business partners.
He said Safi Sana would offer the opportunity to skip the highly expensive and water consuming water flushed toilet and sewer system in developing suburbs that highly polluted the environment and led to resource depletion, adding that, it would be replaced with a system where shared facilities and communal systems, would lead to effective discharge and re-use.
Nii Nortey Duah, Member of Parliament for Ledzokuku, expressed his delight for his constituency being selected as the starting point for the project and gave the assurance that they would cooperate with them for people to benefit from it.