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‘Use Waste To Make Fertilizers’

by Wangah Wanyama
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By John Odyek

Experts have called for the use of abundant organic waste matter and human waste in Kampala City to produce biogas which is clean energy, organic fertilisers and fight climate change.

Dr Peter Byabenda policy engagement specialist Environment for Development Initiative Makerere University Centre EfD-Mak Centre said many towns, cities and counties are embarking on harvesting human wastes and wastes on large scale and getting payments for carbon.

“Kampala has no public toilets. We have a lot of organic waste from markets such as Nakasero Market. We can harvest human waste, urine to make organic fertilisers which reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and biogas,” Byabenda explained.

Byabenda said this during a policy dialogue on green financing in Uganda organised by the EfD-Mak Centre . It was held at the Makerere University Business School on Tuesday 30th January 2024. The centre is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Biogas is used for heating, cooking and fuel vehicles. Organic fertilisers are derived from organic sources while inorganic fertilisers are formed by chemical and physical processes.

Byabenda cited Kisumu County, Kenya where they are harvesting human waste to make organic fertilisers. They are doing this working with a university in the USA.

Byabenda further said that in Kisumu they are producing vegetables from organic fertilisers. He noted that some people find it culturally difficult to enjoy vegetables grown using organic fertilisers from human waste.

In May 2023, Kisumu County’s waste to biogas project was the winner in Africa during a pitch contest at the Cities and Climate Change Technical Workshop in Mombasa, Kenya. The contest was organised by the World Bank, Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Agence Française de Dévelopment focused on ‘Moving from Plans to Implementation’, highlighting climate action at the local level for resilient urban development as cities are key to creating a climate-smart future. Byabenda said Uganda’s green transition, the transition from using charcoal and firewood for cooking to using cooking gas, electricity, and biogas has opportunities to create jobs, energy, build infrastructure and reduce environmental risks.

Irene Benham Namutebi, manager of environment unit Makerere University Business School said human wastes can be used to make briquettes and companies and institutions in Uganda are using it. Namutebi said the briquettes from human wastes are treated and do not smell, do not produce smoke, they last longer and are cheaper as compared to the use of charcoal.

Prof. Edward Bbaale director Environment for Development Initiative Makerere University Centre (EfD-Mak Centre) said that energy transition requires adequate financing.

This picture taken on June 13, 2023 shows human faeces-made fertiliser being packed at Miura Biomass Centre in Miura city of Kanagawa prefecture. It’s cheap, recycled, and has centuries of tradition: “shimogoe” or “fertiliser from a person’s bottom” is finding new favour in Japan as Ukraine’s war hikes the price of chemical alternatives. Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP) /

Bbaale said that transition to clean energy requires sourcing for green grants given that the government has limited fiscal space or opportunities to raise revenues through taxes. “The transition requires a lot of resources,” Bbaale explained. Bbaale said that through the centre they want to see inclusive growth and environment sustainability through training, policy research.

Francis Muhire lecturer in economics department Makerere University Business School said that the world is affected by climate change through green- house gas emission.

Muhire said that the world wants the shift from traditional energy sources, fossil fuels, charcoal and firewood to cleaner sources such as biogas, cooking gas, electricity, solar and wind energy.  “The use of biofuel and biogas still remains very gas,” Muhire said.

Experts state that cities are key to creating a climate-smart future. Over half the global population live in cities, generating 80% of total economic output and accounting for 70% of global CO2 emissions.

While urbanisation is a key driver of growth, unplanned, rapid urbanisation and urban sprawl threaten to increase greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate change and other shocks. They note that biogas with the by-product bioslurry, can be a solution to poverty, climate change, poor access to modern energy services, and soil fertility problems. Biogas is a simple affordable energy supply which is uncomplicated to handle and easy to maintain.

Dr Ruth Atuhaire, head of department of energy science and technology, Makerere University Business School said that when leaders and company managers understand the green concept they can include it in policies, work plans and budget for it. 

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