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Sanitation Research Center - from waste to wealth and health (Kenya)

This story tells how Dr Joy Riungu pioneered the FSM research at Meru Universitry of Science and Technoilogy (MUST) in Kenya

Kenya, just like any other developing country, is characterized by poor faecal sludge management (FSM). Current sanitation coverage figures show that only 12% of Kenyan total population is covered by centralized sewer system, while over 78% population are served by onsite sanitation facilities even though capacity building for better sanitation services mainly focus on centralized systems. Thus, with no research on treatment mechanisms for management of collected faecal sludge (FS) from onsite systems, there is enormous environmental and public health risks. This is what I witnessed as I grew up and so inspired the desire in me to change this status quo and drive for the improvement of faecal sludge management in my community, especially for the underprivileged members of the community.

My enrollment and subsequent participation in the FSM course at IHE Delft provided the opportunity to improve my knowledge, skills and practice in the field of FSM. One major knowledge I acquired was on the potential for converting human waste to useful resources that could improve livelihood in communities as well as adequate, clear and elaborate mechanisms for planning and implementing FSM systems. I also gained new skills for organizing cost-effective FSM that are appropriate for different geographical contexts. These knowledge and skills have equipped me with the confidence and ability to pioneer FSM research at the Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST), Kenya; which ultimately produced the 20 acre Sanitation Research Centre (SRC) facility within the university campus. The facility has five synergistic independent units, namely:

Training and capacity development
The center runs FSM short courses of two-week duration to improve the capacity and competence of professional in wastewater treatment plants. In addition, curriculum development for a MSc in Sanitation Engineering program is almost completed and the program should commence in September 2019;

Waste collection and management
We work with communities to collect the contents from their container-based sanitation infrastructure and delivered to a central conversion site in the university (currently Black Soldier Flies – BSF are applied for waste conversion, with resources recovered in the form of proteins and organic manure;

Research and technology development
Currently, four MSC students and one PhD student are conducting FSM research within MUST SRC. Whereas most studies are focusing on optimisation and technology development others are focusing on value addition on harnessed resources (Figure 3). In addition, 10 BSc students in Biological Sciences and Engineering have successfully conducted and defended their research under SRC, and more are expected to commence their research in February 2019.

Technology transfer and outreach
Fabrication of sanitation facilities is being done in conjunction with students in School of Engineering and Architecture in a bid to equip them with knowledge adequate to initiate such ventures after completion of their programs. In addition, workshops are organized with the community aimed to communicate research findings and also access level of adoption of the technology (Figure 4).

Knowledge dissemination on FSM
This aspect of our activities has received lots of positive attention within the country and internationally. Initial phase of the knowledge dissemination was during the recent Agricultural Society of Kenya Show, where our project was recognized and awarded the best in research and innovation. During the function, over 200 delegates registered to attend a workshop on BSF rearing using FS.

In conclusion, these initiatives has been well discussed in the main stream media houses as can be seen in the following links (https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/dn2/improve-hygiene-in-rural-and-slum-areas/957860-4883262-vnl4odz/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PLdTgjUis4),
https://masharikitv.com/meru-university-leading-in-human-waste-management-strategies/ as the ultimate sanitation solutions for the FSM menace in Kenya. The project, initiated in Meru County, Kenya has been modeled to spread across the entire country, taking a life of its own.

I wish to change status quo of sanitation in my community

Joy Nyawira Riungu

Dean of School of Engineering and Architecture

Disclaimer

Although all care is taken to ensure the integrity and the quality of alumni stories and the information herein, no responsibility is assumed by the authors nor IHE Delft for any damage to the property or persons as a result of the use of the information contained herein. IHE Delft was not in a position to check and verify the accuracy and authenticity of the information published in the stories. For any additional information about the story please contact the author.