How Ecological Sanitation Can Promote Food Security

SOIL team member planting with Konpós Lakay

Here at SOIL, we’re dedicated to basing our strategic objectives and design iterations on careful research and data. We’re also committed to sharing our lessons learned, and progress with the global ecological sanitation community. We’re pleased to share a recent publication in partnership with the University of California, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Vermont in the Frontiers Sustainable Food Systems Journal.

“Toward Zero Hunger Through Coupled Ecological Sanitation-Agriculture Systems” explores the potential of ecological sanitation (EcoSan) systems to transform nutrient management by explicitly coupling sanitation and agriculture. The article features SOIL’s Executive Director, Dr. Sasha Kramer, and our Engineering & Logistics Consultant, Julie Jeliazovski.

The experiment was conducted in a climate-controlled greenhouse at Pope Greenhouse facilities at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, from August 2017 through April 2018. The objectives were to determine the responses of plants and soil to organic matter amendments derived from human excreta and to estimate the potential for the recycling of human excreta to meet country-level crop nutrient demands. To do so, the researchers compared the effects of composted human feces on soil and plant processes to two other human waste products (biosolids and biofertilizer), inorganic fertilization, and an un-amended control.  

The researchers tested the effectiveness of our compost product, Konpós Lakay, on radishes and discovered that it “can meet up to 13, 22, and 11% of major crop needs of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively.” Accordingly, the compost boosted plant production, which remained elevated relative to control after six consecutive crop cycles. This means that human waste can serve a critical role in agriculture systems and possibly serve as a substitution to chemical fertilizers, that are both harmful and expensive  

Additionally, the paper addresses other positive externalities of SOIL’s ecological sanitation system and the way we’re achieving Sustainable Development Goals through our circular economy solution. These externalities include preserving water and energy resources, releasing less greenhouse gas emissions, and sequestering carbon.  

The study is a powerful validation of SOIL’s work, as it demonstrates the efficacy of our thermophilic composting system and the immense potential of organic nutrient resources derived from human excreta for food production. In places like Haiti that face food insecurity, poverty and are highly susceptible to climate change, incorporating the use of human waste in agriculture could be pivotal in ensuring food production, restoring ecosystems and improving livelihoods for generations to come.  

You can read the full publication here.      

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