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August 31, 2007

Human urine increases crop yields in Uganda

A team of parliamentarians visiting Mwanyanjiri Primary School in Uganda's Mukono district recently were amazed at how human urine was being used to increase crop yields.

“I had never known human urine to be a fertiliser,” said Mary Karooro Okurut, the chairperson of the presidential affairs committee.

Joan Kakwenzire, a senior presidential adviser on poverty, said the school was using human urine to increase pineapple yields under the Presidential Poverty Alleviation project she initiated. “We donated 20,000 pineapple suckers to the school last year but the soils were so poor that these people had to use human urine to improve them,” she said.

Francis Gita, an environmental health scientist, says human urine contains nitrogen and urea which do not only suppress pests, but also provide good nutrients for plant growth. Gita, also the manager of the Ecological Sanitation Project of Kampala City Council, says urine kills pests in bananas, maize, sweet potatoes and most vegetables such as nakati (Solanum aethiopicum).

Urine treats black aphids and yellow vein virus, which mostly affect maize and nakati. Gita explains that ecological sanitation is the process of treating resources like urine to kill the disease organisms before using them in the garden. “It is a cheap way to profitably use nutrients that would otherwise be thrown away,” he said.

He said human urine is sterile unless one is suffering from typhoid fever and bilharzia. He, therefore, advises that before use, urine must be stored for six days to kill such harmful organisms. “One urinates in the ecosan toilet. The pan automatically separates the urine from the faeces. Urine is then mixed with wood ash while still in the ecosan toilet. Ash kills any bacteria, making the urine safe for use,” Gita explains.

“The over 500 pupils of the school urinate in an ecosan toilet. Urine is collected in a plastic septic tank. We collect 20 to 40 litres of urine daily. One litre of concentrated urine is mixed with eight litres of water,” Mugaya explains. “The diluted urine is poured in a 20-litre bucket, from where it is showered over the pineapple plantation using perforated rubber tubes. The rubber tubes act as spring jets to sprinkle the urine over the garden,” Mugaya adds.

The MPs advised teachers to stop making pupils work in the gardens as a punishment. “This makes them look at farming as a punishment, yet it is a source of livelihood, which should be included on the timetable,” they said.

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