In deep shit

Just outside a Kenyan city a woman is in deep shit. And she's enjoying it. I had my doubts about visiting her, since the sour smell of sewage is not my favorite. Only after covering my nose  with a large cloth  I felt up to the task at hand. We came over rough roads, past compounds fenced off with metal roofing sheets, which added a somehow futuristic glow to the scenery.
The shit cycle
At the end of town greener pastures began, dotted with herds of zebras quietly chewing grass. There it was. The waste water treatment plant. The brown contents of a deep gutter slowly streamed towards big metal teeth sifting out all kinds of plastics and stuff, only admitting a slow slur of faeces for further treatment. This is where  she had put up her tents, a young woman talking high speed about her mission; turning faeces into food and fuel. Thus closing the sanitation circle that begins with heating and eating the food we shit out afterwards.
Unfortunately the enormous quantity of sludge we humans produce together, usually pollutes the clear water that we need as much as food. 'Could be better,' she thought and started collecting shit, combining it with leftover rubbish from the market. While talking we entered a greenhouse tent where she dried her collection. I carefully sniffed and had to admit; no smell. 
Potatoes and fireballs

In the next greenhouse worms and bacteria did their job to turn this mixture into fertiliser. A handfull brought the pure and earthly smell of nature to my nostrils. The last greenhouse unveiled a row of fresh looking potato plants. She also presses dried slurry into fireballs for stoves, allowing people to cook their food once more. And follow the call of nature afterwards. Closing the circle. Again and again. Sustainable for sure. No more cutting trees for firewood or chopping wood for fertile soil. If she succeeds, these zebras may quietly go on grazing while we live a greener life with enough food and fuel to eat our every meal.

Making markets work
Luckily she's not alone. She and her team from development organisation SNV work with many others like the utility people, the authorities, a university and the general public. Their approach will be carefully tested, tested and tested again. Is it safe? Can it be done cheap? Will consumers accept this climate smart innovation? In the interest of all humans and zebras I sincerely hope so.
Posted 4 weeks ago by Karin Bokhove