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A radical new approach to waste management in Kenya

A radical new approach to waste management in Kenya

Only 12 percent of the Kenyan population are covered by a centralised sewer system. Alternative onsite systems such as pit latrines pose huge environmental and health risks as untreated human waste is often discarded outside. 

Kenyan engineer, Joy Riungu has found a new cost-effective way to safely treat human waste and convert it into useful resources. After participating in a Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) course at IHE Delft, Joy channeled the knowledge and skills she gained to pioneer FSM research at Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) and set up up Kenya’s first Sanitation Research Centre – a 20 acre facility within the university campus.

PhD, MSc and BSc students are conducting FSM research within the centre. A new MSc Sanitation programme and short courses, which aim to significantly boost professional capacity and increase uptake of non-sewered sanitation initiatives in Kenya, will be launched in January 2020.

Joy’s research team work with communities to collect human waste from their container-based sanitation facilities. The collected human waste is then transported to the research centre where it is converted into fertiliser and proteins using Black Soldier Flies. The sanitation facilities used are constructed in partnership with students in School of Engineering and Architecture, to equip them with the knowledge to initiate similar ventures when they complete their course. Joy is collaborating with experts from different academic backgrounds to embed the new technology within communities.

Researchers are playing a leading role in developing sanitation policy which can be adopted by the national government and Kenya will host its first sanitation conference this year – showing that support is growing for new, non-sewered solutions to address Kenya’s sanitation problem.

Joy’s work has been supported by the Newton Fund through the Royal Academy of Engineering's Leaders in Innovation Fellowships programme and the British Council's Institutional Links programme.

This content is part of a new series exploring common themes and impact across the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Both funds are managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and delivered by a range of UK and international partners.

Find out more about Newton Fund and GCRF capacity development