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University of Helsinki (2014)

Assessing the cultural potential of ecological sanitation in improving waste management and food security in the Taita Hills, Kenya

Andersson, Matias

Titre : Assessing the cultural potential of ecological sanitation in improving waste management and food security in the Taita Hills, Kenya

Auteur : Andersson, Matias

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki,

Grade : Master 2014

This research is aimed at investigating the possibility of implementing ecological sanitation technologies in the Taita Hills in south-eastern Kenya, therefore contributing to a sustainable local development approach. The approach taken to this aim is that of a description and analysis of social and cultural preferences regarding sanitation and the idea of reusing human excreta in agricultural production. Poor sanitation circumstances, with the range of problems that they give rise to, is a widely acknowledged and researched issue in the field of human development which is underlined by the inclusion of sanitation in both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to putting a burden of disease on affected populations, lack of proper sanitation facilities are identified as both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Sanitation solutions also play a notable role in the interaction between settlements and the natural environment. Ecological sanitation includes a wide range of technologies and other solutions with the aim of improving sanitation in a given community and simultaneously diminishing the waste that is allowed to pollute the environment, most notably water bodies. A remarkable aspect of ecological sanitation solutions in agricultural areas is the possibility of treating human waste in order to produce fertilizers suitable for usage in local farming. This would enable communities to close the cycle of nutrient flows as nutrients withdrawn from the soil in the form of agricultural produce would be returned as fertilizer. In addition, local, low-cost production of fertilizers is assumed to be a sustainable way of weakening dependence of international fertilizer markets, thereby improving rural livelihoods. The possibility of improved access to suitable fertilizers is also a key aspect of improved food security. Understanding local perceptions and attitudes regarding sanitation is crucial in finding socially and culturally applicable, acceptable and sustainable ecological sanitation solutions. This study will use semi-structured stakeholder interviews and expert interviews to investigate those attitudes, as well as to gain insights on current sanitation and farming practices. Involvement of the local views in the research process is enhanced by the use of participatory ranking exercises, thereby enabling local views and preferences to find practical and specific expression. Current sanitation solutions and their connection to the environment are also included in the interview framework. The results of the fieldwork are investigated with a qualitative content analysis to present a comprehensive picture of the current sanitation situation in relation to local livelihoods, to describe local attitudes towards different sanitation solutions and to describe how ecological sanitation solutions might be implemented that improves local livelihoods and food security. Through this, a framework will be produced that can be used for further work on ecological sanitation in the Taita Hills area. The ultimate objective of the study is to assess the feasibility and potential of using ecological sanitation to improve both food security and sanitation in the study area. The results of this study point to the conclusion that reusing human waste cannot be considered as a taboo in the Taita Hills but could be promoted through locally designed solutions as well as education and training regarding ecological sanitation.


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