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29 August 2013

Dr. Peter Morgan: Productive Sanitation Can Significantly Contribute to Food Security

Can the productive reuse of sanitation products contribute significantly towards increased food security in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)? This is the firm belief of Dr Peter Morgan, the World Water Prize winner in 2013.

Healthy and productive lives depend on access to sanitation and good hygiene practices but also on food security and nutrition. Presently most countries in the SSA are struggling to improve both food security and sanitation coverage.

For over 40 years Dr. Morgan has been developing creative and innovative solutions to improve the lives of African people. Dr. Morgan worked as the director for the Blair Research Institute in Harare and developed the Blair Toilet VIP (ventilated improved pit latrine) and the so‐called Zimbabwe Bush Pump “B” which became the international standard and is used across the World.

Over the last decade Peter’s work in Zimbabwe has been connected with the knowledge development team at the Sida and they have financed the Ecological Sanitation Research Programme which has led to several breakthroughs in the development of soil‐composting toilets which he has called “Arborloo” and “Fossa Alterna”. The Arborloo is a slight refinement of the traditional African technique of planting trees in disused toilet pits. The modification is that soil and ashes (and preferably leaves) are regularly added to the excreta which reduce odor and fly nuisance whilst accelerating the composing process. The Arborloo approach is simple and very low cost. It can be regarded as the first stage of a series of techniques in which the nutrients in human excreta can be recycled, while the Fossa Alterna with its use of alternating composting pits as the next step. These technologies are easy to grasp and implement by sanitation professionals, agriculture extension workers and householders, and at the same time provide an opportunity to begin recycling valuable nutrients in a safe way.

Ecological sanitation makes great sense in rural areas considering the relatively short distances between households and productive land and it is in the self-interest of farmers to maintain soil fertility. In SSA 64% of the population is rural, and this rural majority is projected to remain so for another 25 years (UNDESA, 2012). 75% of the extremely poor (<1.25 $ per day) in SSA live in rural areas (IFAD, 2011). The rural poor have difficulties affording chemical fertilizers which is reflected in the low use of fertilizer per ha in SSA (12 kg/ha). In a smallholder farmer environment, the conscious management and use of local natural resources is crucial for sustained crop production. However, the awareness of fertilizer value of human excreta is often low, and sanitation initiatives traditionally focus on health and hygiene, i.e. the “danger” aspects of human excreta.

In this context Peter Morgans´research or “bucket science”, as he names it, has resulted into improving lives for millions.  His comprehensive books and manuals have made it possible to share evidence based knowledge about the productive nutrient loop between agriculture and sanitation.  For more information about Peter Morgan’s work visit his website

Peter Morgan’s most famous publication “Toilet that makes compost” has been translated into French, Spanish and Chinese and is available online: