Faecal sludge recycling can provide valuable agricultural and economic benefits. This study assesses the awareness and attitudes of slum residents towards recycled faecal sludge products as well as barriers and opportunities for use.

For the attention of: Relevant local authorities, sanitation agencies and NGOs.

The problem: Communities living in informal settlements (slums) of Nairobi often lack adequate basic facilities like clean drinking water, health services, and proper housing and sanitation facilities. This results to illegal disposal of faecal sludge in open fields and water bodies like rivers leading pollution of the environment. Consequently, spread of water borne diseases like diarrhoeal diseases.

Faecal reuse is significantly affected by people’s attitudes, culture, environment, socio-demographic factors and beliefs. Therefore, understanding which issues shape communities’ attitudes and acceptance of new approaches, such as human sludge reuse, is a big step in tackling sanitation challenges especially among the urban poor.

Faecal sludge recycling can provide ways of managing faecal sludge leading to the production of environmentally friendly products which promote environmental quality, meet human livelihood needs and generate economic benefits. Farmers some low- and middle-income countries are now increasingly using faecal waste instead of chemical fertilizers due to its high nutrient content. However, success necessitates an assessment of communities’ awareness and attitudes towards faecal sludge products, as the practicality of faecal sludge reuse also depends on social acceptability factors.

What we did and why: We assessed the awareness and attitudes towards faecal sludge recycling among community members living in three major slums of Nairobi (Korogocho, Viwandani and Kibera). The assessment was to help identify the gaps in faecal sludge recycling to review ways of  dealing with the faecal waste in urban areas and appraise how the community could be sensitised in order to increase the awareness and acceptance of the faecal sludge recycling. We also explored opportunities and challenges within faecal waste management to develop recommendations on how recycling can be improved to benefit the communities.

What our study adds: The study shows the existing opportunities in faecal sludge management activities. It also provide key community engagement pathways for creating awareness on existing faecal sludge by-products. It fills data gaps on knowledge and perceptions on faecal sludge recycling and resulting products.

Implications for city policy and practice:

  • Sensitization of the communities on faecal sludge recycling.
  • Capacity building the communities to better manage the bio-enters
  • County government to support community groups working in faecal sludge activities
  • There is a need for integrating the bio centre approach to water and sanitation provision as well as environmental well-being to the comprehensive city-wide plans made by the Nairobi County

Links to other resources:

Umande Trust: Helping people by providing fundamental human rights

Down To Earth Daily: Article ‘Slums in Kenya turning human excreta into energy, fertiliser’

Full research article: Awareness and attitudes towards the use of recycled faecal sludge products in Nairobi’s slums

Authors: Hellen Gitau, Ivy Chumo, Kanyiva Muindi, Sheillah Simiyu & Blessing Mberu

Editor: Marcus Grant (@MarcusxGrant)