Waste to Wealth (project closed)

Project closed: 2015

UNU-INWEH gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada’s funding provided by Grand Challenges Canada under their Stars in Global Health program.

In the Republic of Uganda, the government-run National Water and Sewerage Corporation is mandated to handle domestic and industrial wastewater but lacks adequate resources (NETWAS 2011). A recent market study in Uganda indicated that a complete sanitation system for 400,000 people living in urban slums in Kampala can be run without subsidies through marketing of-wastewater products such as fertilizer and soil amendment products (Karsten Gjefle 2011). Using Uganda as a model for developing countries, we propose to develop robust and scalable technologies, combined with an innovative business model to tap private sector resources for sustainable wastewater management in urban informal centres and in rural communities.

Lack of appropriate treatment of human waste, especially in rural communities, is unnecessarily contributing to morbidity and mortality. Given that almost all wastewater in developing countries is discharged directly into water bodies and poor water quality contributes to almost 10% of the global burden of disease, it is imperative to develop sustainable approaches to manage this wastewater.

Waste as a Resource: The economic benefits of nutrient recycling, biogas generation, soil amendment and new livelihoods from wastewater management will be a financial incentive for communities in developing countries to collect and treat their waste.

In terms of public health impacts, 10% of the global burden of disease is related to water, sanitation and hygiene. Child (under 5) mortality is reduced by 2.45 per 1,000 with access to improved sanitation. Returns on investment in improving wastewater management and infrastructure range between 3 and 34, providing resources to reduce poverty, and increase education rates and economic activity.

The creativity in this approach is related to both technological and social innovations. Biogas and ecological sanitation are increasing in popularity in developing countries, but face social taboos in some regions. Moreover, it is difficult to make a strong business case in communities in developing countries where wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure is not already in place. This initiative will leapfrog traditional approaches by combining wastewater collection services with cutting edge technologies for biogas production and nutrient recycling. Finally, the social innovation will come from the integration of communities and service providers into the business model.

  • Assess the feasibility of sustainable wastewater management programs in Uganda through nutrient recovery, biogas production and soil amendment of treated biosolids in a fishing community (Kiyindi) and informal settlement (Kampala)
  • Develop a sustainable and socially responsible private sector financing model to support long term, environmentally sensitive wastewater management solutions
  • Build support among key stakeholders for implementation of a sustainable wastewater management program

The unique approach, as applied to other initiatives at UNU-INWEH, is the integration of communities, providers and the private sector to ensure sustainable services beyond the life of the project. Stakeholder consultations through focus groups, key informant interviews and workshops provide opportunities for engagement and input. Bridging policy and practice through multistakeholder dialogues and knowledge transfer of technologies is essential. All are components of the proposed initiative, ensuring that the “soft” systems are in place prior to infrastructure development. These consultations will support development of the business model and will ensure acceptance of the solutions.

McGill University
Trent University
Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment
Uganda Water and Sewerage Coproration
Uganda Water and Sanitation Network
Uganda Wastewater Emptiers Association
Uganda Christian University
And other Ugandan stakeholders

Skip to toolbar