School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Alfred Odindo at the National Faecal Sludge Management Strategy stakeholders’ consultation workshop.

UKZN Provides Vital Expertise to National Faecal Sludge Management Strategy

Professor Alfred Odindo was invited to open the Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) National Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Strategy stakeholders’ consultation workshop thanks to UKZN’s proven expertise in the piloting of advanced scientific research related to FSM.

Odindo, a crop scientist in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and member of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Research and Development Centre, is the Principal Investigator for the Rural-Urban Nexus: Establishing a Nutrient Loop to Improve City Region Food System Resilience (RUNRES) international project that is driving research into on-site sanitation systems and promotion of a circular economy. He was accompanied to the workshop by graduate research assistant on the RUNRES project Dr Simon Gwara.

RUNRES is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s Global Programme Food Security and is led by ETH Zürich with UKZN; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kigali in Rwanda; and Ethiopia’s Arba Minch University. RUNRES aims to use these partnerships to demonstrate that innovations for value chain development and waste recycling can catalyse the flow of resources between the rural-urban nexus that will improve the resilience of regional food systems.

The DWS National FSM stakeholders’ consultation workshop was held to invite input from key stakeholders on the Draft National Faecal Sludge Management Strategy for on-site sanitation systems and included participants from government and municipal departments, civil society, parastatal utilities, private service providers, research institutions, and institutions of higher learning.

The programme also delved into the anticipated impact of safely managed sanitation along the sanitation value chain as participants shared lessons on FSM.

Odindo’s presentation was titled: Transition Towards a Circular Economy in Sanitation, and focused on the fact that transitioning waste to resources to create economic opportunities relied on the circular economy. Using available resources sustainably would create multiple values of economic growth and sustainability to ensure that waste generated currently would prove useful in the future.

He explained that the circular economy operates in contrast to extractive, wasteful linear systems constrained by resource availability and employs the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3R) principle to propose and plan system changes.

Commenting on the Draft FSM Strategy, Odindo said challenges to implementation include the lack of financial capital, a position seconded by many other stakeholders in the workshop.

The workshop included discussions of the four pillars of the sanitation value chain upon which the Strategy is predicated, namely capture and containment, emptying and transport, treatment and end-use, and disposal. Participants identified challenges in these pillars and proposed strategic management solutions, such as installing private household functions for on-site sanitation capture and containment, improved planning in the emptying of pit latrines before constructing new ones, and the appointment of service providers or improved in-house service from Water Service Authorities (WSA) to clear pit latrines.

The programme included facilitated discussions that ascertained stakeholders’ perceived readiness to implement FSM.

A panel discussion on the practicalities of implementing the National FSM Strategy featured participation from the Departments of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE); Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; Water and Sanitation; as well as the Water Research Commission and eThekwini Municipality.

Panellists spoke about the feasibility of the National FSM Strategy, homing in on financing mechanisms within the WSA, for example, the Municipality Infrastructure Grant or equitable share fund held by the Treasury to construct Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs).

The workshop proceedings highlighted that guidelines to support the National FSM Strategy implementation, including alternative sustainable business models and financing mechanisms, would be drafted. This would include regulatory requirements across the sanitation service chain – from capture, containment and storage, transportation, treatment, reuse, and disposal, with emphasis on reuse.

Participants agreed that emptiers and transporters had to be licensed to prevent illegal dumping, while cross-sectoral synergies were required for policies regulating waste management, such as water use and waste management licenses for regulating FSTPs, implemented by the DFFE, which during the panel discussion gave an update on the status of Hazardous Waste in South Africa and the legal framework to address this, as well as current green projects.

The DWS has invited written submissions on FSM to be submitted to fsmstrategy@dws.gov.za by 5 December 2022.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Courtesy of the Department of Water and Sanitation