The use of human waste for peri-urban agriculture in Northern Ghana
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In Ghana, studies on the use of organic materials to increase soil productivity have focused on crop-residue management, use of green and animal manures, and legume cover cropping. Few studies have assessed the use of human waste for agriculture, even though this is widely practiced by farmers in the northern part of the country. This study was carried out to investigate the stakeholders in the use of faecal sludge (FS) for crop production in Tamale and Bolgatanga municipalities in the guinea savanna agroecological zone of Ghana. The aim was to determine the driving factors, constraints and potentials for this practice. Field survey and focus group discussions were carried out among 90 farmers who use FS, and officials of the Municipal Sanitation Unit were interviewed. Sixty-four percent of farmers interviewed used FS as a cost-effective way to improve soil fertility and increase yields of maize and sorghum. Sludge is discharged by spreading it on the soil surface, or it is stored and dried in pits during the dry season and incorporated into the soil at the onset of the rainy season. The high temperatures of the savanna climate and this long period of drying allow sludge to be handled easily. Although this treatment is perceived to reduce the number of pathogens in dried sludge, 22% of farmers complained of itching feet and foot rot after working with FS, which is done without wearing protective foot covering. This constraint is coupled with the foul smell, transport problem and public mockery associated with the use of human waste for agriculture. In spite of these problems, there is competition for FS among farmers, due to benefits derived from its use. Further investigation is required to ascertain the causes of itching feet and foot rot, and there is a need for education on proper handling and appropriate hygiene practices when working with FS. Information regarding optimal FS application rates is also required.
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