February 2, 2012

Coconut husks and shredded currency make great fuel. Why not use fecal sludge?

Last week, Ashley returned from her second trip to Kampala, where she convened with our partners on the EU-backed Faecal Management Enterprise (FaME) project.  Since the project’s launch, WE has been characterizing the fuel potential of fecal sludge collected by our students in Kampala (Uganda), Dakar (Senegal), and Kumasi (Ghana).

We’ll spare you the details and go straight to the take-home message:  Fecal sludge has a whole lot of energy to harness.  And by a whole lot, we mean more than most agricultural by-products that are used as fuel (e.g. coconut husks, palmnut shells, rice husks) and just about the same level of energy as Grade-B coal. And best of all?  Industries say they are ready to give it a try.

Take East Africa’s largest clay brick factory.  They already use a wide variety of “waste” fuels including coconut husks, sawdust, and shredded currency (that’s been taken out of circulation, of course).  And to obtain some of these, they travel as far as 300 km. With lower cost fuels becoming increasingly scarce and costly, choosing “fecal fuel” may not just be good for the environment and public health but also good for their bottom line.

At WE in Ghana, we’re going to be very busy over the next six months turning this concept into a commercial reality.  Watch for progress reports.