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Agricultural sanitation: From 'waste' to resource

Berry, G 2000 , 'Agricultural sanitation: From 'waste' to resource', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This trans disciplinary study investigates the potential for safely and
sustainably managing human excreta by utilizing this by-product as a
fertilizer via alternating batch composting toilets of a specific design. An
historical analysis traces the traditional use of human excreta in cultivation,
and examines the reasons for the demise of this ancient excreta
management strategy in some countries. The study further explores the
potential of Agricultural Sanitation providing a modem sustainable
method for managing human excreta re-use in traditional settings through
field research conducted in Vietnam and Northern Pakistan.
A composting toilet trial conducted on the Central Pacific island of
Kiritimati in Kiribati served to test this method of managing human excreta
in a challenging cultural and geographic environment where a population
has a high incidence of faecally transmitted enteric diseases.
To establish the safety of the composting toilet end-product, fresh faecal
samples from composting toilet households on Kiritimati were tested to
identify any pathogens being introduced into the toilets. Compost samples
from the composting toilets were subsequently tested to assess the survival
of any pathogenic organisms through laboratory analyses and the incubation
of parasite ova that were removed from the compost. Compost samples
from a large publicly used batch composting toilet in the World Heritage
Area of Tasmania, Australia, and a domestic batch composting toilet on the
North Coast of NSW, Australia were also analysed for pathogen content.
The fertilizer capabilities of the composting toilet end-product was assessed
by testing compost samples from the Kiritimati and Australian composting
toilets. Total elemental analysis and nutrient availability tests were
conducted on the samples. A pot trial was also conducted on Kiritimati and
a glasshouse pot trial was performed at the University of Tasmania to
observe and record the response of plants amended with the toilet compost.
An analysis was undertaken of the socio-cultural problems encou,ntered
when introducing new or improved Agricultural Sanitation systems into
various communities. The implementation policies of Agricultural Sanitation system projects are reviewed and examined in Kiritimati,
Tonga, EI Salvador, Guatemala, Pakistan and Vietnam to determine the
main features constraining and enabling implementation in various sociocultural
It was found that the technical and biological issues related to Agricultural
Sanitation utilizing alternating batch composting toilets are not the most
significant factors preventing the adoption of this method of excreta
management. Evidence from the historical investigation and the review of
contemporary use of human excreta in cultivation suggests human excreta
is a valuable resource in those cultures. The results from observations and
analyses of compost samples from the batch composting toilets revealed that
human excreta compost was aesthetically acceptable, useful, and potentially
safe. The major constraint to the sustainable introduction of this excreta
management strategy appeared to be resistance to the required changes in
behaviour. Therefore attention to complex socio-cultural factors is the
principle requirement for successful technology transfer.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Berry, G
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