Dennis Magu: University Lecturer Turning Human Waste Into Bricks And Cooking Gas

In many parts of the world, access to proper sanitation facilities remains a significant challenge, leading to various environmental and health issues.

In Kenya, one scientist has risen to the occasion with a groundbreaking innovation – the Urinary Diversionary Dry Toilet. Dr. Dennis Magu, a Public Health lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), has developed a toilet system that not only addresses sanitation concerns but also harnesses the power of waste for energy and agriculture.

Here is his story as told by WOK

The Urinary Diversionary Dry Toilet

The Urinary Diversionary Dry Toilet, or UDDT for short, is an ingenious solution that tackles multiple issues simultaneously.

At its core, this innovation separates human waste into two distinct categories: urine and solid waste.

This separation process occurs without the use of flush water, making it a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to conventional toilets.

The UDDT accomplishes this waste separation within the toilet itself.

While using the toilet, the liquid waste, primarily urine, is directed into one chamber, while solid waste and used sanitary towels are collected in another chamber.

This separation is crucial for several reasons.

Firstly, it reduces the strain on water resources, as conventional flush toilets require significant amounts of water for each use. In water-scarce regions, this conservation of water is vital.

Secondly, the separated waste streams enable specific treatments and uses for each type of waste.

The innovation lies not only in waste separation but also in harnessing the potential of each waste product.

Harnessing Gases for Energy

In the chamber where solid waste is collected, a remarkable transformation occurs.

As the waste decomposes, it generates gases such as sulfur dioxide and methane. These gases are valuable resources that can be tapped and used for cooking and lighting by households and commercial establishments.

This process converts a waste product into a sustainable energy source, reducing the reliance on non-renewable energy and mitigating the environmental impact.

Imagine a family cooking their meals with gas produced from their own waste.

It not only saves money but also contributes to a cleaner environment by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.

Turning Urine into Fertilizer

The separated urine collected in the second chamber is equally valuable. When mixed with water at a specific ratio (usually 1:10), it becomes a potent natural fertilizer.

Urine is rich in essential nutrients for plant growth, including nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. By utilizing this urine-based fertilizer, farmers can enhance soil fertility and increase crop yields.

This approach not only promotes sustainable agriculture but also reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, which can have detrimental environmental effects.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

Dr. Dennis Magu’s innovation offers a myriad of economic and environmental benefits.

Firstly, it presents a cost-effective alternative to conventional sewage treatment plants. Building and maintaining such facilities can be prohibitively expensive, especially in underserved areas.

The UDDT provides a practical and affordable solution for improving sanitation and waste management.

Furthermore, this innovation has the potential to create jobs, particularly for the millions of unemployed youth in Kenya and other regions facing similar challenges.

The sludge produced from the mixture of solid human waste and sanitary pads, once treated, can be compressed and dried to make bricks or tiles.

“Some of the areas where stones for building houses are rare, youth or women groups can join together and make bricks which are stronger than some machine-cut stones used in the construction,” Magu claimed

In areas where traditional construction materials like stones are scarce, these waste-derived products can be stronger and more sustainable, providing livelihood opportunities for local communities.

A Visionary’s Journey

Dr. Dennis Magu’s journey into the world of public health and environmental innovation began in his childhood.

He was inspired by watching public health officials at work, ensuring that toilets and public places maintained sanitation standards.

His vast knowledge of environmental health eventually led to the development of the Urinary Diversionary Dry Toilet.

Recognizing the significance of his work, the Ministry of Health appointed Dr. Magu as the head of the delegation for Kenya in the East Africa Health Scientific Conference secretariat.