Testing the use of human urine as a natural fertilizer for crops
A team of researchers from several institutions in Niger, Germany and the UK has conducted a field trial of using human urine as a natural form of fertilizer for crops. In their article published in the magazine Agronomy for sustainable development, the group describes an experiment they conducted with peasant women in the Republic of Niger, using human urine.
Humans have known for thousands of years that their urine is an excellent fertilizer for crops. It contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium – many of the same ingredients as commercial fertilizers. But due to the prudishness associated with using urine to grow crops, its use is limited. Still, many gardeners know its benefits and that is why it is used all over the world to help people grow healthy food for their families. In this new effort, the researchers wondered if human urine could be used more widely, such as farms offering crops for sale. They enlisted the help of a group of women living in an isolated part of the Republic of Niger. Farmers there have struggled for many years to fertilize their pearl millet cereal crops, hampered by the cost of commercial produce and the scarcity of livestock manure.
The first step in the experiment was to rename urine because the common name was considered offensive. They settled on Oga. Then they divided the peasants into two groups; one ran their farms in the traditional way, the other fertilized their wheat with Oga. Crop yields were measured for both groups over two growing seasons. The Oga for the second group of 27 farmers was provided by the farmers themselves, who learned how to pasteurize, store and dilute their urine for use as fertilizer. They also added small amounts of animal manure.
The data from the farms showed that those fertilized with Oga produced an average of 30% more grain than the traditional farms. The researchers note that the differences were so great that other women in the region started mimicking those in the experiment. Two years after the experiment, they discovered that more than a thousand women farmers used Oga to fertilize their crops.
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Hannatou O. Moussa et al, Sanitized human urine (Oga) as fertilizer auto-innovation of female farmers in Niger, Agronomy for sustainable development (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s13593-021-00675-2
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