Letter From London - The Royal Announcement

Last week, on the evening of Monday 22 July Kensington Palace made the long awaited announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge had given birth to a baby boy. The child with the title Prince of Cambridge was born at the private wing of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington arriving at 4.24 pm. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in line to the throne was said to be delighted. On Tuesday the Duchess presented her new son to the world when she was photographed holding the baby prince as they stood at the hospital steps where they were greeted by crowds of well-wishers.

A day later the Royal Family announced the name of the future king. The new baby is to be called George Alexander Louis. He will be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. Prince George who is third in line to succeed Queen Elizabeth will one day become the head of state in sixteen countries namely, United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. He will also assume the title the Head of the Commonwealth. He will be the Supreme Head of the Church of England and The Defender of the Anglican Faith.

The Royal birth and the wide media attention that it generated have enhanced the image of the UK's hereditary constitutional monarchy, “just like Kenya's” perhaps some cynics would say.

This was also the week that scientists decided to talk sh&t, literally. Please bear with me. According to the good people at the University of Sheffield's Project Sunshine Initiative the nutrients needed to grow crops in our fields are rapidly running out. The boffins are proposing a different if not radical and perhaps even random new fertilising source: our own excrement.

It has long been known that human faeces contained certain nutrients that helped crops grow and human excrement was used as a source of manure before the advent of manufactured fertilizers. Modern attitudes towards human waste may be starkly different today but it still remains a fact that our poo and urine contain essential plant growth nutrients.

As the world continues to face a growing population, rising food demands and diminishing mineral resources, producing fertilizers from human urine and faecal waste has never been so appealing. The basic feed stock comes free of charge! What is required now is to develop secure composting solutions that would address all the important public hygiene concerns. The scientists at Sheffield believe that they have the technology and know-how to do just that.

The major issue to be considered when contemplating the use of human waste for fertilizer has to be the harmful organisms found naturally in human waste. The most deadly of these would be the hookworm, ringworm and the tape worm. E.Coli, Cholera and other harmful bacteria also pose a major public health concern and need to be acknowledged.

The use of untreated sewage though common is a highly risky affair. Far better to introduce a system of sewage collection and treatment where the solid waste can be allowed to decompose thus eliminating harmful bacteria and worms' eggs. The benefits of a viable system would be a relatively cheap and abundant source of plant nutrients giving increased crop yields and a solution to the problem of waste disposal. There will need to be on going research to discover the effects of applying man-made contaminants such as chemicals and drugs as well as non- organic heavy metals in the reclaimed compost

Random facts
  • A random person produces on average 1.5 tonnnes of urine and faeces every year.
  • Phosphorus and Nitrogen, essential for plant growth are found in human waste.
  • Human waste is already widely used as fertilizer in India, Mexico, Nepal and Ghana.

The team at Sheffield University believe that it is only a matter of time before we take the issue of using our excrement for fertilizer seriously.