Friday, 4 September 2009

Replacing fertilizers with human Urine and Feaces

Do you know that Nigeria is ranked 20th on the Global Hunger Index? What this means is that about 65percent of Nigerians are food insecure and vulnerable to hunger and ill-health. Though a coterie of factors is involved in food cultivation, but the role of fertilizer (organic or inorganic) is great. Sadly findings have shown that fertilizer application is still dismal amongst farmers. Nigeria is said to require about 3.7million metric tones of fertilizer per annum but only one-third is used in the farms.

Nigeria’s rate of application of NPK is reported to be 13kg per hectare. The ugly implication is the heavy post harvest losses calculated at 50per cent for fruits and vegetables and 30per cent for root crops and tubers. The number of those using compost or inorganic manure is grossly unknown, yet the potential for human waste to complement or replace the chemical fertilizers are not really considered.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s policy guideline on excreta and sewage management (2005) prescribes amongst others for the promotion and adaptation of the by-products of sewage treatment in productive uses. This if practiced will benefit the population in many ways.
First, food security and poverty alleviation .In parts of Nigeria, particularly in rural Nigeria, rural people suffer from periodic famine due to drought, small plot size, soil erosion, poverty (inability to purchase sufficient food) and political factors. In urban areas, poor people also suffer from under nutrition due to poverty, although urban agriculture is a growing phenomenon. However, growing food for the immediate family within confined spaces is a challenge.
Human urine and feaces can be used in rural and urban areas to increase food security for all households, particularly the poor. These products can be used directly at the homestead level, in backyard gardens. Researchers have shown that about 1.5litres of undiluted urine can be used to fertilize 1 square meter of soil. 1.5 liters is the amount produced by one adult in one day.
People could collect their own urine and use it on backyard gardens to increase yields. However, the fertilizing effect of urine is said to work best in soil with high organic matter content and this can be increased by adding the humus from eco-toilets and garden composts.
In urban areas, the sanitized urine and feaces from eco-toilets can be used as a rich nutritious soil for planting in pots, and the urine can be used to fertilize the soil before planting and for continued fertilization of plants during growth. Vegetable and fruit crops grown using urine fertilization produces 2-10 times the amount of crop by weight as those grown in unfertilized, poor soil. If people use urine to grow vegetables and fruits, the increased production results in greater food security at virtually no cost. Instances abound in Burkina Faso.
Soil enriched with humus from human waste (faeces) holds water longer than soils not enriched with it. Research has also shown that plants grown in soils enriched with large amounts of humus require less watering and survive droughts better than plants grown in ordinary soils without this humus.
In times of drought as was recently experience in Yobe and Jigawa states in northern Nigeria, when whole fields of grain may die, backyard crops grown on humus may well survive and produce enough vegetables to help a family through a difficult period. If over time, families can collect enough humus from their eco-toilets, they may be able to enrich larger and larger areas, leading to increasing food security.
Second, cost saving for Nigerian farmers is another benefit. This is true because the formulation of nutrients in urine is similar but not exactly the same as that in commercial fertilizers. But urine and commercial fertilizers give similar results in boosting plant growth. Urine is high in nitrogen and lower in phosphorus and potassium. Some top-up of phosphorus and potassium is often needed to get the best possible use of nitrogen. As faeces and ash are high in phosphorus and potassium, farmers can replace commercial fertilizers with urine and top-up with sanitized faeces from eco-toilets at little or no extra cost.
A study in China calculated the cost savings of using urine and dried faecal humus from eco-toilets as a fertilizer in a 3000 square meter greenhouse owned by one farmer in Jilin Province of northern China. The farmer not only used the dried faeces from his household but also purchased additional dried faeces from other homes with eco-toilets and was given their urine free of charge.
He did not calculate the cost of transport of dried faeces (which was transported by tractor) or the cost of transporting urine, which was carried in buckets on shoulder poles. He used to buy 350-400kg commercial fertilizer per year, but now this has been replaced by the free urine. The farmer calculated his cost savings per year to be the equivalent of CNY 740 (USD90) per 1000 square meters.
Such calculations could become even more important at the community level, especially where farmers are struggling to make a living. A city of 100,000 people would produce about 500,000kg of elemental nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) per year in excreta. While the cost of commercial fertilizer varies between countries, as does its content of elemental NPK, it is possible to make a rough cost comparison of buying elemental products or collecting and transporting locally produced urine and faeces.
Third; preventing nitrogen pollution of drinking water in our communities is another benefit. Pit toilets as well as sewers are frequently a source of ground water pollution, especially in areas where the water table is high such as Port Harcourt, Calabar and Lagos etc.
Urine is rich in nitrogen and up to 50% of the nitrogen leaches out of the pit toilet pass through the soil and reaches the groundwater. Water with NO3 concentrations higher than 50mg/liter is considered to be unfit for human consumption. It is not unusual to find such high concentrations of nitrogen in wells in communities with pit toilets.
Recommendations as those in Nigeria’s policy guidelines on excreta and sewage management (2005) that toilets be sited at least 30meters from wells are meant to protect well water from pollution, but plenty experience shows that soil conditions vary considerably and both pathogens and nitrogen pollution can still result.
Finally, restoring lost top soils could also be another great benefit. This is true because according to FAO, the Earth is losing 25billion tones of topsoil per year because of erosion. Chemical fertilizers, while boosting plant growth, cannot replace topsoil. Topsoil contains humus formed from decayed plant and animal matter, and is rich in carbon compounds and micro-organisms necessary for healthy plant growth, which are not found in chemical fertilizers.The addition of humus is therefore necessary to maintain and renew the topsoil. With the loss of topsoil comes the loss of human food security. In many parts of the world, people are experiencing reduced productivity on their lands due to loss of top soils.

Media, Agriculture and Climate Change

Joachim Ezeji

The strongest impacts of climate change in Africa are associated with rainfall and water availability; and agriculture in Africa is completely leaned on both hence its enormous vulnerability. An understanding therefore of how local communities perceive and consider changes occurring in their communities (such as water shortage) or how they interpret the climate crisis can help define strategies for appropriate responses and specific applications to reduce vulnerability to climatic variability and change. The questions to consider involve the inclusion of local knowledge in the definition and diffusion of long-term application of adaptation policies. As efforts to develop and diffuse adaptation mechanisms in Africa and elsewhere grow in momentum, one major constraint has been the failure to develop an effective communication strategy to drive the process.

Effective communication as a sub-set of development needs to be developed in order to get the message down to the bottom of the pyramid where those most affected i.e. the small holder farmers agglutinate. The concept of information in general, and of climate change adaptation information in particular, as a resource for effective adaptation and development, needs to be domesticated well beyond the current cozy confines of conference rooms and research hubs. Adaptation has been defined (AMMA, 2008) as a strategy of responses that aims to bring the potential impacts of climate change down to a minimum and reduce the negative effects for the lowest cost.

As such measures get developed, it becomes urgent to educate people including government officials, agricultural extension officers and farmers on what they are. Local policy makers, planners and administrators need to recognize that information is indispensable to the adaptation process. This is apparent with due cognizance of the fact that in most parts of Africa, the essential information mechanisms and infrastructural facilities are not yet sufficiently developed to foster the generation, storage, preservation, retrieval, dissemination and utilization of information. However, effective communication is seen as an essential tool for the establishment and maintenance of good social and working relationships and it enables people to exercise control over their environment. The purpose of communication is to bring about change of attitude, knowledge, skills and aspiration of the receivers.

In Nigeria, various communication media are commonly used to transmit all sorts of information to people. Some of these include magazines, leaflets, newsletters, newspapers, pamphlets, radio, internet, handset phones and television, among others. None of these media has proven excellent in this regard because of a number of factors, most salient though latent is that most of the journalists or program presenters are not experts in the field and often rely on what they read or where instructed/directed to do. Short term courses by journalist has not been effective in eclipsing this constraint. What has helped over the years are only where such journalists have been on that bit for years, hence pooling a great wealth of experience and exposure. As at today, many journalist in Africa are still at cross roads on the difference between mitigation and adaptation. You need to read their articles or stories to understand what I mean. Journalists need to have a background of good training at least to the University level in order to understand current dynamic global debates such as those on agriculture, Climate change and carbon trading etc. A three day training or conference participation in Brussels or Lagos cannot confer all that knowledge on them.

What I am suggesting in effect is that everybody should be and function as a media. Word of mouth is the best advert. Use issues as this as ice breakers and see what they know. Extension farmers still remains a veritable and useful tool. A combination of media, word of mouth and extension services is the best approach. In my organization, Rural Africa Water Development Project, a Nigerian NGO; we mainstreamed effective communication into many of our pro-poor programs. And one lesson we have learnt and which we always share is the fact that beyond stirring awareness, this has the extra benefit of building ownership and a high sense of community participation in the projects. People living in same community or in the same trade or profession should at least. freely share information within themselves.

An interesting study by Agwu et al (2008) in Nigeria sought to determine farmers’ adoption of improved agricultural technologies disseminated via radio farmer programme in Enugu State, Nigeria. The findings of this study revealed that major source of information on improved agricultural technologies to farmers were fellow farmers; then followed by radio programmes. A greater proportion (96.3%) accepted radio as a useful source of information on improved agricultural technologies. However, only 23.7% of the respondents were found to have listened to the radio farmer programme. The study further showed that the major relevant technologies disseminated were harvesting of yam and storage in barns and pest control in food crop farms.

The study also revealed that the radio farmer programme had little effect on enhancing adoption of improved technologies by the respondents. A greater proportion (56.3%) of the respondents were not satisfied with the radio farmer programme. Only age, farming experience and membership of farmers’ organization significantly influenced adoption of improved agricultural technologies disseminated through the radio while the major constraints to adoption of technologies include inappropriate scheduling of programme, inability to ask relevant questions and get the feedback from the radio presenter and language used in presenting the programme. Based on these findings, it was concluded that the present level of adoption of the improved agricultural technologies disseminated via radio farmer programme to farmers in Enugu state is low.

Finally, the media-newspapers, television, and radio- represent a special communication challenge to development. Approached wisely, the media may carry your story as you want it framed. Mishandle the media, on the other hand, your message may be publicly skewed. In engaging the media, you will need to identify the different segments of your audience and craft appropriate messages for each, and these include the local small holder farmers.

Join me, become environmentally aware!

The fear of global warming is the biggest global environmental concern at the moment. Amongst other things, climate change causes polar ice caps to melt, dry season to be longer, rainy season to be late in coming, and when it comes to come with serious storms and flooding etc. We aid global warming every time we fly, use a car or when we use electrical appliances.

Cutting our impact on the environment is important. We can do this through the introduction of paper and plastic recycling bins as well as composting and use of Biogas. We may also calculate our carbon footprints. A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of CO2 emitted in a year. An average person is said to emit 9400kg per year on carbon dioxide.
There is also need to reduce our reliance on and use of plastics. Using plastics means more plastic wastes. Sending these to landfills is a big problem too. Plastics are made from oil, a natural non-renewable product. Plastic is a non-biodegradable substance (which means that it will not decompose) and adds to the problem of the excess amounts of waste which are filling a landfill site; but in Nigeria, we don’t even have a landfill but dumpsites which are much more inferior.
For example; the amount of municipal trash collected in England in 2006/2007, the last period for which full figures are available, rose by 1.4 per cent; seven times more than the average so far this century, and to 28.7 million tons. Yet household rubbish makes up less than 330million tons of wastes being produced in Britain each year, and is dwarfed by the detritus from construction and demolition, mining, industry and commerce.
There is enormous need to recycle instead of sending wastes to landfill sites because landfill sites are almost full too. Example; paper recycling stops trees that have carbon ‘locked up in them’ being cut down. When a tree is cut down and with the availability of oxygen, it forms carbon dioxide, a green house gas- which is one of the contributors to climate change.
There is need to institute Green Flag Award for Nigerian Schools; Government Institutions and Companies. By this, every participating organization would be rated and measured on a green flag status. The green flag award as an accolade would therefore be awarded to sustainable organizations which have tried to reduce their negative impact upon the earth.
Do you know that used oil is any waste lubricant oil e.g. lubricant fluids that are placed in engines, gearboxes and hydraulic systems of machines e.g. cars and generators? Used lubricant oil is hazardous because it contains toxic compounds and harmful metallic dust particles that can be very dangerous to health. Spilled oil decomposes very slowly and remains in the environment for a long period, polluting the soil and water.
Recycling used motor oil keeps it out of rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. In many cases, that also means keeping it out of our drinking water, off our beaches and away from wildlife. We all share the responsibility of protecting our environment and keeping our water safe. Recycling used oil allows us to continue to enjoy what many of us take for granted every day - clean water. If you recycle a liter of used oil, you can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24hours. One liter of used oil can pollute a million liters of water.

There is need to scrap plastic bags and replace them with cotton alternatives in order to save the environment and encourage everybody to “go green”. You can make your neighborhood or village a plastic bag-free community. Cotton and Jute bags should be strategically re-introduced in our society. Doing so would help to reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation and support the environmental campaign whilst cutting costs. The plastic bags blow all over the place, even into fields where they can do a lot of damage to wildlife and livestock. It is time we cleaned up. It would be nice to see our city become “Plastic bag free”.
There is need to raise a campaign to highlight how environmentally unfriendly, problematic and –not least – how irritating the phenomenon of packaging and repackaging waste has become. Packaging presents a problem for several reasons. Firstly, it uses up huge volumes of natural resources: oil for plastic trays, bags and wrappers; trees for paper, cartons, and cardboard; aluminum for tins and cans; glass for jars and bottles. About 8% of global oil production is used to make plastic, which a quarter is thought to end up in packaging.
Secondly, climate change is hastened by the green house gas emissions from the energy used to make and transport containers. Thirdly, there is the problem of disposal. The packaging industry claims that, with the quadrupling of recycling rates in the past decade, 60% of packaging is now recycled; but even so, it admits that five million tons of it is dumped in holes in the ground.
In market research, stores have picked up packaging as one of the issues that grates with customers. The industry argues that, as products need to be protected in travelling to reach shops, under-packaging creates more wastes. But packaging performs another commercial function: it engages and entices the customer, and often exaggerates the size of the product. This is particularly noticeable in the rapidly growing trend for seasonal merchandise, whether for Christmas gifts or Easter candles. Today therefore is a key moment for deciding how we handle our waste products in the future, for two reasons;
Firstly, the government is advised to produce a national waste strategy. States and local councils would also have theirs. These would be the first in our history. I believe that new measures to force a cutback in packaging should be part of it. Secondly, most of the major supermarkets should begin to realize that they do have to act on packaging and should commit to tackle it.
For example, paper is a vital part of our daily lives, from the Newspapers we read to the ‘post –it-notes’ by the phone, our dairies and notebooks, the napkins we use at lunch times, our office stationary, till receipts, the book or glossy by our bed. It is not surprising, then, that the paper around us adds up to roughly 11million tons’ worth of potentially reusable waste each year. So if we all recycled diligently or bought recycled-paper goods, it could save up to 165 million trees being felled each year.
Recycling one tone of paper saves average-sized trees. Every tone of paper recycled saves: 30,000litres of water, 27kg of air pollutants and enough electricity to power a three-bedroom house for up to six months.
Hoping you join me on this campaign wherever you are!

Regulating to revive water supply in urban Nigeria

Joachim Ezeji

Perhaps, in recognition of the importance of water resources management for the economic development of Nigeria and the well-being of its citizens, the government took a number of initiatives related to water resources policy in the latter part of the 1990s, which ultimately led to present day discussions on revision of the water law. These included development of a set of key water resources principles that were circulated initially in 1998 for review by approximately 100 representatives of government agencies, academics and other water specialists; a World Bank sponsored study, concluded in 2001, that included specialist reports on the legal and regulatory framework, institutions and trans-boundary waters, various drafts of a water policy culminating in the 2004 National Water Policy, and the EU funded report on Water Resources Management and Policy etc.

Progress was being made in other water-related areas during the same period. A National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy was drafted in 2000 (FMWR, 2000) which, although currently under review, incorporates a number of principles for which water resources policy and law needs to provide the framework. In 2006, a draft Irrigation Policy was prepared that draws on the principles of the National Water Policy. At State level, a model Water Supply Services Regulatory Law has been prepared in association with the World Bank-supported WIMAG initiative, (Water Investment Mobilization and Applications Guidelines). It provides a basis for water supply reform legislation including establishment of State Water Regulatory Commissions and licensing procedures for water service providers. It is anticipated that most states will adopt such legislation, adapted to their individual contexts as required. In relation to natural resources and the environment, a national policy on the Environment was formulated in 1999 that provided for sustainable development based on proper management of the environment and in 2006 a second reading of a Bill to establish the National Environmental Standards Enforcement Agency (NASEA) went through the National Assembly.

But, in view of all the foregoing, it is germane to understand what influence the regulation of water utility performance would have on poverty alleviation. This could be viewed from the perspectives of legislative reform in urban utilities in order to achieve a new institutional framework for it, defining functions and powers of the institutions; to license water use, regulate operations, and monitor compliance etc. This has been predicated on the premise that in Nigeria, all the 36 State Governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have each set up a State Water Supply Agency (SWA) charged with the responsibility of providing potable water supply to the urban and in some cases their semi urban communities but that sad tales of high operational costs, poor revenue, epileptic power supply, inadequate funding, ill-motivated personnel, aging plants and machineries have remained the undoing of these utilities. The consequence is that many Nigerians lack sustainable access to clean drinking water, and those for productive activities. The tragedy in all these is such that if sustainable water supply is a ladder in economic development with higher rungs representing steps up the path to economic well being, there are roughly 80% of households, three-quarter of Nigerians, who live lacking support to get a foot on the first rung of the development ladder.

A typical case is the Lagos State Water Corporation. Here, the water distribution network can only reach one in every three of the 15 million inhabitants of the city. Yet, they projected population growth of 4% per annum of the city means that the city’s water demand, will double by the year 2020. The cost of meeting current and projected demand has been put at around $2.5 billion over the next 20 years.A World Bank 2003 report had stressed how the abysmal performance of public utilities has come to symbolize the poorest aspects of governance in Nigeria. Using Lagos as a reference the report revealed that being neglected and close to collapse, the publicly run Lagos State Water Corporation holds the dubious distinction of having the highest recorded level of unaccounted-for-water in the world. Only 4 percent of its water production capacity goes towards the creation of revenue.
Unaccounted-for-water is the most common measure of the efficiency of a water company. The World Bank defines it as “the difference between the quantity of water supplied to a network and the metered water by the customer” It has two components; physical losses due to leakage from pipes; and administrative losses due to illegal connections and under registration of water meters. For any water utility to maintain or restore a lead to consumers on water efficiency, it must get on top of its leakage problems. Leakage by water companies in England and Wales fell by around 20 million liters a day (ml/d) in 2005/06 because of strict regulation by the Office for Water (OFWAT); its official regulator. The overall leakage in England and Wales was close to 3,600ml/d in 2006 compared to nearly 5,000 ml/d just a decade earlier. OFWAT took action that required a utility like Thames Water to make a substantial reduction in leakage, and the company entered into a legally binding agreement with the regulator (OFWAT), committing it to spend GPB150million of its own money to step up the program of water mains replacement. It also risks being fined if it does not meet its future leakage targets.

But in an ailing economy such as Nigeria’s where the Gross National Index is US$560 (World Bank, 2006), no authority actually regulates the urban water utilities. Yet, over 70% of the populations are poor and well over 50% of them live in the cities, and depend on these utilities for their daily water needs. I will therefore suggest that a review of a recent document put in place by consultants for the Federal Government of Nigeria in this context is desired. This model water supply services regulatory law has been prepared in association with the World-Bank supported Water Investment Mobilization and Applications Guidelines (WIMAG). WIMAG provides a basis for water supply reform legislation including the establishment of State Water Regulatory Commission and licensing procedures for all water service providers. It provides an equitable approach to water pricing in Nigeria.

In tandem with the Nigerian National Water and Sanitation Policy (2000) and the National Water Resources Bill (2007), WIMAG and the model State Water Supply Services Regulatory Law (WSSRL) insists that each state of the federation with a State Water Agency (SWA) must establish a regulatory commission that is empowered to issue licenses for the provision of water supply services by both government and private sector entities; define minimum service requirement; set tariffs; define rights and obligations of the water service providers; and define performance standards.

Further to the foregoing, States are to ensure that water service providers are autonomous bodies subject to regulation by the state regulatory commission; and that the regulatory commission is not subject to the direction or control of the state governor or any other person in respect of any determination, report or inquiry; and that the sector is structured to prevent misuse of monopoly power. Above all, WIMAG demands that Nigerian States should incorporate principles of good governance into the structure and operational procedures of state water agencies, particularly; equity, accountability, efficiency, transparency and public participation. States are also required to establish appeals mechanisms for decisions taken by water service providers under their jurisdiction.

The likely influence of the WIMAG document on utility performance and poverty alleviation in Nigeria need to be further explored under this premise; in addition to comparing it with those of organizations such as OFWAT and the Environmental Agency in the UK. I think that doing this will support age long efforts to revive many of Nigeria’s ailing water utilities.

Understanding Access to water!

Joachim Ezeji

Water supply services has been defined (Van Koppen, 2006) as the provision of water of a given quality and quantity with a given reliability at a given time. This definition emphasizes the outputs; what people receive, rather than the inputs: the hardware (or technology, or schemes; all used interchangeably) and the software (skills, capacities and institutions required to manage hardware and water resources) that are implied in terms such as “water supply system” or “irrigation scheme”.
According to Van Koppen (2006; 19) a water service should have the following three features in order to effect multiple uses; A service should be reliable and constant or, for seasonal uses, predictable. A service implies the existence of (public, private or, more commonly, combined) service providers, and service users; and of agreed or formalized relationships between them. It also implies specialization and separation of roles, responsibilities and relationships among a range of actors from the national to the local level.
There are a wide range of functions necessary to ensure that a service is sustainable, and an equally wide range of actors (government, NGOs, CBOs, private companies, ranging from an individual village bailiff to a large water company or utility) who may take on some or all of these roles.
A survey of access to water and sanitation in 37 small towns (one per state) done in 1997 by Federal Ministry of Water Resources Nigeria in preparation of their National Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (STWSSP), reveals that no more than 5% of the Nigerian population access water from protected boreholes while 13% used water from communal wells.
The small towns have been largely ignored by the SWAs, and the gap is filled by private, informal arrangements such as tankers, privately-owned wells, and hand-carried water containers where residents of these small towns end up paying unit rates for water which is 10 to 20 times higher than those with access to public sector services.
For example, charges in small towns in Akwa Ibom and Imo States, Nigeria range from 1000 to 2500 Naira/m3, compared to about 41 Naira/m3 charged by the water utility in Lagos city. Health implications of water supply deficiencies in parts of Nigeria are enormous. As the percentage of people with access to safe water in the country is low, and the country is relatively densely populated, the direct health repercussion the situation imposes, especially on children, is often underestimated.
Improving water supply infrastructure will help improve the social well-being of the population directly. From an economic policy and strategic standpoint, it is unlikely that any other sector could have a larger, more substantial, and immediate impact on poverty reduction in Nigeria. If the ultimate and final objective of poverty reduction is to be achieved, the water sector will need to be the driving force of these changes. Not lessening the importance of any other sectoral investments, the consequences of a substantial increase in water supply investment on widespread water borne mortality and morbidity, is likely to be significant.
According to the WHO/UNICEF JMP Report 2008; 87 per cent of the world’s current population uses drinking water from improved sources. Out of this total figure; 54 per cent uses a piped connection in their dwelling, plot or yard, and 33 per cent uses other improved drinking water sources. This translates into 5.7 billion people worldwide who are now using drinking water from an improved source, an increase of 1.6 billion since 1990. About 3.6 billion people use a piped connection that provides running water in or near their homes.

However, estimates for 2006 as reported in this report show that the population reliant on unimproved drinking water sources is below one billion, and now stands at 884 million. Improved drinking water coverage in sub-Saharan Africa is still considerably lower than in other regions. Nevertheless, it has increased from 49 per cent in 1990 to 58 per cent in 2006, which means that an additional 207 million Africans are now using safe drinking water while 42 per cent are using unsafe or unimproved water sources.
The world is on track to meet
Unimproved drinking water sources according to the JMP include; unprotected dug well, unprotected spring,cart with small tank/drum, tanker truck, and surface water (river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal, irrigation channels),and bottled water etc while other improved drinking water sources include Public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection. Piped water on premises i.e. piped household water connection located inside the user’s dwelling; plot or yard is described as most improved by JMP by virtue of its position on the JMP 2008 drinking water ladder. Water is divided into three categories, which are illustrated in the form of a ‘drinking water ladder’ similar to that developed for sanitation.

The category ‘improved drinking water sources’ includes sources that, by nature of their construction or through active intervention, are protected from outside contamination, particularly faecal matter. These include piped water in a dwelling, plot or yard, and other improved sources.

However and beyond all these concerns, are other concerns of Accessibility, Affordability and Sufficiency of water. According to the UNHABITAT as quoted by Alabaster (2008); Accessibility means obtaining water by the households without taking undue proportion of the household’s time (less than one hour a day) for the minimum sufficient quantity of at least 20 liters per person per day. Affordability means water not taking undue proportion of a household’s income i.e. less than 10 percent. Sufficiency means water being available at a quantity of at least 20 liters per person per day.

Therefore, a household have access to improved water sources if it has sufficient amount of water for family use, at an affordable price, available to household members without being subject to excessive physical effort and time. According to Alabaster (2008); access to water decreases when quantity, cost and burden of fetching water is considered.

This was corroborated by the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of WHO/UNICEF 2008 report which notes that when drinking water is not available in the home or close to it, the time taken to collect water (that is, to go to the source, stand in line, fill water containers and return home) is critical in determining whether a household can obtain enough water for drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.

JMP 2008 further underscores that studies have found that if the time spent collecting drinking water is between 3 and 30 minutes, the amount collected is fairly constant and suitable to meet basic needs – defined as between 15 and 25 liters per person per day. However, if the total time taken per round trip exceeds 30 minutes, people tend to collect less water, thus compromising their basic drinking water needs.

The JMP 2008 also notes that the MDG indicator does not include a measure for time taken to collect water. However, some argue that, because it is a factor in drinking water use, the time needed to collect water should be considered when determining whether a source is ‘improved’ or not. Data from 35 recent household surveys show that 18 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa relies on an improved drinking water source that is more than 30 minutes away.

Joachim Ezeji named Watson Scholar 2009

Joachim Ezeji named Watson Scholar 2009

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji, has been appointed to work with Brown University professors and undergraduates under the auspices of the Watson International Scholars of the Environment Program, a mid-career training program.

Mr. Ezeji, a social enterpreneuer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian NGO- Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP) has already arrived Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island USA to assume the role. Other African scholars so honoured include; Kawsu Jammeh (Gambia), Cyrille Ngouana Kengne (Cameroon), Gaudensia Aomo Owino (Kenya), Hilary Kakamwesiga (Uganda), Mwangi Githiru (Kenya), Susan Keitumetse (Botswana), Oluseun Sunday Olubode (Nigeria), and Jane Nagayi Kalule Yawe (Uganda).

According to Brown Associate Professor of History Nancy Jacobs, the 2009 Watson scholar’s program’s comparative focus capitalizes on the broad range of expertise of these scholars and creates opportunities to forge a network with both African and American environmental leaders which will enable these Watson Scholars to apply strategies practiced elsewhere to their home countries.

‘’The global problems of climate change and resource scarcity have unique implications in a continent with Africa’s political, economic, and cultural history’’ Jacob said. Historical study can improve understanding of environmental problems and ways to address them. Ultimately, stepping back and adopting a historical perspective will help the Watson Scholars understand why some individuals in Africa have resisted environmental education and research. Program participants will in turn be better prepared to confront barriers to implementation of environmental programs, Jacob said, adding that ‘’history can help them understand everyone’s stake.

Mr. Ezeji, a member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and the Society Exploration Geophysicist (SEG), has a Master of Science degree in Water and Environmental Management from Loughborough University, UK and a Bachelors in Geology. He is currently doing a research in climate change adaptation in the water supply services and food security .

In tacit support of ASUU

I still remember my days at the University of Calabar between 1993 and 1997. I remember those day just like yesterday. That period was one of the periods with overbearing incidents of the Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities Union (ASUU) strikes.

Then, names such as Dr. Attahiru Jega, Prof Ben Nwabueze, Dr Iyorchia Ayu and General Abacha were common and synonymous with strikes of those days. While Dr. Jega and Dr Iyorchia Ayu were at different times National Presidents of ASUU; Professor Nwabueze was the Education Minister.

At some point the Universities were shut for almost one academic year because of the intransigence of the Federal Government (FG). While the students’ lost a whole academic year, critical learning facilities in the universities were vandalised and looted, and ASUU members were bullied and some were out rightly sacked. Some of the lecturers that had the means left the system.

The government promoted the propaganda that ASUU was unkind to suffering students hence whipping up sentiments amongst parents. Yet, the same government was unable to address the remote cause of the strikes as the strikes came in series in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996. If it was not ASUU; it would be NASU or a combination of the two.

Why have ASUU strikes refused to go away? Counting from 1993, it is well over 10 years, yet the situation and circumstances that give rise to these nauseating strikes are still endemic, why? Then, people had the illusion that those issues persisted because of the intransigence of the ruling military junta. Today, the raw deal from politicians baffles all and tends to make less heinous the evil deeds of the military. So, why ASUU strike in a democracy?

Perhaps, the problem persists because the government does not understand the critical role of universities in governance or that politicians learnt nothing from events of the 1990’s.Tail or head, the central matter in this whole ASUU-FG debacle is the Nigerian University. The sole casualty is the university and all that it represents. There could be related casualties, and these are the students, parents, academic staff of universities and small scale businesses that operate or rely on the running of the universities to thrive.

People or groups who argue that ASUU should return to classrooms for the sake of Nigerian students are either ignorant of the core issues or are simply being mischievous. It should be noted that students, though cardinal components of the universities are dependent on the system to a greater extent than the system on them. If the system is ill-equipped or malfunctioning, it tells on the students.

I am of the view that two principal forces are often at play in every university, and these are the financier (government, the private sector and donors etc ), and the driver(the lecturers and the administrators). No doubt, students are also players but they are not principal players as they neither fund the system nor run it. Students are merely recipients of knowledge and are in most cases on transit. Students hardly influences the system but the system does influence the students; a case of ‘’soldier come, soldier go, barrack remains’’ . The resilience of the barrack to meet the all time demands of the soldiers is now the issue.

Globally, great universities such as the Ivy leagues universities in the USA, despite the high tuition paid by their students rely on far greater extent on external funds from the private sector and the government to thrive. Students’ tuition is incapable of carrying any university. So, raising tuition in Nigerian universities is incapable of solving the problem.

Therefore, when the kernel of the matter is deferred in order to allow students to just attend overcrowded lectures in poorly ventilated and hot lecture halls or for groups and sets of students to enrol into or graduate from universities, greater harm is being unleashed on the university.

It is this scenario that have kept Nigerian universities in this sorry pass of strikes upon strikes over the years. Often, parents are just too selfish to have their wards to just get on with the situation and graduate. The same applies to the students, who often want to graduate and be free from the system. By so doing, the cycle continues thus exacerbating the rot .Even at that where are the students graduating into; a hapless and frustrating Nigerian society.

Those who lampoon ASUU should bother to link or trace the remote cause of so much unemployment and the do or die jingo of securing a job to this creeping national problem we have in Nigerian universities. But, if Nigerians needs to be reminded; unemployment in Nigeria to a large extent reflect the rot in the Nigerian universities.

As at today, most Nigerian graduates lack basic skills such as those in computer use, essay writing, PowerPoint presentations and even poster design or how to use the GIS or GPS etc. Conversely, these are common skills in universities elsewhere where the system works. Fix the Nigerian university system and see the reflection on the larger society.

To a large extent, I am of the thinking that Nigerian government, both the federal and state are not really ready to own and run universities. If the government is not keen to make the basic commitment to enable the proper functioning of the universities, then let the government withdraw and allow those who can to take over. But Nigerians should not allow the government to do that. It behoves Nigerians to make the government become responsible and meet the challenge. If the Nigerian government must continue to reap the benefits of our common resources and our loyalty as citizens, it must rise to the occasion and become responsible. Nigerian universities must be well funded and supported to contribute to national growth and development with our common resources such as the revenue from oil and gas.

A government that recognises the critical role of universities in national development should not be evasive on issues that affects the universities. Education is a social mobility that particularly gives confidence and future to the poor. It therefore smacks of arrogance on the part of the Nigerian Federal Government to insist that it has yielded enough to ASUU and that it can’t yield any further. That is arrant stupidity!

The Federal Government should show commitment to national development by signing the agreement it has already reached with ASUU without any further prevarication or the flimsy excuse that Nigeria is a Federation hence its’ wish not to bind states into any agreement. The result being that ASUU should sign such agreement with its employers or states. That again, is arrant stupidity and chicanery.

I say so because of just one reason; Why does the FG have bodies such as the National Universities Commission (NUC) that accredits and certificates universities?; and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) that controls admissions into all Universities in Nigeria? If Nigeria is truly a federation or practices federalism; states should be allowed to run universities without federal structures such as NUC and JAMB; both of which are national institutions whose functions impinges on the so called principle of federalism.

Yes, education is on the concurrent list of the so called Nigerian constitution, and the interest of the FG renders those of states invalid in any collision, hence I am of the opinion that the FG should go the extra mile and show leadership by setting the standard in the sector by not only signing the agreement it has reached with ASUU but use the opportunity to revive the Nigerian university system.

The benefits accruable in a well funded and administered university system in Nigeria is great. Researches being carried out in universities should be made a major plank of planning in the country. Setting up universities merely for graduating and awarding certificates to students without bothering to develop an interplay between political governance, policy formulation and university research diminishes the role of universities in national development.

Nobody eats his cake and still expects to still have it. Only fools plant oranges and expect to reap tomatoes. The FG should desist from sowing the whirlwind because it is often destructive. The current debacle from all perspectives is not really for ASUU, it is for the soul of the Nigerian state and as a result deserves the support of everybody if corruption, ineptitude and ignorance as well as other social vices already endemic are to be exterminated.