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Linking energy-sanitation-agriculture: Intersectional resource management in smallholder households in Tanzania

In order to create sustainable systems for resource management, residues from cooking and ecological sanitation (EcoSan) can be employed in recycling-driven soil fertility management. However, the link between energy, sanitation, and agricultural productivity is often neglected. Hence, the potential self-sufficient nature of many smallholdings in sub-Saharan Africa is underexploited.


To compare those cooking and sanitation technologies most commonly used in north-western Tanzania with locally developed alternatives, with respect to (i) resource consumption, (ii) potential to recover resources, and (iii) environmental emissions. This study examines technologies at the household level, and was carried out using material flow analysis (MFA). The specific bioenergy technologies analysed include: three-stone fires; charcoal burners; improved cooking stoves (ICS), such as rocket and microgasifier stoves; and biogas systems. The specific sanitation alternatives studied comprise: pit latrines; two approaches to EcoSan; and septic systems.


The use of ICS reduces total resource consumption; using charcoal or biogas does not. The residues from microgasifiers were analysed as having a substantial recovery potential for carbon (C) and phosphorus (P). The fact that input substrates for biogas digesters are post-agricultural in nature means that biogas slurry is not considered an ‚untapped resource‘ despite its ample nutrient content. Exchanging pit latrines for water-based sanitation systems places heavy pressure on already scarce water resources for local smallholders. In contrast, the implementation of waterless EcoSan facilities significantly promotes nutrient recovery and reduces environmental emissions, particularly through greenhouse gas emission and nutrient leaching.


Recycled outputs from the triple energy-sanitation-agriculture nexus display complementary benefits: residues from cooking can be used to restore organic matter in soils, while sanitation residues contribute to fertilisation. The combination of microgasifiers and EcoSan-facilities is the most appropriate in order to simultaneously optimise resource consumption, reduce environmental impacts, and maximise recycling-based soil management in smallholder farming systems.

Krause, A.; Rotter, V.S. 2017. Linking energy-sanitation-agriculture: Intersectional resource management in smallholder households in Tanzania. Science of the Total Environment 59, 514-530.