Environment/Life and Health/Civil Engineering and Architecture

Naoyuki Funamizu

Approaching the Poverty Problem in Terms of Water and Public Health

Naoyuki Funamizu , Professor

Faculty of Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering (Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, Department of Socio-Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering)

High school : Aomori Prefectural Ominato High School

Academic background : Graduate School of Engineering, Hokkaido University

Research areas
Sanitary Engineering
Research keywords
Sanitation, Recycling Society, Developing Country, Environmental Engineering

What is the Goal of Your Research?

Meeting with Village People of Burkina Faso
(Photo by Dr. Ito)

The eradication of poverty is a big issue in the world. I am working to halt the poverty spiral from the standpoint of engineering. Thirty-six percent of people in the world do not have access to proper sanitation. Most of them live in developing countries. I developed a sanitation system to maintain sanitary conditions by processing human waste and waste water. In particular, we are trying to increase the value of human waste and waste water, which can be used as a source of income. In other words, our goal is for the people living in developing countries to get out of the poverty spiral by growing agricultural crops using nutrients and the irrigation water obtained from a sanitation system, by creating an income, buying toilets using that money, improving the sanitary conditions and producing food. This research will also help send a message from Africa about the newest technology or system for establishing a recycling society, and it also will gives us hints about future problems in Japan, such as aging and the decline in population.


(Photo by Dr. Ushijima)

Which Country in Africa are You Conducting Field Research?

In Burkina Faso of West Africa, we are conducting joint research with the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE), which is the only university offering water and environmental studies in West Africa. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, where the GDP per person is around one dollar per day (around 100 dollars in Japan). Only 6 % of the people in the rural part have toilets, and the others relieve themselves in the outdoors. The mortality rate of the infants five years old or younger is very high at 176/1000, and one of the major sources of death is diarrhea. No electricity or water utilities exist in the rural area. We are developing technologies which can be used in this environment.



What Kind of Technology are You Developing?

The most difficult part is to “convince people, who have no idea about toilets, to want their own even if they have to pay for it.” There is no equivalent word for “toilet” in the local language. “Improving the sanitary conditions and decreasing the number of diseases” has no directly visible effect and therefore no appeal for them. We have decided to show the local people how human waste and waste water can be reused for agriculture. We have developed composting-type toilets that convert feces to compost and treatment units that reuse wastewater from washing and showers for irrigation water, and we have the local pilot families use them. In addition, we have examined and tested the agricultural technology in order to utilize the compost and human wastes efficiently. 
Feces and urine contain not only fertilizer elements, such as nitrogen and phosphorus but also unstable organic materials and pathogenic microbes. The essential part in developing these toilets is to decompose the organic materials using microorganisms, to kill (inactivate) the pathogenic microbes, and to produce safe compost. The waste water from washing or showering contains detergent ingredients which negatively impact the growth of crops. It is also important to decompose these compounds. In addition, how the compost and urine are used is another issue. Using urine as a fertilizer builds up the salt content in the soil, which ruins the agriculture. Therefore, we have developed a soil cleaning method to prevent the accumulation of salt.

Waste Water treatment unit with farm land and Toilet Introduced into the rural area of Burkina Faso
(Photo by Dr. Ushijima)


Progressing Toward a Common Goal in the World – A Message from Africa –

How much income is generated from agriculture which uses the human waste and wastewater that we produce daily? The answer in Burkina Faso is roughly twenty euro per person annually. We are investigating how we can create a business model using this income to introduce systems such as toilets.
It is a big responsibility for us to establish a recycling and sustainable society as an inhabitant of our planet. To us who live in the so-called developed countries, where a lot of energy and resources are consumed, the agro-sanitation which we are co-developing in Burkina Faso is the newest technology based on the new idea of Environment Symbiosis.  The people who live in Africa, unfortunately, cannot use the social infrastructures like the one in Japan. However, they will be able to use the latest technology and the social infrastructures based on the newest concepts. The activities we conduct in this joint research project must be a new endeavor progressing toward common goals for mankind.