Tag Archives: Terra Preta sanitation

1st International Conference on Terra Preta Sanitation, Hamburg, Germany, 29-30 August 2013

Terra Preta soil

Terra Preta soil. Photo: TUHH

This conference brings together experts from different sectors – water/sanitation, agriculture, soil, energy and health – to share experiences in the new field of Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS). TPS is being promoted as integrated sustainable solution to address poor sanitation, food insecurity, and soil degradation. It is inspired by the discovery of the anthropogenic ancient soils in the Amazon called Terra Preta.

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Terra Preta sanitation: re-discovered from an ancient Amazonian civilisation

Ecosan researchers have found inspiration in the Pre-Columbian black soil (Terra Preta) of the Amazon Basin for “the re-creation of the most successful sanitation system ever”. They will share their enthusiasm in the 1st Workshop on Terra Preta Sanitation with up to 60 participants from 27-30 September 2010 in Groß Ippener (near Bremen), Germany.

The recent discovery of the bio-waste and excreta treatment of a former civilisation in the Amazon reveals the possibility of a highly efficient and simple sanitation system. With the end product that was black soil they converted 10% of former infertile soil of the region into excellent land: Terra Preta do Indio (black soil of the Indians). These soils are still very fertile 500 years after this civilisation has disappeared. Deriving from these concepts, Terra Petra Sanitation (TPS) is in re-development [from the Workshop brochure].

Terra preta soils made by sanitation (adapted from Guenther 2007)

The 3-day Workshop is organised by the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection, of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). Besides presentations, discussions and hands-on-work, the organisers promise that there “will be sufficient time for walking, jogging, music (bring your instruments!) or meditation”.

Resource persons are Prof. Dr. Ralf Otterpohl (TUHH), Dr. Jürgen Reckin (10 years of experience with Terra Preta and one of the wold’s best experts in garden plant varieties), Christopher Buzie (years of research in ecological sanitation and vermicomposting, networker in West Africa, TUHH), Torsten Bettendorf and Horacio Factura (Terra Preta Sanitation researchers at TUHH).

Prof Otterpohl and his colleagues have recently published an article on TPS:

Factura, H. … [et al.] , Bettendorf, T., Buzie, C, Pieplow H, Reckin J, Otterpohl R. (2010). Terra Preta sanitation : re-discovered from an ancient Amazonian civilisation : integrating sanitation, bio-waste management and agriculture. Water science and technology ; vol. 61, no. 10 ; p. 2673-2679. doi:10.2166/wst.2010.201

TPS includes urine diversion, addition of a charcoal mixture and is based on lactic-acid-fermentation with subsequent vermicomposting. No water, ventilation or external energy is required. Natural formation processes are employed to transform excreta into lasting fertile soil that can be utilised in urban agriculture. The authors studied the lacto-fermentation of faecal matter with a minimum of 4 weeks followed by vermicomposting. The results showed that lactic-acid fermentation with addition of a charcoal mixture is a suitable option for dry toilets as the container can be closed after usage. Hardly any odour occured even after periods of several weeks. Lactic-acid fermentation alone without addition of bulking agents such as paper and sliced-cut wood to raise the C/N ratio is creating a substrate that is not accepted by worms. [from the abstract]

See also a Powerpoint presentation by Prof. Otterpohl on Terra Petra Sanitation.

Download the Workshop brochure