The International Water Management Institute(IWMI) has this week, at the Stockholm Water Week, released a report on a study they conducted based on “case studies from 53 cities in developing nations examining where wastewater was being generated, how much was being used in urban agriculture, and to what degree the water was being treated“[BBC website]. The study resulted in a number of interesting findings about both positive and negative effects of wastewater use in (urban) agriculture).

This has been covered by a number of news agencies including the BBC website article.

This study has also identified a number of practices which can help to alleviate the negative effects often incurred in wastewater use for farmers, caterers and others who are involved.

It is really just about minimising the risks from field to fork with a series of simple measures,” Dr Chartres explained. “[These include] letting the water settle in a pond, so a lot of the eggs from worms drop out of the water, and irrigating around the crops rather than on top of them.When the crop is harvested, it also needs to be washed with fresh, clean water in the market, and that water needs to be constantly changed so everything else is not contaminated.” [Taken from article on BBC website]

What this highlights therefore is that research such as this generates valuable knowledge which is required for informing and changing behaviour, practices and policies. In order for the research to influence these things and have an impact it must consider and work on the necessary next steps to get these messages out and knowledge about such practices into the hands of those who are using wastewater or handling products which are derived from wastewater irrigated agriculture. This may involve working directly with farmers or others using wastewater but may also involve equipping other intervention agents, such as extension officers, NGOs etc, with the right information and tools to work with communities directly.

How can we get key outcomes and impacts from this kind of research?

This is something that the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project is working on. Based on findings from wastewater research projects conducted in urban areas in Ghana, the Pilot Project has been using knowledge sharing approaches in these research projects to:

  • better consult with, learn from and collaborate with various actors and stakeholders about the situation on the ground including the complexity and issues around wastewater use in agriculture (using Stakeholder meetings)
  • understand the adoption potential of various messages and practices being promoted from the research findings (using World Cafe approach)
  • disseminate research findings and messages about practices in appropriate and useful ways to the target groups intended (using flip charts, training and awareness videos, radio programs, etc)

Many of these efforts have been successful and efforts are continuing in trying to find ways which can better improve the impact of this valuable wastewater research.