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The Humanure Handbook

And that is what you can gain from the Jenkins book. He takes our fears – smell, disease, mess, complexity, behavioural change etc- one by one and sorts them out. He sets up a deep perspective on what our responsibility should be to the earth as humans. Are we doing the right thing by the planet as the other life forms are doing? Or are we humans the pathogens that are endangering the web of life?

Jenkins says: “composting is an act of humility…. Humanure composters can stand under the stars at night gazing at the heavens, and know that, when nature calls their excretions will not foul the planet. Instead, those excretions are humbly collected, fed to microoganisms and returned to earth as healing medicine of the soil.”

As you read you get practical lessons on how to compost, gain a new appreciation for composted humanure and realise what material profits you stand to gain by composting your excrement. “Agricultural land must produce a greater output over time,” says Jenkins. For that, one must nurture the soil by returning everything that once lived, after taking what we need. Humanure is one such thing. It is full of beneficial life.

This book should be essential reading. No one wanted to touch the manuscript when Jenkins searched for a publisher; after all the very word is anathema to many. He published it himself because of his convictions. It is a runaway success. It is in it’s third edition. It is available free as an eBook but I hope you will buy a hardcopy as a tribute to this caring friend of the earth. Click here

At pointReturn we take our lavatory behaviour seriously. From a two pit latrine that needed very little water to flush it, we have progressed to a urine diverting composting toilet. There have been no traumas in using it; instead, a great satisfaction that we are doing the right thing. The practice belongs right up there with living off-grid; we are off-sewers as well. Our explorations continue. We are fascinated to learn what a tremendous impact that this small change is having on our soil- first, it is not polluted; then it is enriched. We live like all life forms do: by connections.

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8 comments on The Humanure Handbook
  • Ashis Basu

    India is a country with 5 billion people, animals and other animate species. If all the ‘shit-dung’ can be properly explioted as energy and fertiliser etc, we won’t have to depend on and kow-tow to any oil-producing country. In fact we will become an energy exporting country. WOW!

  • Debashis Ray

    Well China was not the only place that had a traditional use for human excrement. In Goa many traditional country houses had a toilet with a large horizontal opening. The excrement would pass out to a pig sty, where domestic pigs would clean up the muck almost as soon as discharged. No septic tanks to maintain, no labor of composting, and free food for the pigs which could later be slaughtered for meat, thus completing the cycle. If one’s not apalled, and hygiene is not critical, this system of excrement disposal was hard to beat!
    If you find this hard to believe, just do a google search on ‘pig toilet’ and see for yourself.

  • pointR

    the difficulties with humanure begin in the head. one must first accept it as a valuable resource and not a waste to be ‘managed’. engineering issues of user friendly, clean toilet design are really very trivial


    ok with humanure. But how will we be able to solve the problem of producing and storing it, and keeping the environment clean at the same time in a city.

  • pointR

    indeed, yes; nature will strike a balance. in this instance, with emerging shortages of flush water and fuel for sewage works and landfill trucks, the balance will be striven for by spread of pathogens and disease. composting humanure locally and intelligently will free the load on resources and create a new, valuable one

  • sometimes, i feel like we are overdoing it. landfill or not, nature will have a way to set the balance – i would hope. no?

  • pointR

    hi nisha and raghu…
    you may have narrowly missed karpagam and sriram visiting the same places within days of your visit. they have returned very inspired

  • Hello again,

    It is a coincidence that we just returned from a retreat at Environment Sanitation Institute in Sugad, Ahmedabad. ESI was created by Padmashri Ishwarbhai Patel an ex-president of Harijan Sevak Sangh that Gandhi started. They have a variety of humanure technologies and teaching aids (which they gifted to us on our return). Let us know if we could help you with eco-sanitation in any way. You should also visit ESI if you can make time to know the technologies they have and also meet with one of our mentors, Jayeshbhai who runs Manav Sadhna at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahemedabad (and is the son of Ishwarbhai Patel).

    Ragu, Nisha





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