RUNRES to establish value chain & waste management in Arba Minch

AMU’s one of the big-ticket overseas projects - ‘The Rural-Urban Nexus: Establishing a nutrient loop to improve city region food system resilience’ – RUNRES, having just kicked off saw all of its partners and stakeholders cudgeling brains to identify and glean concrete opportunities available on ground so that they can collectively press the start button of this 8-year-long social endeavor.

In the sidelines of kick-off meeting, ETH Zurich’s core team has exemplified the rationale of project, its significance and how it’s going to benefit Arba Minch communities; following is the full text of story.

The key player of this venture from ETH Zurich, Prof Johan Six, who leads the group of Sustainable Agro-eco Systems is the direct link with Swiss Development Cooperation; an environmentalist, Pius Kruetli, Co-Director of Trans-disciplinary Life in System Science, Post-Doc scholar, Dr Leonhard Spath and doctoral scholar, Mr Ben Wilde are on this bandwagon to ensure that this social endeavor comfortably rolls on.

Prof Johan informed that SDC is running RUNRES in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa is determined to establish circular economy based on nutrient recycling. And herein, we expect public-private sector partnership and scientist to develop value chain from rural-to-urban and urban-to--rural based on recycling of waste.

Justifying partners selection, he adds, partners were chosen as we had working relationship with them and wanted smaller cities to work with that have connection with rural population around; while big cities would have required more resources. The total budget of this project is 4 Million Swiss Franc equally divided among all partners. He emphasized that Arba Minch has quite a bit of possibility as it had experience with sanitation and recycling and there are some enterprises ready to do things, that’s why, we have chosen it for new innovation.

Further, he said, we are talking to stakeholders, who are identifying what are the real challenges and opportunities to be exploited and which innovation should be best for circular economy. In RUNRES, we are interested in human, organic waste and turning them into fertilizer, nitrified urine, etc. but at the end, it’s stakeholders who would decide what and how they want to bottom up the project.

He agreed that project might encounter challenges and obviously in Arba Minch, he said, we have to deal with issues such as sanitation and housing, which aren’t done very well, organic and other waste aren’t collected properly. Likewise, a stakeholder is working on banana flower, for which they must develop market and we will help them.

Environmentalist Pius Kruetli is there to organize interaction between different groups, said, traditionally, science works linearly; if there is a problem, there is a methodology; we analyze and at the end produce report and hand it over. And history tells us that it doesn’t work; because policy-makers and stakeholders will ignore it for they weren’t part of the process. And in RUNRES, we want those, who have interest and expertise in food value chain, waste management, processing, etc. will be functionally involved, so we need to understand why these stakeholders are there in the project, he added.

Explaining further, he adds that, therefore, at the outset, we have to have decision-makers and those who have expertise that can be changed at later stage when we need to demonstrate pilot project to the local people. So at the inception, we will have different people involved to create an ownership. Those who are processing banana, if you ignore them in the beginning, it will be too late, now we are into the learning process, first to learn from each other and see where is the link, he quipped.

Sounding caution, he said, environmental scientist is here to warn when land is mined sans thinking what will happen in 10 years; then probably, we ignore the issue, and when we apply artificial fertilizer, it can make different species disappear and when pesticides are over-applied it would dramatically degrade our nature. Hence, we need to see link between environment, production, economics and marketing that’s what missing and we should learn to think systemically and not to go on one specific aspect and ignoring all the rest.

The role of a social scientist, Dr Leonhard Spath, is to establish coordination between local players across the board involving all four partners and evolve synergy between them. He said adding that I will focus on social aspect, initially, we are discussing what kind of innovation they want to put together, and this process has to be structured, especially, when people come together with different perspectives. Although, there will be many challenges, I am very optimistic that it will work. Mr Ben Wilde helped people in identifying their respective expertise using Venn Diagram.

(Corporate Communications Directorate)