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Five innovations that boost soil fertility

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3. Using Wastewater for Irrigation: As urban areas grow in developing countries, residents and governments are struggling to find ways to properly dispose of sewage and waste water.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization notes that wastewater contains most of the essential elements of fertilizer in the proper amounts. Effective treatment and application of wastewater could dually contribute to healthier urban areas and provide vital, organic fertilizer to rural areas.

Wastewater Irrigation in Action: Using effluent wastewater as an agricultural fertilizer could be an easy way for farmers, especially in cities, to fertilize their crops; but it can be risky. As Pay Drechsel wrote in State of the World 2011, “In Ghana and surrounding areas, polluted stream water is often used to irrigate vegetable crops. The problem is that the water often contains biological and chemical substances that are harmful to human health.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, however, recently announced a program that may make this a more practical option for farmers. The foundation will be spending $42 million in sanitation grants over the next few years to “reinvent the toilet.” The hope is that this money will help build better human waste infrastructure in urban areas, promote improved sanitation, and effectively capture the wastewater for use in energy and fertilizer.

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