Posts Tagged ‘Compost’

Jan28

“The Man Who Stopped the Desert”: What Yacouba Did Next

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By Devon Ericksen

In the documentary film, “The Man Who Stopped the Desert,” a farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo struggles to maintain his livelihood in the increasingly harsh land of northern Burkina Faso. Part of Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region, Burkina Faso has suffered from desertification as over-farming, overgrazing, and overpopulation resulted in heavy soil erosion and drying. Desertification has affected many countries in the Sahel, including Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Chad.

Yacouba Sawadogo has worked for more than 30 years to reverse desertification in the Sahel. (Photo credit: 1080 Film)

In 1980, Yacouba decided to fight the desert’s spread by reviving an ancient farming technique called zai, which led to forest growth and increased soil quality. Zai is a very simple and low-cost method, involving using a shovel or axe to break up the ground and dig small holes, which are then filled with compost and planted with seeds of trees, millet, or sorghum. The holes or pits catch water during the rainy season and, when filled with compost, retain moisture and nutrients through the dry season.

Yacouba’s story attracted international attention when Mark Dodd of 1080 Films created the documentary in 2010, and the African farmer has since told his story around the world, including at an October 2012 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) meeting in South Korea. 1080 Films recently released a short follow-up film about Yacouba’s life since the original film, called “What Yacouba Did Next…,” describing what Yacouba has done since the film’s release and giving an idea of the respect he has received from the international community.

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Oct13

Saturday Series: An Interview with Gigi Pomerantz

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By Lee Davies

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Gigi Pomerantz (Photo Credit: Linda Sechrist)

Name: Gigi Pomerantz

Affiliation: Youthaiti

Bio: Gigi Pomerantz is the executive director of Youthaiti, a nonprofit promoting ecological sanitation in Haiti. Ms. Pomerantz founded the organization in 2008.

Why did you begin work in Haiti? And what led you to focus on sanitation?

My work in Haiti began in 2006 when I traveled on a medical mission to the rural village of Duchity in Grand’Anse. During our first day there we met with local teachers, health agents, and the one physician who lived in the village to do a ‘health needs assessment.’ They listed sanitation as one of their top five priorities for improving health.

For the next five days we saw 1,400 patients and treated every single one for intestinal worms and at least 50 percent for other gastrointestinal problems, including a lot of diarrhea. It became clear to me that this need was real. As a nurse practitioner, my focus has always been on prevention, and sanitation is prevention at its most basic level. Prevent the water that you drink from becoming contaminated, and you save the lives of millions of children who die from childhood diarrhea.

After the completion of Youthaiti’s projects, how will communities continue these sanitation programs?

We are introducing several methods of ecological sanitation that should be sustainable for even the poorest of the poor. Currently we encourage two methods of household sanitation: the Arborloo shallow pit composting latrine, and the Humanure bucket toilet. An Arborloo costs about $60 to construct with a concrete squat plate and a movable shelter. A Humanure bucket toilet could cost as little as $2.50 if they just squat over it, or $15 with a toilet seat. Both methods create compost. Arborloos compost directly in the ground, where a tree can be planted. Humanure toilets provide humanure, which can triple or quadruple garden yields and increase family income.

We also have built 17 community urine-diverting toilets to serve schools and other gather places, such as markets and bus stops.

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Sep20

Innovation of the Week: Gathering Waste and Making Good of It

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By Jeffrey Lamoureux

In most of the world’s slums, sanitation is a daily challenge. In the absence of sewage systems, people living in slums in Nairobi, Kolkata and São Paulo rely on rows of pit latrines shared by hundreds of other people, while others use “flying toilets” to dispose of waste. Disease and infection spreads easily in such environments.

Sanergy units can be built quickly and easily with affordable materials (Photo Credit: Sanergy)

But some social entrepreneurs in Nairobi are picking up where the government has left off and attempting to provide sanitary options to the slums. Sanergy, for example, is a company launched by a group of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management. The group has designed low-profile sanitation centers that can be constructed anywhere to provide hot showers and clean toilets. These facilities can be built quickly and easily with affordable materials. Waste from the centers is deposited into airtight containers that are collected daily. Then it’s brought to processing facilities that can convert it into biogas. The biogas generates electricity, while the leftover material is made into fertilizer.

The company won a USD $100,000 grant from MIT and has been building its first units in Nairobi. It charges a low pay-per-use fee and hopes to grow by franchising the operation of its units, creating an income opportunity for enterprising residents. As the number of toilets proliferates, so too will the amount of energy the company is able to generate from its processing facilities. It hopes to eventually generate enough energy that it can sell its power to the national grid.

The company’s unique and innovative approach is notable for the way it combines the decentralization of waste collection with the centralization of waste processing. Retrofitting the slums with proper sewage drains is a near impossibility and can be an expensive and potentially politically volatile effort in areas where landownership is at best ambiguous. The self-contained units grant access to sanitary facilities to even those far off the grid. But by centralizing the processing of waste, Sanergy’s facilities will take advantage of the economies of scale present in the waste conversion process.

By creating products of value out of the waste, the company creates an incentive for others to set up their own facilities in partnership with Sanergy. The company hopes that there may eventually be facilities on every neighborhood block, significantly increasing the number of people with access to clean sanitation. The energy generated through the waste production will be a clean option to power a growing economy, and the fertilizer is a nutrient-rich alternative to expensive petroleum based fertilizers.

Do you have any other examples of innovations that are addressing the problems of sanitation within urban slums? Share them with us in the comments below!

Jeffrey Lamoureux is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE.

Aug29

Rot Riders Collect Compost on Bikes

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By Eleanor Fausold

In Kirksville, Missouri, a group of college students and volunteers are collecting food scraps and making it easy for area residents to reduce their food waste, nourish their gardens, and even fight climate change. The group, The Rot Riders, travels by bicycle through the neighborhoods of Kirksville, picks up food scraps from residents’ homes, and delivers them to the Truman University Farm, where they are turned into compost and made available for community members to use as natural fertilizer.

The Rot Riders collect compost by bicycle. (Image Credit: Rot Riders)

The founders of The Rot Riders were originally inspired by a Northampton, Massachusetts group called Pedal People, a worker-owned cooperative that delivers farm shares and picks up trash, recycling and compost from people’s homes, all by bicycle. The Rot Riders concept was developed as part of a student-led grassroots environmentalism course at Truman State University, and the group has been making weekly rounds since the spring of 2010.

The group is composed of five core riders and a few volunteers. On Sunday afternoons, the riders gather, split up into pairs, divide the route, and set off on bicycles, trailers in tow, to collect food scraps in Kirksville. The cyclists stop and collect buckets of food waste from the lawns and porches of more than 40 houses and apartments in the Kirksville area, and the number of donors continues to grow.

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Aug25

Saturday Series: An Interview with Sasha Kramer

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By Olivia Arnow

Name: Sasha Kramer

Affiliation: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL)

Location: Cap-Haitien, Haiti

SOIL provides ecological toilets and transforms waste into compost for reforestation and agriculture purposes in Haiti (Photo credit: Architects of the Future)

Bio: Kramer is the co-founder and executive director of SOIL, a nonprofit organization in Haiti dedicated to protecting soil resources by providing ecological sanitation services and turning human waste into nutrient-rich compost.

How did you found SOIL? Was your organization founded as a response to the 2010 earthquake?

I’ve been in Haiti since 2004 when I was finishing my doctoral research. With my work focusing on ecology and human rights, I came to realize that the most prevalent human rights abuse is the inaccessibility to basic services that we take for granted. I had a previous interest in toilets from a nutrient-cycle perspective so in 2006 we founded SOIL and our EcoSan initiative in Cap-Haitien. After the 2010 earthquake we expanded to Port-au-Prince.

What are some ways SOIL’s efforts have benefitted local agriculture?

Right now we’re in the beginning phases of distributing our compost to local farmers and thus far have used it in some small-scale gardens and in our very own experimental garden. Our blog highlights some of the crops we’ve harvested using our compost, like cabbage and corn. We want to show the community how to use it and how beneficial it can be before we market it on the larger scale.

We’re excited about potentially partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture and other organizations to make connections with Haitian farmers and distribute our compost. The average nitrogen use of Haitian soil is about 1 kilogram per hectare compared to 200 kilograms per hectare in the United States so we realize that small changes in the availability of nutrients in soil can have a profound impact on agriculture.

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Jan16

Going Green in 2012: 12 Steps for the Developing World

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Many of us are thinking about the changes we want to make this year. For some, these changes will be financial; for others, physical or spiritual. But for all of us, there are important resolutions we can make to “green” our lives. Although this is often a subject focused on by industrialized nations, people in developing countries can also take important steps to reduce their growing environmental impact.

By using biogas collection tanks, farmers in Rwanda are already helping to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“We in the developing world must embark on a more vigorous ‘going green’ program,” says Sue Edwards, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD). “As incomes rise and urbanization increases, a growing middle class must work with city planners to ensure our communities are sustainable.”

ISD’s Tigray Project recently received the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development 2011, shared with Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Since 1996, Tigray has worked to help Ethiopian farmers rehabilitate ecosystems, raise land productivity, and increase incomes through such practices as composting, biodiversity enhancement, the conservation of water and soil, and the empowerment of local communities to manage their own development.

Broadening sustainability efforts is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty. The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

Hunger, poverty, and climate change are issues that we in the developing world can help address. Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:

1.      Recycle:

Urbanization is on the rise throughout the developing world. According to the United Nations, the highest urban-area growth is 3.5 percent per year in Africa. But waste management is not keeping up with population growth. It is inefficient in urban areas and virtually nonexistent in rural areas, resulting in the pervasive unloading of waste in unmanaged dump sites and bodies of water and endangering public health. 

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Jan10

Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

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By Graham Salinger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.

1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.

Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.

2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.

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Dec28

Going Green: 12 Simple Steps for 2012

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As we head into 2012, many of us will be resolving to lose those few extra pounds, save more money, or spend a few more hours with our families and friends. But there are also some resolutions we can make to make our lives a little greener. Each of us, especially in the United States, can make a commitment to reducing our environmental impacts.

Here are 12 simple steps that you can take be more green in the new year. (Photo credit: Julie Carney, Gardens for Health International)

The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty.

Hunger, poverty, and climate change are issues that we can all help address. Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:

(1) Recycle

Recycling programs exist in cities and towns across the United States, helping to save energy and protect the environment. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require all homes and businesses to use recycling and composting collection programs. As a result, more than 75 percent of all material collected is being recycled, diverting 1.6 million tons from the landfills annually—double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for each pound of aluminum recovered, Americans save the energy resources necessary to generate roughly 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years!

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Nov24

What a waste: why now is the time to address our food waste problem

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By Graham Salinger                

Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, wants everyone to know that wasted food is a growing problem in the United States that impacts both food security and the environment. But he doesn’t want to beat people over the head with his appeal for people to stop wasting food.

In the United States more than 34 million tons of food is wasted annually. (Photo credit: Evan Sung, The New York Times)

His blog, Wasted Food, covers everything related to food waste- from the role that consumers and restaurants play – to productive ways that people can use every part of a vegetable. He even asks  his readers what their favorite food waste related songs are, his is the Black Lips’ Dumpster Dive. “In my blog I try not to be too heavy handed,” he explained in a recent interview. “I want to communicate to people that everyone has a role in reducing food waste so that I can spread the word and so that people who read the blog start changing their behavior, and hopefully their efforts start rubbing off on other people.”

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Nov15

What Works: Producing Food from Waste

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By Kim Kido

In sub-Saharan Africa where nearly a third of the population is hungry, over a quarter of food produced is lost to spoilage. And the hundreds of millions of livestock on the continent are responsible for degrading almost half of crop land on the continent, which makes up over one-third of overgrazed lands worldwide. But the uneaten food, manure, and other forms of waste are being used by farmers to produce fertilizer, fuel, and food.

Decorated compost piles in Malawi (Photo credit: Scott Gregory)

South Africa has been diverting organic matter from its landfills since 1969. About 2 percent of waste generated in Cape Town, and 15 percent in Johannesburg, is diverted through composting. In Johannesburg, compost sales were projected to completely offset production costs by 2006. Two other municipalities operate smaller scale composting facilities in the country. A project funded by the World Bank in Uganda has nine municipalities establishing composting plants.

Composting food waste relieves pressure on landfills while producing an inexpensive, nutrient-rich soil amendment that farmers use to improve soil fertility. Compost adds organic matter to the soil, increasing the water-holding capacity of its structure, facilitating root penetration, and making nutrients available to crops over time.

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