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Taka Taka Tactics

by Community Forests International on December 16, 2010

Compost in a Pail

Compost in a Pail

Red, yellow and green pails full of provision peels, fruit rinds, egg shells, fish bones and other miscellaneous scraps (all locally known as taka taka) marked the beginning of the Chasasa nursery compost program. Within one week we have managed to form three heaps, which will turn into nutrient rich soil to be used by the Chasasa community.

The program aims to gather enough compost to boost the soil quality for nursery seedlings. Additionally, it will be used to build the soil in the adjacent garden where cash crops are grown and shared collectively amongst nursery members. Presently the fields are bare, having been recently harvested they've lost most of their nutrients and biota due to hot dry days and infrequent short duration heavy rains. Teaching the community about decomposition will also enhance their skills at fuel briquette production, which requires a partial decomposition of plant materials.

Mixing it up

The strategy for collection was discussed with community members who decided that it would be best if they brought taka taka from their homes. To increase supply they plan to inform their neighbors and friends about the program and let it snowball in the community over time. Given that the average amount brought each day is an entire bucket’s worth from each household, the members alone should be able to support this program. We do hope that other people in the community will either participate in Chasasa's program or start composting for their own fields. Composting does not seem to be common practice on Pemba on small farms, most people using chicken manure for fertilizer and shifting rotation when the field is depleted of nutrients and biota.

The heaps are designed following a strategy recommended by CFI home office decomposition guru Estelle Drisdelle, who recommended digging a whole and placing a stick lattice in the bottom to encourage air circulation at the bottom of the pile. The piles are layered with brown plant material (mainly mango leaves) and kitchen scraps. To achieve the 30:1 carbon to nitrogen balance in compost it is recommended that the heap be 50% brown and 50% green so when kitchen scraps are mainly brown, we add green from the leaves of vegetation surrounding the heap. The heaps are watered once a day and are already wriggling with maggots, centipedes, millipedes and other interesting life forms after only four days....the East African compost biota has certainly got everyone squirming.

Bringing life back into the soil and doing it collectively has been a great experience for the interns who are anxious to see and use the final product. Stay tuned!

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