This project was all about composting on our farm. Composting is an important process of recycling organic material on a farm. Compost improves soil properties, provides nutrients in a stable organic form, increases plant growth and health, helps to combat certain insects and pests, and conserves water. Similarly, mulching reduces weed germination, moderates soil temperature, and conserves water.
So, we wanted to incorporate as many sustainable and organic farming practices into our operation as possible. This is because sustainable farming is the only way to get the best use of the land, the best yield on crop growth, and the best way to repair the soil quality that the previous owner assumed.
The process of composting
We figured out a quick and easy way of composting. So, we decided to dig a big hole and fill it with fallen oranges, farm waste (manure from local poultry and livestock farms), and other organic matter such as dry leaves. This in return will help us recycle nutrients on the farm. Next, we chose a location for the pit and hired some laborers to start digging. We thought a 15’ × 15’ × 6’ deep hole would be sufficient for such a large farm with about 2500 orange trees. Also, we thought that this was not a very technical task and so we didn’t engage experts. In addition, we opted not to use an excavator for the locals to earn from this job as you can see in the image below.
As stated earlier, we did not engage experts at the initial stages of this project. But when the men dug the hole, we contacted a local officer from the local ministry of agriculture to help us locate manure and other inputs that we lacked on our site. When he saw the size of the pit, he wondered whether it was a compost pit or a swimming pool. It was too big, deep, and wouldn’t be appropriate because it was on the low part of the land and would collect water. So, we had to dig a smaller hole in a raised area to avoid much water collecting on it when it rains. A smaller pit will make it easier to turn and stay dry. Also, we had to limit the number of oranges that we put into the pit because of their high acidity levels. We took some time to fill the hole and so it was filled with water. So, we had to have people scoop it out.
Furthermore, we hired the locals to gather the organic materials on the site. The material included cocoa leaves, oranges, banana leaves, and the grasses we had cut. The workers also gather chicken, goat, cow dung, and other items to add to the compost.
We learned a lot from this project. For example, we now know how and when to do the composting and appreciate the importance of turning the compost regularly. Also, this project opened our minds to think of pond fish farming. In the future, we would like to have a pond to encourage the growth of fish, frogs, and water plants. We will use the compost manure as fertilizer for the newly planted crops including coconuts. The rest will be spread on areas where the topsoil was depleted to help rejuvenate.