Groups ready with quality compost do not know how to reach farmers

Groups ready with quality compost do not know how to reach farmers

Soumya Dayakar, an organic farmer, who runs Samruddhi Farm in Doddaballapura, was buying organic compost from a government outlet until she realised that the quality was not up to the mark. That's when she chanced upon Purva Venezia, a gated community in Yelahanka New Town, which had surplus organic compost to offer. Dayakar travels 35 km to buy the compost from them and she does not mind. Composting is not an easy task. Especially for communities that have very little or no support from the city corporation for setting up the infrastructure, facilitating daily operations or distributing it to the end user, the farmer. 

This in turn leads to the farming community using cheap chemical alternatives. "The government needs to reduces subsidies on harmful chemical fertilisers and instead divert it towards organic composts to encourage more communities in the city to take this up as a social initiative," says Wilma Rodrigues, founder, Saahas Zero Waste, a city-based waste management company. 

Due to the lack of a proper channel for collection and distribution, compost turned out by communities is being sold off at throwaway prices. "We have to sell our compost at Rs 2 a kg because we cannot store it or package it. The same quality compost in a retail store is available at Rs 20-40 a kg," says Padma Patil, a waste champion who has been driving composting at Purva Venezia since 2012. To set up a sustainable composting unit, the initial processes involve sunk costs like setting up the right infrastructure, civil works and land. This is followed by monthly costs of running the facility which includes electricity, manpower and maintenance, points out Anil Chinniah, founder, Koramangala 3 Block Residents Welfare Association, which has been running its leaf-litter composting unit since 2011. The 800-strong community produces 30 tonnes of leaf-litter a month and sells it under two categories (coarse compost at Rs 4 a kg and fine compost at Rs 8 a kg). The composting unit has reached the self-sustaining mode after five years. Today, it sells compost worth Rs 50,000 per month through the use of social media and a network of buyers in the city. "The BBMP has to help communities make composting a self-sustaining activity. It needs to incentivise it by buying back at subsidies rates, set up a proper channel of collecting and then distributing it to the farming community," Chinniah says. 

BBMP's joint commissioner (solid waste management) Sarfaraz Khan says that the volumes of compost from communities have not yet reached a large scale. "If large communities which have bulk compost to sell come to us, we are more than willing to help them with marketing and distribution through the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation.

By BOA Bureau