Thinley Namgay  

The Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) in Thimphu produces a minimum of 500kg of degradable waste daily.

The waste goes to landfills and produces a strong unpleasant smell, leachate, and combustible gas, which are environmentally unfriendly and hazardous to health.

To solve the problem, Thimphu thromde, CFM management and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) collaborated to train people to prepare organic compost, sometimes called manure, from this waste.

On November 20, 20 farmers from Bjemina and Hongtsho attended the day-long training in Thimphu.

The founder of organic manure from degradable waste is a Japanese citizen, who has a similar project in many countries,  Dr Koji Takakura. He came to Bhutan in 2018 and trained a few staff under the Thimphu thromde.

Raw materials for composting are rice husks, rice barn, yeast, curd, sugar, and water and the process involves mixing curd, water, yeast, and sugar in the ratio of 40 to 60 with rice husks and rice barn.

One has to take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it. If it forms a ball with no water running out between your fingers, it is ready for use in making the bed. After preparing the bed, cover it with old blankets or clothes and leave it for three days to ferment.

After three days, one can smell the bed like a fermented alcohol-producing bed and see the fungal growth.

When the bed is ready, we can start adding vegetable waste cut into smaller pieces for faster decomposition. If the temperature around the bed is high, it means that the bacteria are active. The compost will be ready in two months.

The colour of the compost will change to black and it will be completely dry. While using it in the field, the compost has to be used in a mixture of 30 percent to 70 percent soil.

The objective of the training was to encourage people to make organic compost and use it in their fields, to make the CFM cleaner, and to recycle waste.

With this training, people can collect the degradable waste from anywhere and produce it in bulk to earn an income.

A senior manager at the CFM, Tshering Tenzin, said waste management at the CFM is challenging and such training is necessary. “There are only 22 staff at the CFM. We have to look after waste produced from 504 vegetable stalls.”

He said that waste produced at the CFM in the peak season amounts to more than a tonne per day. “People from nearby shops and other places also bring their waste and dump it at the CFM without segregating.”

Currently, the degradable waste is dumped at Memeylakha in Thimphu.

An inspector with the thromde’s environmental division, Rinzin Om, said the vegetable waste in Memeylakha amounts to 58.1 percent of the total waste and it is left without use.

She said this waste is a source of income, but people have to come forward to transform it into organic compost.  “Currently, we use imported chemical fertiliser in the fields, which makes the soil hard, and it could make the land unusable for cultivation.”

Rinzin Om said the team from the thromde has also given similar training to the armed forces, residents of Dechencholing, staff of the national referral hospital, and some schools in Thimphu.

Women from Paro also attended the programme in Thimphu.

The general secretary of the JICA Alumni Association of Bhutan, Pema Gyalpo, said that Takakura’s method of composting is applicable, but people have to practice it and impart the knowledge.

A participant, Rinzin Dawa, said the method was encouraging, but high parking fees could discourage people from coming and picking up vegetable waste from CFM.

However, CFM manager Tshering Tenzin said that to solve this issue, CFM could deport the waste to the village, but residents have to find a proper place for it by first discussing it with the local leaders.

Edited by Tashi Dema