Composting for sanitation and for healthy soil – the morung express banana bread cake mix

Composting is a process by which the organic matter is allowed to decompose safely under controlled conditions into useful nutrient rich organic manure. Organic matter is any material from living beings such as plants, animals and human beings. Living beings vary in size from very minute (microscopic) to very large (elephants and whales). Organic matter may be living or non-living.

Our villages and towns are littered with all kinds of organic materials which create very insanitary conditions. Such conditions are responsible for spreading a number of diseases such as tetanus, cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, scabs, etc. The rotting organic matter contaminates water and food also. Through the contaminated water diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, etc spread among the people. Decaying organic materials, as we all know, is the best medium for the breeding ubiquitous flies and internal parasites such as hookworms, tapeworms, etc.Organic material


it also pollutes the air. In short, it is the organic material that makes our environment dirty and filthy. At the same time, these organic materials are very rich sources of plant nutrients and can be incorporated into the soil to increase its fertility.

On an average a living material consists of 70-80% water and 20-30 % organic matter. When any lining material decomposes, a number of physical and chemical reactions take place and the organic matter becomes humus, in which the released nutrients and elements are in adsorbed stage, suitable to be incorporated into the soil. These nutrient elements are absorbed by plants to produce more organic matter in the form of living biomass combining it with carbon dioxide from atmosphere and water mainly from soil.

Decomposition and decaying are necessary evils in nature. Suppose no decomposition/decaying takes place in nature, the earth would have been filled with dead bodies of human beings, animals, plants and their wastes.Organic matter even the faeces would not disappear from the earth. We can easily imagine what a possible place the earth will become. No plant will be able to absorb any nutrients from the soil nor synthesize any food through photosynthesis, nor any animal or human being can eat and digest any food. Therefore, decomposition or decaying is virtually a blessing in disguise.

During degeneration process the organic material is subjected to the activities of a number of microorganisms. Among them are present a number of organisms causing diseases to human beings, animals and plants. When the biomass is allowed to decompose in the open as it happens in our villages, towns and cities, these diseases cause organisms to spread all around. At the same time we cannot avoid this decomposition. Therefore, it is necessary to allow this decomposition of biomass/organic material in a way that it does not create insanitary conditions.Organic matter at the same time we can produce very valuable organic manures.

As such composting is the cheapest method of waste disposal and recycling. Composting can be done in a pair of boxes of minimum four feet height with any available material and construction can be done by even unskilled labourers. These boxes can be built above, below or partially above and below the ground level depending on the convenience and situation. In high water table and rocky areas these boxes will have to be made upwards or partially upwards. In deep and well drained soils, they can be made in the form of pits. Filling the boxes with wastes and composting does not require any special effort of additional time. Once these wastes are disposed off into the boxes till they are decomposed, there is nothing to be done. Even women and children can do this type of composting.

Everything except glass, metal, plastic, stones bricks and hard wood can be placed in the compost box.Organic materials following list of the items will help in getting a clear idea of the variety of organic materials we can place in the boxes for composting. These are cattle dung, cattle shed waste, green leaves, dung of pigs, goat and sheep, poultry dropping, plantain skin, weeds, straws of paddy, wheat and other crop residues, ash, stem of banana plant, drumstick, and other soft wood trees, spoiled eggs and fruits old thatches, old clothes, egg shells, visceral contents of the animals killed, waste from slaughter houses, waste from fruit processing, units, urine of all domestic animals, faeces of children, human urine, leftover food and vegetable refuse from kitchen, small quantities of paper, coconut husk, paddy husk, ground nut shells,’ maize cobs plantain leaves used for eating food, bones brewery waste, rotting tubers, vegetables and fruits and oil cakes. In short, anything that can decompose and become one with soil.Organic matter the number and items of things available for decomposition vary from place to place.

The input-out- put ratio varies between 4:1 to 6:1. The more moisture control of the organic matter, the wider will be the input-output ratio and vice versa. Hence, the total capacity of a box to receive the input (undecomposed; material) over a period of 4 to 6 months will be 4 to 6 times of its volume. As the organic matter is placed in the box, it starts decomposing and its volume starts decreasing making room for more fresh matter. Filling can be done till organic material is heaped up on the top of the box as much as possible. Generally, about 4 to 6 months period is required to fill in one box completely. Hence it is necessary to fill in a box a number of times and a number of boxes at the same time in the case of large volume of organic matter. The box should be sealed and the material in the box should be left to decompose for about 6 months before they are opened up and used.Organic materials thus a number of boxes can be filled in and emptied during the year. If the manure is not utilized immediately it can be stored for future use. When the compost is mature or ripe, except for some small twigs, none of the original components can be recognizable. The material is converted from dark brown to grey colour, gives a earthy smell and is coarse. The volume of the mature heap is reduced to half of the original.

Compost serves as a good source of nutrients to the soil and improve their structure and fertility. On an average it contains 0.4 to 1.0% nitrogen (N), 0.15 to 0.5 % phosphorus (P) and 0.2 to 0.7% potash (K). The contents of nutrients are, however, very much dependent upon the kind of materials composted.