Gardening

Pots for making organic manure at home

dudu

Dudu Dunia co-founders Maite Guardiola with Dhruvi Shethia (L) during the interview in Riverside, Nairobi on May 10, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Summary

  • Most people think the process is too complicated, and that it requires a big space, and not forgetting the smell.
  • The Sufuria kit is designed to make composting easy and accessible.
  • The Sufuria kit is made up of three pots stacked on top of one another. This makes it perfect for spaces such as balconies.

We all know that compost is good for the soil. It increases water retention, decreases soil erosion, and makes the soil fertile leading to healthier plants.

Once mastered, composting is a wonderful way to re-purpose your kitchen waste from trash to treasure. However, most people think the process is too complicated, and that it requires a big space, and not forgetting the smell.

This was why Charlene Mwangi was not making organic manure in the first place. Living in Nairobi in a single dwelling unit, composting was something that seemed far-fetched.

“I didn’t know how to do it nor did I have the tools to do it in the kind of set-up I have at home,” she says.

It was for people like Ms Mwangi that Dhruvi Shethia and Maite Guardiola, the founders of Dudu Dunia, created home composting kits branded the ‘Udongo’ and the ‘Sufuria Kit’, which is the most popular one.

The Sufuria kit is designed to make composting easy and accessible.

The two realised that composting in Kenya was difficult because of the lack of systems to support it. They met at a permaculture training in 2015, after which they began looking for a way to use permaculture.

“60 to 70 percent of the waste disposed of in our landfills is organic. Can you imagine what impact we could make if we all composted at home?,” Ms Guardiola asks.

The two spoke to BDLife about the home composting kit and how it makes composting stress-free.

The Sufuria kit is made up of three pots stacked on top of one another. This makes it perfect for spaces such as balconies. Pot A and B are the composting units while pot C is the storage unit for the finished compost.

The kit comes with a kitenge cover, a bamboo shovel and a bag of remix powder.

“The first thing is to find a spot outside that’s well-aerated and relatively shaded to protect it from the elements of nature,” Ms Shethia says.

For each setup, layer pot C with a cardboard box for absorbing excess moisture. Place pot ‘B’ on top of it, and pot ‘A’ on top of pot ‘B’.

Compost is the result of a good mix of carbon, nitrogen, water and air.

Getting this balance right is important. Carbon is from the brown matter while nitrogen is from the green matter. To begin composting, layer pot A with a handful of the remix powder, which acts as the brown matter, alternating it with a layer of your kitchen waste.

“It’s important to shred or cut up the greens to increase their surface area for bonding between the carbon and nitrogen. Cover the layers with a newspaper and finally the kitenge cover to keep fruit flies away,” Ms Guardiola says.

Stir the contents every few days to allow oxygen penetration and check for moisture. Repeat this until pot ‘A’ is full. Switch its position with pot ‘B’ and start afresh heap in pot ‘B’. Once pot ‘B’ is full, transfer the contents of pot ‘A’ to pot ‘C’, and start another fresh heap in pot ‘A’ and the cycle continues.

“After six to eight weeks, the contents in pot ‘C’ should be ready for harvest. You can use the compost directly on your plants or store it. Any material that’s not broken down is left in the pot until it is. A good example is eggshells. They need more time to break down,” the 32-year-old Ms Shethia shares.

I get to touch the well-done compost. It is dark brown, soft to the touch and smells earthy.

Nonetheless, few people get it right because of common composting problems such as smelly compost or excessive wetness. How should we deal with these issues?

Tips

Here are some troubleshooting tips.

If the compost is too wet, the culprit is excess kitchen scraps. To correct this, add more brown matter like coco peat, sawdust and wood chips, dry grass and leaves, and paper and cardboard.

This absorbs the liquid waste-reducing bad smells. If the compost is too dry, add water or more kitchen waste.

“Avoid composting dairy products, meats, oily and highly processed foods as they take long to breakdown leading to a smelly compost bin. Stir the heap to ensure aeration and keep everything well covered,” Ms Shethia says.

An exciting outcome of the home composting kit is the gift of sprouting seeds since the compost is so rich in nutrients. What should you do with them?

“Plant them, as I have in my kitchen garden,” the 39-year-old Ms Guardiola excitedly shows me. In it, she has butternut, tomatoes, and capsicums all from her compost kit. So far, they have 70 users of the kit diverting 30 kilogramme per unit per month from the landfill. Each kit costs Sh7,000 and Ms. Mwangi is a proud owner of a Sufuria Kit.

“Before composting, I’d take out trash twice a week and 80 percent of it was organic. With the kit, we have reduced frequency to once a month and it feels so good,” she says.

“Composting directly reduces my negative impact on the environment. Furthermore, it’s a fun way to bond with my family because it’s fun and easy to do.”

One of the most common questions asked by users is what do I do with the compost if I do not have a kitchen garden?

“Well, you can gift it to gardeners, sell it to those who need it, or pour it out on your neighbour’s lawns or the street plants you walk by. A healthy environment is good for everyone.”