Entropy, as someone once said, can be a beautiful thing. Or at the very least, if no one said it, I have now typed it. Indeed, one of the most beautiful bargains of the earth is that the dirt births edible plants for humans, and whatever part of those plants humans don’t eat can, under natural circumstances, turn back to dirt (this of course also applies to the humans themselves). I am of course referring to the wonderful process of biodegradation and the associated practice of composting.
In this first installment of a series which seeks to truly capture the essence of this blog’s lofty subtitle, I want to propose a way for harnessing this natural process to do some good and maybe even make some money. All comments welcome!
Erosion of topsoil in Africa. In case you were unaware, it’s pretty serious.
Trash. Just mounds of trash, everywhere. Because Africa is urbanizing so quickly, and waste management systems tend to be chaotic, underfunded or non-existent, the trash piles up in public places where children play. Interestingly though, in the garbage heaps of the developing world, vegetable matter is the largest constitutive category.
Set up centres where people can sell their organic waste (vegetable stalks, fruit peels, eggshells, etc.). Because good composting requires a proper mix of “browns” and “greens,” the price that would be offered might fluctuate from week to week based on the needs of the particular composting facility. It would also be helpful to find a native species of worm (or some other creepy crawler) that can help to speed up the transmission of waste back to soil. Here’s one particularly striking creature.
The resulting compost could then be sold to farmers in the region to work into their fields. BUT, because farmers would most likely be not only buyers of the finished product, but suppliers of inputs (the inedible parts of plants like stalks, leaves, etc.), they could choose either to receive a monetary payment when they bring in their waste, or credit that entitles them to a certain amount of compost.
I think the ideal place to start with these composting centres would be provincial capitals and regional trading towns. There would still be a local population high enough to generate lots of waste, but the facility might be accessible to more farmers.