23 January, 2020

Supporting sustainable waste management

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On a cloudy day in July, Tebtebba saw first hand, an organic farm that uses earthworms to break down organic wastes into fertilizers.

The farm in Gumatdang, Itogon in Benguet in northern Philippines is managed by Moren Makay, a young indigenous farmer who also heads the Baguio Vermi Growers or BVG.

The farm uses a specific type of earthworm called African nightcrawlers or ANCs, which are voracious eaters of biodegradable wastes. These wastes can be common household wastes such as vegetables and fruit scraps, fish entrails, etc. These wastes are turned into vermicasts, a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer that can be used in home gardens or farms.

In the farm, Makay uses the vermicast to grow organic vegetables such as string beans, eggplants, chinese cabbage, coffee. He also showed the by-products and its various uses. These include vermi tea, which he uses to eliminate the smell of animal wastes, specifically those coming from pigpens, as the ANCs are able to break these down and neutralize the odor.

Other vermi by-products are also used as organic pesticides against common vegetable pests. Makay says that since he started using vermiculture a few years ago, their farm yield has increased substantially. Future plans for the farm include producing corn and developing fishponds, all supported by vermitechnologies.

As part of the implementation of the ecosystem approach in an urban setting, Tebtebba supports traditional and innovative methods of waste management. It continues to support the work of BVG, a group composed of indigenous practitioners, students, members of the religious sector, and some businessmen.

Among the key activities of BVG is conducting series of training on the use of these earthworms or vermiculture in various communities and schools in Baguio City. It has also gathered support from the city government as vermiculture can help in reducing biodegradable wastes produced by households and businesses in the city.

As a key component of its overall work of operationalizing indigenous peoples' sustainable, self-determined development, the efforts to manage waste is an innovative approach to strengthening the traditional knowledge systems of indigenous peoples, specially in relation to livelihood, food production and sustainable use of resources. This is also Tebtebba's contribution to managing wastes in the City of Baguio, Tebtebba's home base, which has been suffering from lack of sustainable waste management.

The past months, Tebtebba staff members have been undergoing training on the use of vermiculture and is setting up a vermi area and garden in its office. (Raymond de Chavez, Tebtebba)