Helping protect environment with compost fertilizer
Myanmar’s famous Inle Lake is showing signs of environmental degradation caused by the impact of climate change as well as unsustainable agricultural practices. Overuse of chemical fertilizer on farms in the Inle lake watershed is one of the factors that has contributed to this. Water runoff from farms contains high concentrations of chemical fertilizer residues such as phosphorus and nitrogen. This runoff finds its way to the streams and tributaries that feed the lake. If left unchecked, this process can cause irreparable damage to the lake. The chemicals are toxic and also pose a severe health risk to people who drink water from the lake and eat its fish.
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for the majority of rural communities in watershed area and it is not easy to end the use of chemical fertilizers as this directly impacts their output. However, encouraging the use of organic fertilizer, made from composting farm waster like groundnut stock, rice straw, corn husk etc., is a mean to reducing the dependence on chemical fertilizer.
There is an abundance of such farm waste after every harvest. However many farmers either did not know or have forgotten the usefulness of this freely available resource. “We used to burn wastes after harvest,” said Ma Su Su Hlaing from Taung Kyar Htet village in Inle area. It takes two-three weeks to turn farm waste into usable organic fertilizer. The incentive to farmers of creating their own organic fertilizer instead of using chemical fertilizer is a lowering of costs. Depending on the crop chemical fertilizer costs between Kyat 15,000 (USD 18) and Kyat 35,000 (USD 40) for 50 kilos. Tomatoes need 200 Kg. and acre, beans 75 kg and paddy 100 Kg. and acre.
- UNDP is working with the Government of Myanmar and 12 local non-governmental organizations as partners to implement the Inle Lake Conservation and Rehabilitation Project
- Five major sectors - forestry, agriculture, soil and water conservation, fishery and livestock and livelihoods support - are covered by the project
- 71 villages from Kalaw, Pindaya and Aungban townships in the core, and buffer and remote area of Kalaw Chaung watershed regions of Inle Lake receive various environmental conservation supports through this project
- The Project has financial support from the Norwegian Government for the period of January 2012 to December 2013
The overuse of chemical fertilizers is one of biggest environmental issues that the UNDP addresses in Myanmar. It has conducted Compost production courses to re-introduce the idea of organic fertilizer to farmers in the Inle lake area. Twenty community-selected trainees from the Kalaw Chaung watershed attended the first five-day training course in September 2012. Through lectures and composting demonstrations, the trainees learnt how to make compost using microorganisms and by vermin “worm” culture.
On the final day of training the participants and staff developed an “Action Plan”. This plan outlined how the trainees would disseminate the information they learned and help other farmers set-up compost heaps. Trainees were given a compost kit containing everything they needed to create a compost heap using their farm waster. Trainees were also put in contact with the government Department of Agriculture for further technical support and composting inputs.
UNDP followed up with trainees two months later to assess the progress. Ma Su Su Hlaing, like the others on the course, had been busy putting the action plan into operation after she returned to the village. She selected a compost site next to the village road to get the attention of passing farmers. She has succeeded in organizing a group of nine farmers (four women and six men) and shared what she had learned with them. Ma Su Su Hlaing and the nine farmers had made a total of ten compost heaps. “Composting is so useful. We no longer need to buy chemical fertilizer. This is so much cheaper for us and helps the environment too. I will continue to share my knowledge with my friends,” Ma Su Su Hlaing said.