Read our previous updates here!
You can’t have missed that a 16-year old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, is saying it like it is.
The house is on fire, she says. And it is.
Politicians, leaders, and everyone her parents age and up, have fiddled around for far too long, she says. And it’s true.
Climate change is no longer something for discussion, it is a CRISIS. And the days for doing anything other than fixing this are behind us.
Greta is a huge inspiration to so many of us around the world. And all over, people are mobilising. Students are striking, politicans are (finally) committing, parents are teaming up with their children to change what they can at home, at school and in their communities.
We need way more of it. We need it on every possible front. And we need it now.
Here at Bokashi Myanmar has given us renewed energy to make a difference. We are COMMITTED to sorting out this organic waste mess. We are working really hard to make it happen, starting in Yangon.
But the magic thing is that we are getting support.
People are teaming up with us, offering to help, spreading the message. It does make a difference. Because we too are just people, and we too get tired. We really gain energy from feeling that what we do is worth it, and that we WILL find ways of fixing our little piece of the puzzle.
International School Yangon
In our last update we described the good work happening at Dulwich College. They have got bokashi working in the school and individual classes are digging it down into their vegetable patches.
The work is spreading back to the parents, who are impressed by what their children are doing, and probably feel under some degree of pressure from them, too.
Next up is ISY, the prestigious International School of Yangon.
The school has 500-600 students, all ages, and between them they have the globe well represented. We have been talking with the school for a year or so, but in January they decided to swing into action.
Four weeks after our first meeting we had a full recycling system up and running. RecyGlo are the company behind this full service concept.
To be honest, we were a bit nervous about starting up a whole school overnight with bokashi composting.
The school has 3 canteens, and students are eating in many different locations. Which means that food waste is generated in many corners of the school. And in this heat it has to be dealt with quickly.
The setup is this: blue barrels (our standard airtight 60 liter barrels) for food waste are located in the undercover carpark, close to the standard waste collection points. Colourful collection points for dry recyclables are located around the school.
Custodians collect the food waste from the various collection points and bring it down to the blue barrels where they pack it in, check for plastic, and sprinkle on the bokashi bran and keep it airtight. The school generates a lot of shredded paper, so this is used in the barrels to absorb moisture. It’s a good combination, and a lot of it can be used.
Training for the whole school
The whole school got involved in a training round which was connected to a kind of all-in school event. Student climate action from around the world was up on the big screen.
We did training for the custodians and kitchen staff, and trained as many kids as we could collect together.
These are smart kids, with the best education money can buy. They got it quickly. And the posters and campaigns they came up with – so quickly – in the kickoff session were inspiring. I’ve shared some of them here.
I happen to know some of the parents privately, and their feedback is interesting. The kids are asking their parents to get more involved. To look after the environment. This is true action, Greta style.
British Embassy brings bokashi into the garden
Another project that we’ve been involved with this month is getting bokashi into the kitchen garden at the historical residence of the British Embassy, known as “Belmond“.
Ali, a life-long teacher in Britain, and the ambassador’s wife here, is a whirlwind of energy and structure. She genuinely wants to make a difference, and — she is.
She started out by getting a bokashi barrel for her own kitchen and showing that this matters. There are five houses in the compound; next step was that she got together all the gardeners and staff together for training with us and got them inspired.
Soon, we hope to get the kitchen staff at the neighbouring British Club involved; they are already motivated so it won’t be hard.
The process is similar to that at ISY. Food waste is collected from the various houses in the compound and the gardeners are loading it into our standard blue barrels. After fermentation they are digging it down into the big kitchen garden.
And because the garden (a beautiful park of well over an acre) also generates a lot of brown leaves, they will also make a compost stack combining leaves, garden waste and bokashi food waste. A fantastic way to use the resources on hand.
Word of mouth
Something we’re seeing these last weeks is that word is spreading. Not fast, that never happens.
But slowly and steadily. People are not always ready to hop into bokashi composting just because they’ve heard of it, but the first step is to get the conversation going.
A few weeks ago, we had a presentation stand at a major function at U Thant House. This week we’re doing something similar at a large luncheon in the gardens at Belmont, the traditional residence with many embassy-related people from around the world.
We’re so very touched to be invited, and really happy to see this conversation starting. Long may it last.
We hope to be able to spread this message at every level of society. One good thing about food waste is that everyone has it. We are all equal in this.
We need to get people talking about organic waste, and taking action.
Dry leaves are a huge issue in this climate.
They fall, steadily, during these dry months. And because it doesn’t rain for half a year, here in Yangon, or hardly ever in the dry zones of the country, they don’t break down.
There are simply too many mountains of them to wait until the rains come. Nowhere to put them, and no way of handling them.
So they are seen as trash. And what happens with trash here in this country?
Yes, it get burned. Or swept into a drain.
Piles of leaves are swept up on every street corner in this country. Possibly as often as once a day they are burnt. Because the leaves are seen as “trash” they are swept together in a pile with plastic and anything else that is lying around on the street.
Plastic and leaves make a deadly combination of smoke. But people have been doing this for so long they don’t reflect on it. There is no other alternative, in people’s minds – they’ve never seen it done any differently.
That leaves can be used to make soil, or mulch, or compost, is simply not part of the equation. So they get burned. And people feel bad, they get sick, they get respiratory issues. And they most probably die some years earlier than they would need to.
We hope to provide an alternative in due course, help to change this mindset. We’re working with students on this. They get it, but have to be careful of course.
We’re also working with our local community.
Our compost farm will use huge amounts of dry leaves, so we’re trying to get people to bring them to us instead, in sacks and baskets. Or stack them up in rice bags (without plastic!) so we can collect them. We can use them all!
Our new yard is up and running
And the big new is that we got our new yard going. It was a difficult process – in true Myanmar style.
We thought we had it, then we didn’t have it. We thought they were cleaning it up for us (20 years of jungle) and then they weren’t. Electricity, water, a toilet…. just don’t ask.
But as of a couple of weeks ago it’s operational.
It doesn’t look much at the moment, honestly it doesn’t. But we know exactly what we want to do, and hope to be able to start producing commercial quantities of compost in the next weeks.
Our strategy is to build a series of compost cages in the yard, enough to handle several cubic meters per week when we get going. We’ll describe the method in more detail next time, but you can read more here.
Bokashi kitchen and market waste is layered, compacted, sprayed with CEM, and watered. We give it a few weeks to transform into nutrient-dense compost.
Our first stack was a great success. We managed to get ALL the jungle we cleared from the yard into a single stack. We layered green and brown as best we could, sprayed generously with CEM, and added some cow manure for speed.
After three weeks we harvested the lot and used it. That’s super speed!
Admittedly it wasn’t fine, grainy compost, more like a rough mulch, but it was enough for us to make the whole front area of our yard into a garden and to plant 50 banana trees.
We want our yard to look beautiful! And the things we planted are coming along already.
Dry leaves and coconuts
So now we’re scaling up the resources we’re pulling in: dry leaves, coconuts, bokashi from schools, hotels and restaurants.
Our goal is to reach to one ton per day but that will take a while. Soon we hope to be doing 10 barrels a day, that’s half a ton. And that’s not bad either!
So watch this space, we will have more stories again soon. For a more day-by-day reporting, you can see what we’re up to on facebook and Instagram, Bokashi Myanmar there too.
Thanks for your interest!
Read the previous update here!
Our story started in March 2018, when a few of decided to team up, put fear behind us, and make this happen. This is where it all started...