LOW COST COMPOSTING TRAINING
TECHNIQUES BASED ON THE UN-HABITAT /
URBAN HARVEST-CIP COMMUNITY BASED
WASTE MANAGEMENT INITIATIVES
Art By Susan Wanjiru Karanja
U o N
Nancy K. Karanja, Harrison O. Kwach and Mary Njenga
Here is a very useful book that tells you not only how to
make compost but also why. It has emerged out of a lot
of collaboration among several institutions that work with
low-income urban and peri-urban farmers and
composting groups during the last decade, since the mid
nineties. Most of this work was done in Kenya, but it
applies equally well to other tropical African countries.
It has been tested and used in draft form in courses for
urban and peri-urban farmers by the Nairobi and
Environs Food Security, Agriculture and Livestock
Forum (NEFSALF) in 2005. This happened when
farmers requested it, at a stakeholder forum on the
research led by Mary Njenga of Urban Harvest, on
groups using manure and compost in the city of Nairobi.
This research was a brain-child of Urban Harvest, that
brought together different institutions in the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),
namely the International Livestock Research Institute
(ILRI), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the
International Potato Centre (CIP).
Other “big guns” in this enterprise are the United Nations
Programme on Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT),
which has been working on waste management with low
income groups in the City of Nairobi and elsewhere for
much longer than a decade. Harrison Kwach has been
active in this institution.
The University of Nairobi’s Department of Soil Science
is another big player in this, and Professor Nancy Karanja
who headed that Department for a while has also been
working with the other institutions to further the cause of
better soils and how to make them.
A book for urban farmers and groups who want to
manage urban waste better in order to make a living is a
good outcome from these big institutions. In my view it
reflects the intention of these institutions to meet the
Millennium Development Goals and Targets.
Hopefully, urban groups and communities will use it to
increase their incomes by producing a useful, marketable
product that also contributes to food security through
better soils and higher outputs. Hunger and poverty may
thereby be reduced. Improving the lives of slum dwellers
can be reached partly in this way, but also because it will
clean up the waste in their surroundings.
Diana Lee-Smith, PhD.
Regional Coordinator SSA, Urban Harvest, 2002 – 2005.
Table of Content Page
1.0 INTRODUCTION 5
2.0 WHAT IS COMPOSTING? 5
2.1 What is Required Before Starting Compost Making? 6
2.2 Feasibility of theComposting Enterprise 6
3.0 STARTING UP COMPOSTING 7
3.1 Handling/collecting Waste for Use in Compost
4.0 COMPOSTING METHODS 9
4.1 Windrow Method 9
4.2 Aerated Static Pile 14
4.3 Box Composting 16
4.4 Pit Composting 19
4.5 Vermi-composting 20
4.6 Hints on How to Prepare Liquid Fertilizer 25
5.0 MINIMIZING HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH
COMPOST MAKING AND USE 27
6.0 WHY COMPOST? 28
6.1 Function of Compost in Soil 28
6.2 Use of Compost in Gardens and Farms 28
6.3 Planting Trees 29
6.4 Using compost on Larger Areas of Land 29
7.0 COMPOST QUALITY 30
8.0 MARKETING COMPOST 31
9.0 REFERENCES 35
List of Tables
Table 1. What should be considered in compost
List of Figures
Fig 1. Site for preparation and turning compost
Fig 2. Cross section of a windrow compost
Fig 3. Turning compost 13
Fig 4. Composting yard 14
Fig 5. Composting boxes 17
Fig 6. Composting pit 19
Fig 7. Earthworm species that are well suited
for Vermi-composting of agricultural
Fig 8. (a) Vermi composting bins,
(b) Earthworm and the castings 24
Fig 9. (a) Biomass for extraction of liquid
fertilizer and (b) Simple extraction set up
with liquid fertilizer bottle 27
Fig 10. Compost marketing 33
Organic waste constitutes the highest percentage of the
waste flow in most developing countries. While most of
the waste types (glass, plastics, scrap metals, etc) have
ready markets for recycling and reuse, however very
limited activities on recycling of the organic materials is
practiced. This is hampered by:
xHigh perishability of this materials thus requiring
xLack of awareness on appropriate composting
xHigh competition from more familiar synthetic
fertilizers and ,
xLack of supporting policies
2.0 WHAT IS COMPOSTING?
Composting is a controlled process that breaks down
organic fractions of waste into stable substances whose
chief use is soil conditioning. This process is as a result
of the activities of micro-organisms that live in nature
and are responsible for the natural maintenance and
return of nutrients back to the soil which ensures
sustainable soil productivity. Composting making is one
of the most effective processes for recycling organic
wastes intended for use in agriculture. It is a natural
process that turns the waste material into a valuable
2.1 What is Required Before Starting Compost
To establish a composting facility a number of items are
required and a brief of some of them is given below:
The most important requirement for composting is the
space. A flat piece of land under shade is ideal for
composting. The space should include a sorting place,
proximity to a water source need to be taken into
consideration when selecting this site.
Composting is a labour intensive activity and labour
requirement need to be planned for carefully taking into
each step. Consultation with someone with good
knowledge in composting maybe necessary.
Various types of equipment which include wheelbarrows,
pangas, shovels, sieves and, packaging materials are
required before this activity is started.
2.2 Feasibility of theComposting Enterprise
To determine whether this activity would be a viable
enterprise considers carrying out the following;
a) Market survey, perception and willingness to pay,
social-economic data on demand and seasonality.
b) Waste or organic matter supply: Quality of the
waste, distance to the site, any likely competition
c) Health and safety conditions
d) Source of initial capital and the size of the
3.0 STARTING UP COMPOSTING
Sustained supply of green (wet) and dry waste types is
very important. These two waste types could be
composed of the materials listed below:
i) Green (wet) wastes
xFood remains including egg shells, bones
(without meat or fat)
xFruit and vegetable peelings
xFreshly cut grass, tree leaves, weeds etc
xTea leaves, coffee residues
xStinging nettle, comfrey (if applicable)
These materials are considered as high quality because
they contain high amounts of nitrogen.
ii) Dry wastes
xDry grass, tree leaves
xSaw dust from timber workshops
xStraw, maize stalks etc
These are having high carbon contents and they regulate
the rate of decomposition. Wood ash may be used if
available to act as a source of major elements such as
potassium calcium, magnesium etc.
Having at least one of the following materials in small
quantities is also a pre-requisite: Coffee pulp, animal
manure such as of chicken, goat, cow sheep, rabbit and
also dried blood, bone and fishmeal. These materials are
required as they act as a catalyst, which help speed up the
The following materials should NOT be used for
1. Charcoal ashes – high carbon dioxide content
interferes with oxygen supply in the composting
system thus slowing down the process.
2. Dog and Cat manure – contain harmful pathogens.
3. Any organic matter likely to be contaminated by
pests or disease.
4. Eucalyptus and cassia tree leaves or any biomass
suspected to contain substances toxic to microbes.
5. Meat and animal fat.
3.1 Handling/collecting Waste for Use in Compost
Most organic waste generated from household, markets
and agro-industries (e.g. breweries) is usually mixed (i.e.
biodegradable and non-biodegradable) and this makes
their use for compost-making a bit difficult. The most
economical way therefore is to collect waste from
targeted sources where the material is sorted at source. To
achieve this prior knowledge of the generators, collectors
of the refuse are very useful. They may require some
assistance or training from you to enable them render
good service in terms of the quality of the organics to be
4.0 COMPOSTING METHODS
Different composting methods are available and the most
commonly used are presented here below together with
the requirements of each.
4.1 Windrow Method
This is one of the commonly practised systems for
composting in the urban centres in Kenya because:
x It is cheap and easy to operate
x Uses local equipment and adjustable size
x Can be operated in the open in most climates
x Easily adjusted to cope with changing types of
x Suitable to small and large community schemes
The main drawback to windrow system is that control of
the composting process is not as effective, which means
that it takes longer to mature.
Windrow method of composting involves the following
Steps 1: Preparing the land
In the windrow system, a pile of compost is made and
then turned. The turned pile is placed in an adjacent
space, whilst a new pile is started in the original area.
This is a continuous process: every time a pile is turned a
free space is required. Prepare two sites, the first one for
construction of the compost heap while the second one
will be used for turning. The land will need to be cleared
of all vegetation and the soil dug slightly to loosen it up
so as to allow any excess water to drain away.
Figure.1: Site for preparation and turning compost heap
Step 2: Setting up the pile
Measure a space of land preferably 1.5m by 1.5m at one
edge of the cleared and loosened land. Evenly spread a
layer of larger dry wastes (small tree branches, straw,
banana leaves etc.) up to a thickness of up to 15cm. Add
a layer of smaller dry vegetation (chop/shred if
necessary) on top of this, to make up the layer to about
30cm. Sprinkle water to moisten. The dry layer is
important, as it will allow air to pass freely through the
pile. The dry layer is then followed by a layer of 30cm of
green wastes. If possible, the green waste layer should
then be covered with 2.5cm of coffee pulp or animal
manure or finished compost. Precaution must be taken
when balancing these two important layers, as these are
the layers that determine the decomposing rate of a
compost pile. Moisten the pile, and then repeat this
process of layering until the pile is about 1.5m high.
Remember to water each of the dry layers.
Once the pile has been built, insert a long sharpened stick
diagonally right through to the centre of the pile and
leave the process to start. The stick acts like a
thermometer, and within the first 72 hours the pile should
have moved through cryophilic (200C), mesophilic (20-
450C) to thermophilic temperature (above 450C). This is
indicated by steam seen flowing from the pile and
hotness of the part of that stick that was driven into the
pile on completion of layering (take the stick out of the
pile every week, and feel it!). If the stick is hot, the
process is going well. If the stick is not hot, the pile may
need more or less water, and/or aeration. If the stick
shows signs of a white substance on it, the pile will need
more water added to it. To increase the amount of air, the
pile should be turned more frequently.
Figure. 2: Cross section of a windrow compost pile
Step3: Turning/ aeration
Within one week, the pile shall have reduced by almost a
quarter. This will reduce the air spaces in the pile and
most moisture will have escaped due to high
temperatures. If the pile is not turned to improve these
conditions the process would change into an anaerobic
process, which is slow, time consuming, and unhygienic.
Turning also promotes uniform decomposition of all the
wastes. Well-balanced compost pile will always keep
gaining higher temperatures, which is again detrimental
to micro-organisms (600C and above) survival, thereby
slowing down the composting process. The turning
process is necessary on a weekly basis till between 6 – 8
weeks when the temperature of the pile becomes cool
which is an indication that the entire organic fraction has
Figure. 3: Turning compost
Step 4: Processing mature compost
Controlled drying may be necessary before the compost
is sieved, weighed and packed either for farm use or sale.
The final product should be both easily handled and
visually accepted (e.g. should not have contaminants such
as pieces of glass etc.).Typical screening sizes and
grading of compost;
Fine compost (first grade) which is less than 15 mm
Mulch standard compost (second grade) with particle size
15 to 40 mm
Return to the process materials that are greater than 40
Figure .4: Composting yard
4.2 Aerated Static Pile
This method regulates heat and oxygen supply with an
aim of producing safe compost within a shorter time
period. Apart from waste materials and other conditions
stated under windrow system, aerated static Pile method
also require two hollow perforated wooden or
pkamrylastic rods for aerating the pile (2” in diameter).
The procedure is as follows:
Step 1: Site preparation
The sites should be under shade preferably 1.5m x 2m.
Loosen the soil to encourage free movement of micro-
Step 2: Setting up
Lay one perforated pipe along the centre lengthwise of
site, spread dry organic material up to about 10 cm
thickness then moisten DO NOT make it wet. Follow
with 15 cm of green waste. Add 2 cm of wood ash if
available, 2 cm of animal manure or Coffee pulp or
finished compost and moisten. Repeat the whole process
of layering until the pile is 1.5 m high. Be sure to keep
moistening every section as indicated above. Push
through at the centre the second rod to meet the one
underneath. Cover the whole pile with either cotton or
sisal rag or any dry plant residue e.g. grass, banana
leaves etc to act as heat insulator leaving only the ends of
both horizontal and vertical rods open. With well
balanced dry versus green waste materials the pile should
gain the thermophilic temperature with the first 72 hours.
Step 3: Turning
After two weeks of microbial activities the pile will now
start going down. This will be as a result of low moisture
content and compaction within the pile. To turn the pile,
you will first remove the two rods. Place the horizontal
rode along the length of the next space, unwrap the pile,
remove the outer layer and evenly spread (on the space to
cover the rod) up to 15cm thickness remember to moisten
with water any dry and or whitish “firefung fungus” stuff.
Scoop and uniformly spread the whole pile while
moistening as necessary till the pile is complete. Insert
the vertical rode right through the centre and cover the
pile with the rags like before. Within the next 72 hours
the pile will regain the thermophilic range of temperature.
Repeat this procedure after two weeks in the third space.
If the composting process is properly monitored the
compost should then be ready within six weeks.
Step 4: Processing mature compost
(As in windrow system)
Advantages of this method are:
1. All the waste materials are kept in one place,
hence maintaining the hygienic standards of the
2. It keeps the composting materials from excess
water during rains.
3. Controls heat loss by insulating the pile thereby
promoting evenly biodegradation.
4.3 Box Composting
Although it has a lot of similarity to windrow method,
box composting is done in a container. All the
ingredients, size of the pile, layering and turning
frequency are handled similarly. However, box
composting would be more ideal to specific environments
that are prone to animal invasion, congestion or lack of
space and is feasible on roof tops within urban
Step1: Construction of the box
Using either wooden planks or wire mesh, construct a
box preferably 1.5m x 1.5m x 1.2m dimensions (this can
hold up to one tonne of raw waste, but would reduce by
almost half at the end of composting phase). The box
may be left open on both ends. Other containers such as
plastic bins or wooden boxes could be used for this
purpose. Corrosive containers such as oil/petroleum
drums should be avoided.
Figure 5: Composting boxes
Step 2: Setting the box Pile
Spread evenly a layer (2.5cm thickness) of either finished
compost or forest top soil and moisten with water. Follow
with 15cm dry waste, moistened with water, 15cm of
green waste cover with any of the following; layer of
animal manure, finished compost, coffee pulp, then
moisten to end the first course of layering. Repeat this
sequence till the box is full. As in the windrow method
above, make sure the top of the box has a light 2.5cm
cover of either finished compost/or animal manure to
control moisture and oxygen loss.
Step 3: Turning
Like windrow composting the content should be turned
after seven days. To achieve this make sure that you have
an extra container of similar size or dismantle the box and
reconstruct it on the space close to the pile (which should
remain intact despite removal of the box) while
maintaining same dimensions. There is a likelihood of
losing some parts of the box, therefore be advised to have
a budget for such an eventuality so as not to stall the
process. In the new box, scoop in the whole pile while
observing all the conditions and procedures as in
windrow method above. This sequence should continue
on weekly basis for the next six to eight weeks to produce
Step 4: Processing mature compost
Ready compost is sieved and weighed in bags ready for
storage, farm use or sale to the farming communities as in
4.4 Pit Composting
As demonstrated by the law of nature, in a forest
environment for example, dead organisms keep piling
one on top of the other, and over a period of time those
underneath decompose and turn into humus. In this
method, organic wastes are piled into a pit daily and as
time goes on those underneath decompose into compost.
The method is suitable for use in institutions like
hospitals, boarding schools, children’s homes, etc, where
daily production of organic waste is high. The process
uses the following procedures.
Figure 6: Composting pit
Step 1 Land preparation
Identify a space of land in preferably under shade and dig
a pit of 2.5m x 2.5m x 1m dimension.
Step 2: Layering the waste
All the organic waste should be evenly spread out in the
pit. At the end of each day cover your waste with a thin
layer of soil and remember to moisten with water where
necessary. This process should be continued on daily
basis till the pit is full. The full pit should be covered
with soil and be left to decompose. The decomposition
period will vary between 6 to 10 months as it is an
anaerobic process. Ready compost could be removed for
use in the garden, however if the pit was of the size of a
garden bed it could be planted with crops directly. To
ensure health and safely the materials being decomposed
in the pit need to be carefully sorted to exclude inorganic.
This is the combination of biological processes, designs
and techniques used systematically and intensively to
culture large quantities of certain species of earthworms
and at the same time to speed up stabilization of organic
wastes materials. The waste are eaten, ground and
digested by the earthworms with the help of aerobic and
some anaerobic micro flora. They are thereby naturally
converted into finer, humified microbially active faecal
material (castings), where important plant nutrients are
held in a form much more soluble and available to plants
than those in the parent compound.
Generally, earthworm culture can perform at the same
time three major and useful functions:
x reduce the pollution potential of organic waste;
x make good use of organic residues by their
bioconversion into casts (a plant medium); and
x produce more earthworms; this can either be useful to
extend the vermi-composting areas, or as a high
quality protein meal, suitable for inclusion in various
domestic animal rations.
Fig 7: Earthworm species that are well-suited for
vermi-composting of agricultural wastes: Kenyan
pigmented worm (left) and tiger worm (right)
(Savala et al., 2003)
What is Vermi-compost?
A humic substance produced through an accelerated
composting process that, when applied to the soil , results
in improved chemical, physical and biological properties
and better conditions for plant growth.
Component of the system
To perform successfully and produce an efficient and
valuable plant growth medium, four principal
components are needed for vermi-composting:
xProper substrate e.g. animal manures, vegetable,
organic urban and industrial residues.
xCorrect environmental conditions-temperatures
=30°C, Oxygen supply and no pesticides
xAppropriate earthworms with suitable populations
xDesigns and operations to be implemented such as
heaps, pits , boxes , bins or containers stacked in
Different systems can be used to prepare vermi-compost
just as described above in conventional compost making.
Steps to be followed in bed/windrow systems are
described here below:
Steps 1: Bed construction
Prepare a bed with a concrete, wood or plastic sheet
bottom and construct walls 20 to 30 cm in height using
wood, logs, stones or any appropriate material especially
if recoverable from the waste. Place a wooden board
across the bottom and line with chicken wire for better
handling and aeration.
Step 2: Add coarse material
The layering procedure is similar to the windrow
composting .Place a 10 to 15 cm layer of coarse organic
materials such as banana trash, maize Stover, coffee
husks and other crop/plant residues on top of the chicken
wire. The materials must not contain chicken manure as
the uric acid is harmful to the worms. Composted poultry
manure is however suitable as feed.
Step 3: Add fine material and water
Place a 5 to 10 cm layer of manure on top of the coarse
material. Cattle, pig, sheep and goat manure is suitable.
Green manure, such as tree leaves or grass cuttings may
be used as well. Mix some of the fine materials such as
grass cuttings, bean threshing, maize or wheat bran and
brewery waste are preferable. If the fine material is in
short supply, then apply it to specific areas where the
earth worms are placed in the compost pile. Moisten the
organic materials prior to the introduction of the worms.
Sufficient water should be applied so that pockets of
dried material remain. Wet materials such as banana trash
and fresh manure need little watering while dried
materials may require as much as 30 liters per m3 of bed.
Step 4: Releasing worms in the compost/pile
Release the earthworms into the moist bed. Avoid
handling them individually , rather place small handfuls
of compost rich in earthworms (clusters) in to “wells” or
“holes” spaced about 0.5 m apart.
Step 5: Covering the bed/pile
Cover the bed with plant materials or dark polythene
sheet. Inspect the bed regularly during composting for
moisture and plant residue/leaves used to cover the bed
since the earthworms do consistently eat the older organic
materials. Earthworms do not like direct light, control
this by keeping the beds covered. Ants will usually leave
the bed if the underlying chicken wire is violently and
Step 6: Feed the bed
Organic materials may be applied to the bed regularly as
additional layers or in discrete locations. A common
practice is to periodically apply additional organic wastes
by burying them in different positions within the bed.
Vermi-compost is ready after approximately 3 to 6
months. Additional feeding prolongs the vermi-
composting process but yields larger amounts of vermi-
compost. Withhold feed about three weeks before the
vermi-compost is collected to obtain a finer and more
homogeneous and finished product.
Firmly fitting lid
Typical worm bin
Figure 8: (a) Vermi-composting bin
(b) Earthworms and the castings
Step 7: Recover worms and vermi-compost.
When the vermi-compost is ready, worms are harvested
and compost processed. Place a fine feed material on the
bed prior to vermi-compost harvesting to facilitate the
collection of worms from subsequent “batches”. Wheat
bran, brewers’ waste or fresh cattle manure are
particularly good feeds that lure earthworms. Collected
worms may also be fed to fish and poultry. Spread
vermi-compost in the sun to collect other pockets of
worms by hand as the vermi-compost dries.
Once worms are collected, the vermi-composting cycle
may be repeated. The finished vermi-compost is
uniform, dark and fine textured. It is best used as the
main ingredient in a seedling or potting medium after
passing it through 5 or 10 mm mesh.
4.6 Hints on How to Prepare Liquid Fertilizer
Various types of green (fresh) organic materials are found
around and the majority of them could be used to prepare
liquid fertilizer. These materials may be found as markets
and household wastes, on agro-industrial and
horticultural wastes. In the gardens, crop residues, some
of the weeds and live hedges could also be exploited for
this purpose. Steps to be followed so as to obtain a
concentrated extract that is high in plant nutrients as well
as other special elements are described below:
1. Place fresh, chopped organic materials into a
container that can be tightly closed and has an
opening bored near the base. The size of the
container will be determined by the quantities of
the compost being prepared or the amount of
organic material available or the space where the
process is to be carried out.
2. Put the composting container on a stand to raise it
from the ground, so that a jar or bottle can be
placed underneath the hole or tap. There are many
types of containers that could be used, the
majority of which are easily recoverable from the
waste e.g. a plastic jar with a screw-top lid.
3. When the composting container is completely full
of the chopped organic materials, place heavy
weights such as stone or logs to press the material
tightly in the container.
4. Cover the container tightly either with its lid or
using polythene sheeting, then place it in a safe
place with minimal disturbance.
5. After about two to three weeks, the organic
materials will decay and begin to "run" as a liquid
6. A black liquid will start to ooze from the leaves
and drip through the hole into the jar underneath.
7. Leave to drip until all the juice is collected at the
bottom. To obtain the liquid, tilt the barrel
forward to collect the last of the black liquid into
the collection container and when finished
screw the lid on to the jar and store in a safe cool
place for use as a plant foliar feed.
NOTE- the solution obtained contains high levels
of plant nutrients especially nitrogen and as such
if applied directly on the crop it may burn the
leaves. As a rule of thumb 1:10 dilution is
recommended but test to meet the specific crop
8. Put the sludge from the bottom of the composting
container on the compost heap, or use it for
mulching around your vegetable garden.
Fig 9: (a) Biomass for extraction of liquid fertilizer
(b) Simple extraction set up with liquid
fertilizer in bottles
5.0 MINIMIZING HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED
WITH COMPOST MAKING AND USE
1. Use of protective clothing especially when picking and
sorting wastes and sieving the compost. Some of these
include; gumboots, gloves and scarves/masks. Their
use would protect the body from coming into contact
with hazardous chemicals or heavy loads of pathogens
as well as reducing accidents such as cuts and inhaling
2. Source sorting to remove non-biodegradable and
3. Control of odours and flies through covering compost
pile with a layer dry organic material that allows air
into the heap.
4. Adhering to prescribed composting conditions so as to
ensure that air and moisture are present in sufficient
quantities so that the process takes the shortest time
possible and does not emit undesirable smells.
6.0 WHY COMPOST?
6.1 Function of Compost in Soil
Compost adds balanced nutrients to soil in an easily
assimilated form, and helps improving soil structure by
lightening heavy clays and improving water retention
properties in porous sands. This allows air and micro
organism to pass more freely and lets roots grow easily
into soil. Compost also absorbs large amounts of water
from the air: twice as much as garden soil; nearly four
times as much as clay; and eight times more than sand.
The water is held in reserve so that plants can use it
during dry seasons. Compost contain the nutrients
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are found in
chemical fertilizer and even trace elements (such as zinc,
iron and magnesium) that are not, and which are useful to
the roots of growing plants.
6.2 Use of Compost in Gardens and Farms
Compost is excellent for growing quickly maturing crops
like vegetables and flowers, and when combined with
intensive gardening, can increase production by as much
as 3 to 5 times. Rates of application depend on the quality
of your soil and the size of the garden.
Compost can and should be regularly dug into the soil in
the gardens, pots, vegetable beds, etc, to add nutrients
and keep plants growing healthily. It may be sieved a
through 0.5 cm sieve to be used for planting seeds in
You can as well top dress your garden with a 2.5-5cm of
compost and cultivate it into the upper layer of the soil.
Do this regularly after planting and you will notice the
improvements within a few seasons.
6.3 Planting Trees
To plant tree seedlings, compost should be mixed evenly
at the bottom of the hole where the roots will sit and
water well. Trees planted in this hole will continuously
send their roots down towards the nutrients making them
grow firmly and be resilient to wind and storms. Compost
can also be added around tree seedlings holes as top
dressing, and with the rains the nutrients will sink down
to the roots. The compost will keep enough moisture for a
longer period, helping the tree to resist drought, pests and
6.4 Using compost on Larger Areas of Land
For planting crops like maize on a large scale, a hand full
of compost can be placed in the hole together with the
seeds at the time of sowing. However, since soil quality
and texture vary from place to place, you could also carry
out tests on application rates to find out what quantity is
best for your type of soil.
7.0 COMPOST QUALITY
A potential client such as a farmer or landscaper will
certainly ask about quality, handling and rates of
application for specific crops or plants. One of the best
ways of validating the quality of the compost is by
directly applying it on your own vegetable/flower
gardens or to plants grown in pots. This is a very practical
way to determine the compost performance and in some
cases one may manage to identify types of plants and rate
to be applied, thus enhancing the ability to meet
customers’ needs. It is however recommended that
laboratory analysis is done on selected batches of the
compost from time to time to ensure that a high quality
product is maintained. During such tests, checks on other
contaminants such as heavy metals and pathogen loads
should be carried out.
Table 1. What should be considered in compost
H (in H20) >7.0
itrogen (g/kg) 17
Phosphorous (g/kg) 16
Potassium (g/ kg) 21
Arsenic (mg/kg) 10
Copper (mg/kg) 80
Cadmium (mg/kg) 3
Lead (mg/kg) 150
Zinc (mg/kg)) 300
Mercury (mg/kg) 1
World Bank standards (1997)
Remarks: Recommended standards for composts
8.0 MARKETING COMPOST
If you are an existing enterprise, how do you sell your
products currently? Do you have a list of your current
customers? Do you have a way of keeping in touch with
them in case they want more compost? If you are a new
enterprise, have you identified who you think could be
your potential customers? You would find this
information by visiting some of the shops, which supply
seeds and farm inputs, asking what kind of fertilizers they
sell, and who they sell to. Initially your main markets
will be small-scale farmers and households, which have
gardens within the neighbourhood.
(a) Exploring Markets
To do this calls for the following considerations;
xInvesting in awareness/promotion of the product.
xMaintaining a high quality product (compost) with
unique quality and packaging.
Options for promoting compost product include:
1. Visiting agro-retailer shops to make them aware of the
compost and also of the prevailing customers needs.
2. Visiting seed, tree and flower nurseries to convince
them to sell your compost to their customers.
3. Placing posters in environmental institutions or public
places for well wishers who may want to support your
4. Participating in environmental days organized by the
environmental institutions in order to exhibit and
promote your product.
5. Visit associations of farmers, gardeners, small farmers,
etc. asking them aware of your product, and ask if you
could be included in their newsletters.
6. Volunteer to appear on radio shows and TV
programmes to market your product.
Figure 10: Compost marketing
(b) At What Price Do You Sell Compost?
This is a very important question. At what price are
people currently selling compost, and how long has it
been at this price? How have you arrived at this price and
why? Have you done any research to see what price
fertilizers and even compost sell at elsewhere? Have you
incorporated items such as transportation costs and costs
of packaging into your costing? At what price should you
sell to other similar enterprises?
You must be able to include costs in your pricing, such as
the cost of transportation and packaging. Also, you
should have a pricing structure. You may have a certain
price that you will sell compost to other members of the
composting enterprises, if they require your surplus. You
may have another price for people who are willing to sell
your compost for you in their shops or nurseries. You
may even have third price for directly selling compost to
a client. If you do not price your product carefully, you
may find that you are not making any profit – it is that
important! This is how you can go about determining the
price of your product in a simple way.
1. Conduct market surveys to establish average prices of
fertilizers and compost already existing
2. Estimate your annual running costs
3. Determine how much compost you can produce per
4. Divide (2) by (3) to get an indication of the true cost
per kg of compost
5. Try to have competitive prices that would compare
with (1) but would cover your costs, and generate an
income for you.
Savala C. E. N., Omare M. N. and Woomer P. L. (2003):
Organic Resources Management in Kenya,
Perspectives and Guidelines
World Bank. (1997) The Use of Compost In Indonesis:
Proposed Compost Quality Standards.
Infrastructure Operations, Country Department
III, East Asia an Pacific Region, Washington,
D.C., U.S.A. June.