How to make banana SUPERFOOD: composting on a Peruvian banana plantation

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How to make banana SUPERFOOD: composting on a Peruvian banana plantation

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In honour of Earth Day, Equifruit is burying itself in the glamorous world of… compost. And yes! Compost can be a pretty exciting topic when you’re as pumped on sustainable agriculture as we are. And yes! We’re ready for the Internet to break when this post goes viral, since we know we’re not alone…

Appbosa, the cooperative we work with in Peru, has a well-developed centralized composting programme. We caught up with Marcia Herrero Reto, APPBOSA’s Director of Certification & Quality, to help us dig deeper. She was kind enough to answer our…

5 Questions about banana plant composting!

1. When did the composting program start? Is the project funded in any way through the Fairtrade social premium?

The compost program started in approximately 2006. At the beginning it started with the help of the social premium, but now it is self-sustainable.

2. Can you describe the composting process?

Appbosa’s field workers and packers collect discarded fruit and banana plant stems after the harvesting process, and bring them to the compost area close to the cooperative’s central offices. A team of workers then chops and mulches them using a mulching machine. This “fluffy” plant mix is then combined with fresh cattle, goat and sheep manure which the cooperative buys from local livestock farmers.

This mixed product is spread onto blankets, in beds shaped like pyramids 7 metres long, 1.5 metres wide and 1 metre high. The compost needs to maintain a certain level of humidity and its temperature is monitored daily: under the hot Peruvian sun, it can surpass 55 degrees Celsius! The compost needs to be turned periodically, usually about 5 times over its production. When the compost is ready, after nearly 2 months, it then gets sifted, bagged and prepared for distribution.

3. How many people are employed in this project?

The preparation of the compost is carried out the entire year and there are 4 people who work on this program. They are all employees of the central Appbosa cooperative.

4. Does this amount of compost meet the cooperative’s needs or do you need to buy additional compost from other suppliers?

The preparation of the compost is constant and we supply all of the producers. In some cases, we sell it, but only to our own partners.

5. How is the compost distributed within the cooperative?

We have defined a process for buying the compost. Each producer deducts 2 soles (approx. 75¢ Canadian) for each box of bananas they produce for sale by the cooperative. It is like a savings program, and every 3 months we evaluate how much each producer has saved. We designate a fixed amount of compost per hectare, and from the amount that is saved, the producers receive a discount of 10 soles for each bag of compost. The balance of the savings then goes to the producer to acquire additional fertilizer for missing nutrients for his crop, such as potassium, Sulpomag (organic mix of sulphur, potassium and magnesium) and rock phosphate.

Do you have any more questions for Marci?  If so, jot them down below in the Comments section, and we’ll get back to you with her answers.  And in the meantime, the whole Equifruit team wishes you a Happy Earth Day!

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