Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Foundation brings inexpensive farming tools to Khmers



Foundation brings inexpensive farming tools to Khmers

Foundation brings inexpensive farming tools to Khmers

farming.gif
farming.gif

COMPOST KING

Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Peter Schier scoops up compost that can be made at almost no cost.

PETER Schier, permanent representative to Cambodia from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation

since May 1994, is best known as an astute commentator on Cambodia's political process.

His great love, however, is compost.

His compound near Chamkarmon Palace functions as a miniature research lab, a fruit

nursery and a sanctuary for 40 turtles, six mouse deer and a barking deer, which

otherwise might have gone into the cooking pot.

Schier first jumps up on a treadmill pump, developed by an American NGO in Bangladesh,

to demonstrate how legwork can irrigate a rice field.

"The materials for this pump cost only $80," he says proudly. "It's

cheap, easy to maintain, transportable and requires no gasoline, just labor, and

that is abundant in rural Cambodia. If a person is industrious, he can irrigate a

half hectare of rice."

Schier then shows off his pride and joy: six compost pens.

"I've used compost in Germany for 15 years," he explains. "I wanted

to make a system that would be adaptable to Cambodia. I tried different experiments

over a year and a half."

The materials for the pens are virtually free. A bamboo framework is lashed together

by twine from sugar palm stems. The four walls are thatched with palm and covered

with banana leaves to keep the compost dry in the wet season, humid in the dry. The

advantage of compost pens, over pits, is that more oxygen circulates to aid in decomposition.

The compost - leaves, grass, fax paper, kitchen scraps, interlaced with earthworms,

ants and termites - is a rich brown color. Schier shovels the compost onto a strainer

to sift out impurities, then lovingly cups a handful. "This is just like you'll

find on the forest floor, 100% humid. The pens are biodegradable too, with the skeletons

lasting three or four rotations."

The compost goes into a fruit nursery to germinate mango, jackfruit and tamerine

seeds. The bag mix is 70-80% soil, 20-30% compost. "If you use only soil, your

germination rate is only 60%. With compost, it's 90%. Fruit trees are part of an

integrated farming approach, so farmers have fruit all year for sale or consumption."

His compost techniques are disseminated by Buddhist monks in Battambang. In Phnom

Penh the Konrad Adenauer Foundation supports an NGO called Buddhists For Development,

which annually trains 40 monks in rural community development: rice banks, tree nurseries,

compost manufacture.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation also supports the respected Khmer Institute for Democracy.

The foundation is one of the largest publishers in Cambodia with seven titles on

Buddhist development and nine on election systems and administration. Print runs

are between 40,000-95,000 copies.

Schier has also produced a manual for compost manufacture and a video which has been

widely shown on national television. Still he laments that his projects are not receiving

enough attention from the government.

"I sent a letter to Hun Sen offering to introduce my compost making techniques

to his rural development projects," Schier comments. "He never wrote me

back. The Ministry of Agriculture is more concerned with deforestation than with

compost."

Looking back on his four year in Cambodia with the foundation, Schier comments: "I'm

not sure we have succeeded in promoting democracy, but we have succeeded in the production

of compost."

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