U.S. Department of Agriculture Helps Farmers Convert Waste to Organic Farming Compost

Islamabad, June 19, 2015 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) partnered with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to create a program to train Pakistani banana farmers in the proper methods to turn crop waste into compost.

“What farmers are burning as waste is actually a valuable resource,” Dr. Shoukat Abro of the Sindh Agricultural Extension Department was quick to point out.

Farmers in Sindh produce 90 percent of Pakistan’s bananas and have traditionally burned the waste produced by the crop. USDA began the three-year Improving Soil Fertility and Soil Health through Agricultural Extension project in an effort to get farmers to use those waste materials to benefit the land and increase crop production. A USDA team visited a banana farm in the Tando Allahyr district of Sindh to observe the program’s progress.

ICARDA is directing ten other Pakistani institutions involved in this project to train farmers to properly turn the leaves and stems left over from banana harvest into compost. The compost can then be used to enrich their soil. There are currently 43 sites throughout Pakistan for farmers to learn about the process of mixing organic matter like the banana harvest waste with manure in order to create compost. The project looks to expand into other crop production areas to identify more organic materials that can be converted into compost.

USDA, through funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided technical expertise and guidance to farmers throughout the country. Their focus has been on using the established method of applying compost to nutrient depleted soil to enrich it with organic matter and improve its water holding capacity.

Agriculture is Pakistan’s second largest sector, accounting for over 21 percent of GDP. It remains by far the largest employer, with 46 percent of the labor force working in the sector. For the nearly 62 percent of the Pakistani population in rural areas, agriculture is a vital part of daily life. USDA supports Pakistani scientists and farmers to enhance agricultural productivity in Pakistan, support economic objectives and meet food security needs.

For more information on USDA programs in Pakistan, please visit:http://www.fas.usda.gov/regions/south-and-central-asia/pakistan