RSP: Mahmood Elahi
From Village Kachi, Beer Valley, Haripur District, April 2017
Ahmed Khan prepares the compost pit with the three essential parts: dung (from his livestock), kitchen waste and green leaves, then tops it off with water – crucial for making compost. Like clockwork, he remembers to turn it from time to time - the first turn given after two weeks, the second after another 3 weeks and the last turn he gives after nine weeks since the start (or 4 weeks after second turn). Within 3 months the compost is full of nutrients and ready to be added to the soil. On an average, it costs Ahmed Khan 7,346 PKR on compost pit making.
Ahmed Khan is a resident of village Kachi in Beer valley of Haripur district. Kachi is a small village with total 250 households and population of about 1750 to 2000. Total land is approximately 20,760 kanal out of which 17,000 Kanal is agricultural land. 90% of the people have agricultural land whereas 10% are landless. 45% of the people fall within the categories of poor and extremely poor, only 2 % are well off. The farmers usually grow wheat and maize and there is no concept of crop rotation.
Ahmed Khan used to serve as class four in labour court and is now on his leave prior to retirement (LPR), hence has time for innovative activities on his land. His son Babar Khan is a school teacher and it was Babar’s interaction with Mehmood Elahi (RSP for NMA project) which generated enough interest for him to offer his piece of land for compost making demos.
Says Ahmed Khan “I have 40 kanals of land but initially I applied this compost on only 2 kanals and did not use synthetic fertilizer. Overall I got 40 maunds of wheat, 8 maunds were from the demo plot. Agreed its yield was a bit less as compared to if I used fertilizer but the taste was very good. The first bite took me back into my past when everything was pure. We have happily stored it for our consumption in the month of Ramadan”.
According to Ahmed Khan, “Compost making is certainly not all that traditional anymore. Previously animals were kept by all farmers whose fresh dung would be used directly onto the fields”. As it would not be properly decomposed and was exposed to sunlight and rain, the nutrients would be washed away making it much less useful for the crops. On the other hand, it is a bit labour intensive as it requires time whereas the artificial fertilizer is a one- time investment and then the farmer can relax.
Ahmed Khan watched reminiscently when 13 people received training on compost making on his demo plots. Carried out in various hamlets and villages, a total of 237 men and 71 women learnt how to make composts. He is amazed at the fact that times go forward yet times go back as well “I remember that in 1973 for the first time a new wheat variety called maxi pak and a fertilizer named daood khel were introduced. It was also the first time a tractor was brought in to plough the fields. Before using these inputs the crop yield was low but with this practice the yield suddenly became high and within no time we farmers detached ourselves from our traditional agricultural practices”. Not concerned with how much yield he gets after using natural compost, he emphasises taste and good health. He firmly believes this way diseases can be warded off due to growing of better nutritious crops.
Ahmed Khan is preparing compost for a second season of cropping. This time he plans to replicate it on 4 kanals of land. He has prepared multiple small kitchen gardens and fenced them with the tree branches to protect from animals and poultry, “I have used indigenous material to show people that with the locally available material you can make such things, it is not necessary to buy expensive items”. Khan uses the compost for growing vegetables such as pumpkin, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, ridge gourd and onions alongside fruits such as lemon, pomegranate, persimmon and guava. Mostly given away as gifts, Khan knows the gesture is sure to win him many blessings because what he is giving away is as organic as possible.
According to this farmer, “One constraint is that this compost is prepared in much less quantity as the available ingredients are less. My land is rain-fed and the plants are thirsty they want water, this time due to less rain even the grain of wheat was small. But my fallback is my 20 cattle, 3-4 of which I sell every year to fetch me a good price”.
The extensive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides is one of the causes leading to heart disease and disabilities. A nutritious balanced diet is crucial but the only hindrance is financial constraints, people are poor and cannot afford to spend money into compost making. For them it is easy to purchase a bag of urea and spread it into many kanals of land turning dirt into gold. Little are they aware that this gold will soon be spent on their own hospital bills.
The revival of a tradition has instilled a new soul in Ahmed Khan, “I dream of developing the whole of my land gradually into a form of dera where people from the village gather, observe and enjoy nature, learn and inspire. I want to make this dera to show that it has all the blessings of God. I want to rare cattle and poultry and all of this on an organic basis, with no artificial practices. Everyone could be near nature and be inspired enough to consider replicating same on their lands. And this will be my contribution to the future generations of the area”.
The first bit of wheat loaf and vegetables grown with compost took Ahmed back to his past when everything was pure. The revival of tradition has instilled new soul in him as he aspires to contribute to the future generations by making a model are full of all the blessings (vegetables, fruit, cattle and poultry) all grown on organic basis.
 1 acre=8 Kanal
 Clerical staff
 1 ton =25 maunds
 A common place for men to sit together, have interaction and discussions.