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on 25 May, 00:04

CETDEM’s Community Compost Making #1: Introduction

CETDEM’s Community Compost Making #1: Introduction
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In August 2014, CETDEM organised its first Community Composting Group to build a compost to be shared by members of the group. MESYM was invited to document the process. This is therefore the first of a multi-part series as we follow the group through the steps of creating their compost heap from scratch.

Freshly built compost heap

Freshly built compost heap

The Basics

Very simply, a compost is basically organic matter that has been sufficiently decomposed to form a rich soil which can be used as a medium to grow plants. Besides the obvious benefit of enriching soil in an organic way, it also reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills. It is not difficult to make your own compost, but it makes more sense to do it as a group because the efforts (waste collection, construction and turning of compost heap) and outcomes (the compost) can both be shared. For the first CETDEM Community Group, the compost heap built was 4 feet high to yield 8 sugar bags of compost that would be shared amongst the group members and the CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre.

The Composition

The compost heap requires four main components to transform organic waste into good, healthy soil: Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and water. These form the basic conditions for micro-organisms to break down the waste.

  • Carbon – Usually brown/green material. This is the food for the micro-organisms, and can include tree leaves, grass, weeds, crop stalks, etc.
  • Nitrogen – Usually protein. This is required for the micro-organisms to grow and multiply, and includes kitchen scraps, and also protein-rich materials like manure and soybean waste.
  • Oxygen – This is required to keep the micro-organisms alive and to ensure that the breaking down of organic waste is efficient. Therefore, the compost heap needs to be “turned” every two weeks to make sure that there is sufficient oxygen within the pile.
  • Water – The compost heap needs to have a suitable amount of water – not too much and not too little.

A rule of thumb is that the ratio of Nitrogen (‘wet’ material) to Carbon (‘dry material’) is 1:30 (between 20 to 30 is fine) in layering the compost heap.

The Process

The compost takes three months to make. It begins with waste collection, layering the waste into a compost heap, and then turning the compost heap every two weeks until completion. Most of the effort is in waste collection and building the compost on the first day, which was accomplished in a few hours by the group. They then need to meet every two weeks at the composting site to aerate the compost.

The CETDEM Community Composting Group is organised by CETDEM’s Organic Farming Coordinator, Mdm Tan Siew Luang, who has decades of experience in organic farming. Those interested to participate or organise a group themselves can contact her directly at of@cetdem.org.my.

on 7 Jun, 23:09

What’s Happening in Malaysia #2: Organic Farming (Part Two)

What’s Happening in Malaysia #2: Organic Farming (Part Two)
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This is Part Two of what we learnt from the organic farming public forum on 25 May, organised by CETDEM. Part One can be found here.

The public forum was held in Sin Chew Cultural Hall, and opened with an address by CETDEM Chairman Ir. Gurmit Singh, followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Anni Mitin from Persatuan Pengguna-Pengguna Standard Malaysia, Mr. Tai Seng Yee from Zenxin Organic Food Sdn Bhd, and Ir. Gurmit Singh, moderated by Pn. Aini Zakaria, former MARDI researcher. There was a Q&A session for about an hour after the panel discussions. The information below is based on the panel presentations and responses to questions from the floor.

How does the certification process work for Skim Organik Malaysia (SOM)?

When the farmer registers to the SOM committee for certification, the inspectors from Department of Agriculture (DoA) interview the farmer about the history of the cultivated land, and collect soil and water samples to be tested in Putrajaya. After 3 or 4 months, after the vegetables are planted, the inspectors will get samples of the vegetables to test for pesticides, heavy metals and microbes. They will also look at the farm for traces of beneficial predators, as part of the inspection. After 2-3 times of inspection in that year, the inspectors give the report to the accreditation officer. Random visits are made to the farms, and if the farm’s performance is satisfactory, the committee will give the certification. Each certification lasts for one year and has to be renewed.

Not all farms get the annual visits, which should be the case in theory. This appears to be a problem of lack of human resources in DoA. It is also mentioned by the panel that some auditors may not be fully qualified for the job.

Does SOM certification assure the genuineness of organic products?

There is room for improvement for the SOM certification, which is quite new as of now, with not many farms covered. It is difficult to guarantee that the organic produce meets full criteria of SOM because there is an absence of an independent audit of SOM. SOM does not cover the full supply chain from farm to table, and therefore SOM certified produce could be adulterated before reaching the consumer.

Some questions that arise therefore include: What is the level of integrity with retailers esp. when repacking? Can SOM labels be copied & misused? Will SOM certification of specific farm locations be misused to cover others belonging to same firm?

Logo of SOM certification

Logo of SOM certification (Source: The Star)

What are the challenges faced by the organic agricultural sector in Malaysia?

The panel highlighted a number of problems faced by the organic farming sector in Malaysia. This can be discussed from the following points of view:

  1. Government: There is insufficient support from the government. There has been no mention of the sector in the proposed 11th Malaysia Plan, for instance. There are almost no incentives in terms of land and loans, and SOM is not promoted well enough by DoA. More certification services are needed to support the growing number of farms. In terms of labelling, enforcement on clear organic labelling is weak.
  2. Producers: There are farmers who try to go organic without clear knowledge of what that means. The interest, even among big farms, is to produce for export and not for local consumption. There is also labour shortages at farms, with the younger generation being unwilling to participate in farming.
  3. Consumers: The consumers are unwilling to pay premium prices for quality organic produce.

What is the way forward for organic farming in Malaysia?

The panel recommended several ways forward for organic agriculture in Malaysia. Immediate improvements can be made in terms of providing research and development for organic farmers, and consumer education for the public. The government and corporations can provide land and soft loans to farmers, and also help direct labour to organic farms. Wholesalers and retailers can be more proactive in selling organic products, emphasising healthy food for healthy Malaysians – organic produce should first be sold locally, and surplus can be exported.

For deeper systemic change, it was recommended that the negative aspects of globalisation and free market should be resisted. Instead, fair trade should be promoted. Fundamental ecological and ethical principles should be reasserted, especially in production and processing systems. Small producers should have an effective role in decision-making and standards setting.

CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre (Source: CETDEM)

CETDEM Organic Farming Community Centre (Source: CETDEM

on 31 May, 15:48

What’s Happening in Malaysia #2: Organic Farming (Part One)

What’s Happening in Malaysia #2: Organic Farming (Part One)
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The MESYM team attended the public forum for organic farming organised by CETDEM (“What’s Happening to Organic Farming in Malaysia” – coincidentally a similar title with our feature series) on 25 May, and left with some interesting information that we would like to share with you. This will be Part One out of a two-part series. Part Two can be found here.

The public forum was held in Sin Chew Cultural Hall, and opened with an address by CETDEM Chairman Ir. Gurmit Singh, followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Anni Mitin from Persatuan Pengguna-Pengguna Standard Malaysia, Mr. Tai Seng Yee from Zenxin Organic Food Sdn Bhd, and Ir. Gurmit Singh, moderated by Pn. Aini Zakaria, former MARDI researcher. There was a Q&A session for about an hour after the panel discussions. The information below is based on the panel presentations and responses to questions from the floor.

DSC_0643

Panel of discussion, from right to left: Pn Aini Zakaria (moderator), Mr. Tai Seng Yee, Dr. Anni Mitin, Ir. Gurmit Singh

Firstly, what is organic farming?

Organic farming is farming that avoids use of all synthetic agro-chemicals, and relies instead on extensive use of compost, derived as much as possible from on-site resources. Multiple cropping with intercropping, crop rotation etc. is encouraged. The farmers use green manure and soil enhancers such as Bokashi, and protect the soil through techniques like mulching. Organic farming is integrated farming and involve minimal external energy inputs. There should be quality control through 3rd party inspection.

What are the organic certifications used commonly in Malaysia?

Commonly used are SOM (Skim Organik Malaysia) and NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia). SOM is a certification programme developed by the Department of Agriculture of Malaysia to certify organic farms that operate according to its guidelines and criteria. NASAA is an Australian certification, accredited by the IOAS, an international non-profit organisation that accredits certification schemes for organic agriculture.

Click here for the PDF of the SOM Standard from DoA.

What is the market situation of organic products in Malaysia?

It is generally agreed by the panel that good official data is difficult to get. The market size is estimated to be about RM200mil, which is relatively small, as the cash crops (such as oil palm) are usually not organic. From the year 2001 to 2012, Malaysia’s organic agriculture increased in size from 131ha to 2700ha. The following photo shows figures cited in the presentation of Mr. Tai, though he explained that the real figures could be as much as two times more, due to under-reporting.

Market situation of organic agriculture in Malaysia

Market situation of organic agriculture in Malaysia

Where is Malaysia in relation to the world?

Within Southeast Asia, there are only three countries that have fully implemented an organic certification system (with international accreditation): Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Within Asia, the big producers of organic agriculture are China, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. The big consumers are Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

As mentioned before, Malaysia’s land mass for organic agriculture is about 2,700ha, which is miniscule compared to 3.6mil ha in Asia (and 32mil ha as the world total). The Asian market is valued over $1bil, and the world market over $54.9bil. There are more than 1.8mil organic producers in the world, and 24 countries have more than 5% of their land mass occupied by organic agriculture. In Malaysia less than 0.1% of our land is organic agriculture.

What are the consumers’ responsibilities and rights with regards to organic products?

Food is our basic need and right. Consumers’ responsibilities are to educate themselves to be critical, to ask the right questions based on the right information. Consumers need to have the social concern and environmental awareness on the benefits of organic farming, and show their support through buying organic. Consumers should not expect the cheapest prices for organic farmers compared with the chemically produced; and farmers have to be scrupulous in providing good quality produce (good organic veges should not be wilted and holey, for instance).

Consumers have the rights to be protected from hazards to their health and safety and to have access to consumer information and education (environmental, social and economic impacts of their choice) to make informed decisions. They should have access to a wide range of choices, the rights to be heard and the possibility to seek effective redress.

Attendees at CETDEM's public forum on organic farming

Attendees at CETDEM’s public forum on organic farming

Part Two will address the certification process of SOM, as well as problems and challenges to the sector.

on 28 Nov, 15:27

#PowerShiftMsia Part 2: Vinesh Sinha, Volunteer

#PowerShiftMsia Part 2: Vinesh Sinha, Volunteer
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This December, we anticipate one of the biggest climate-related events in Malaysia. #PowerShiftMsia brings together 200 passionate youths under one roof, to equip them with skills needed to lead people-powered climate action. This will be a multi-part series featuring various aspects of #PowerShiftMsia. For Part 1, we had the opportunity to interview Adrian Yeo, the initiator of #PowerShiftMsia.

#PowerShiftMsia Part 2 brings us an interview with a successful local entrepreneur and passionate #PowerShiftMsia volunteer. Vinesh Sinha, a 25 year old eco entrepreneur, started a waste oil to biodiesel organization, known as FatHopes Energy back in 2010 and currently operates his company throughout Malaysia. Very recently, FatHopes Energy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) to promote used cooking oil recycling programs.

Vinesh Sinha (Source)

What inspired you to join #PowerShiftMsia?

Power Shift Malaysia in my opinion is the only platform that offers like minded youths a chance to call for climate justice in Malaysia, in our own ways. The unique difference here is we believe that we are part of the problem and we are keen to begin working towards the solution! Why not today?

Could you give us a preview of what to expect from the workshop sessions at #PowerShiftMsia?

Power Shift Malaysia will offer a unique insight of the skills and knowhow required to carry out proper and directed climate actions, a wealth of information and knowledge which will not be offered under any other umbrella.

How do you think entrepreneurs can help to push towards a cleaner climate?

I strongly believe that entrepreneurship is a good attribute to have in the fight to stop climate change and global warming. This is because if we are able to forge or create our own direction via business, the younger generation will be able to offer new solutions to old problems. I strongly believe we cannot be doing the same things and expecting different results. Hence it is important for each and every one of us to go out there and give implementing our new idea a shot.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

What do you personally hope #PowerShiftMsia will achieve in the long run?

I sincerely hope that this congregation of 200 youths from across the country will instil a strong commitment towards serious climate action for the years to come, as well as propagate this cause to as many as possible – making the movement stronger and stronger.

If you had a chance to inspire a group of youth with just one quote, what would it be?

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

“Do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

on 18 Nov, 00:01

#PowerShiftMsia Part 1: Interview with Adrian Yeo

#PowerShiftMsia Part 1: Interview with Adrian Yeo
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This December, we anticipate one of the biggest climate-related events in Malaysia. #PowerShiftMsia brings together 200 passionate youths under one roof, to equip them with skills needed to lead people-powered climate action. This will be a multi-part series featuring various aspects of #PowerShiftMsia. For Part 1, we had the opportunity to interview Adrian Yeo, the initiator of #PowerShiftMsia.

#PowerShiftMsia is a local initiative born out of Global Power Shift, a global movement of young people eager to push for urgent action on our climate crisis. Global Power Shift was initiated and is being led by 350.org, a youth-led network co-founded by environmental writer Bill McKibben.

[jwplayer mediaid=”15197″]

In June 2013, an international group of climate leaders and young activists met in Istanbul. The week-long summit saw them refining their skills and creating personal bonds and community. They shared a global vision for change, and strategized how to organize different actions and similar summits back home.

Adrian Yeo was one of the participants of Global Power Shift, who upon his return to Malaysia started to organize #PowerShiftMsia. He is a community organizer and an advocate to strengthening of civil society, active in engaging local environment, energy and resource campaigns. Adrian is a committee member of RakanKL, a volunteer group promoting the love of Kuala Lumpur’s history & heritage. He recently spoke on TEDxMerdekaSquare promoting civil society movement building.

Tell us a little about your journey that has led to climate change movements, including your involvement in #PowerShiftMsia.

I was a Boy Scout growing up in KL. We went trekking and camping in the jungles around Selangor. During the trips we kept meeting patches of cleared forests and heard stories of how the animals and trees were sacrificed in the name of development. This started me on the journey to learn more and spend more time in these natural habitats before they are gone.

I worked for YOUNGO as the Youth Logistics Coordinator at UNFCCC’s COP15 in Copenhagen, and actively participated at various UNFCCC & UNCSD (Rio+20) meetings and conferences. I was an official presenter of Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project (TCRP), in which I underwent in-depth training under Mr. Gore on the issue of climate crisis.

In June 2013 I was a participant of 350.org’s Global Power Shift, in Istanbul, to catalyze powerful national movements calling for bold climate action. Now I am back, organizing Malaysia’s own Power Shift so that we can begin serious work on climate and environmental issues in 2014.

Volunteers are already hard at work. It is a tremendous undertaking, but we are confident that we will make it.

If you could choose one word to describe the condition of our environment today, what would it be?

Tipping Point (wait that’s two). We are nearing the tipping point of no return. Take action today or live with the regret of climate chaos in the future.

Why do you think that the Power Shift Movement is important for our Earth?

Having attended a few UN Climate Change Talks, it dawned on me that the REAL change must happen at the grassroots level. If we wish to see any safe climate future, we need to build a strong, youth-led climate movement in Malaysia. A movement to strive for sustainable development, clean renewable energy, better management of our forest and wildlifes, and compulsory environment education for our future generations.

Where do you think Malaysians stand when it comes to environmental awareness?

If you ask 10 Malaysians on the street, 9 will agree with you that we need to recycle and do good for the environment. The awareness is high, but the motivation for taking action is low. We lack the infrastructure for people to do the right thing. Recycling centres or bins are hidden in corners, we have a disconnected public transportation system, water & electricity utilities are highly subsidised thus leading to high wastage. We need to stop talking and start doing.

takeleadershipnow

What should participants expect out of #PowerShiftMsia?

#PowerShiftMsia will be a gathering of many community organisers who are leading campaigns and doing good work in their own cities, kampungs or schools. More often than not we have the feeling that we are fighting this battle alone. Coming together during 10-15 December can be a great time to network with the other fellow climate change campaigners and to recharge our spirits.

#PowerShiftMsia will also empower participants with a variety of workshops, including digital campaigning, policy and governance, media literacy, and creative activism. Participants will learn about democracy and civil rights, the theory of change, and the storytelling skills needed to bring about effective change.

What is the long term goal of #PowerShiftMsia?

The goal of #PowerShiftMsia is to shift our reliance on dirty energy to clean energy, by empowering people to push for the change that they wish to see. The attendees of #PowerShiftMsia will learn important skills and champion a movement to effectively confront the climate crisis faced by our planet.

If you had a chance to inspire a group of youth with just one quote, what would it be?

Buat Kerja Cepat-Cepat
Stop Talking, Start Doing.

DSCF3654

Want to participate or volunteer? More information here, or you can check out #PowerShiftMsia’s website.

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MESYM.com is a crowd-sourced platform and a living database for environmental movements in Malaysia. There are many good actions being done out there. Our goal is to bring them together. We connect the green dots.