Improved Utilisation of Urban Waste by Near-Urban Farmers in the Hubli-Dharwad City-Region
A research project funded by the UK Department for International Development (contract number R7099), under the Natural Resources Systems Programme, Peri-Urban Interface Production System Research.Contact:
School of Public Policy
University of Birmingham Edgbaston
Birmingham B15 2TT UK
Tel: 44 121 414 4965
Fax: 44 121 414 4989
The International Development Department of the School of Public Policy
1.0 Background to the project
This research is being conducted by the School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, the Centre for Arid Zone Studies, University of Wales, Bangor, the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and S.D.M. College of Science and Technology, Dharwad, India.
The research commenced in January 1998 and aims to improve the utilisation of urban waste by near-urban farmers in the Hubli-Dharwad city-region of Karnataka, India. The research is particularly concerned with the problems associated with access to urban waste by small and marginal farmers, including transportation costs and the poor quality of the mixed municipal waste from the dumpsites in Hubli and Dharwad.
This is a summary of a recently completed Inception Report, which details the design of the research and some preliminary findings. The report outlines the current situation in the Hubli-Dharwad city-region regarding the management and use of urban waste, composting practices currently employed, a review of the use of urban waste in other city-regions of South Asia, a review of relevant soil fertility issues and sets out the research activities for the first six months of the research.
2.0 Use of urban waste
Urban waste has been utilised by farmers in the Hubli-Dharwad city-region for many years. The waste was purchased from the Hubli dumpsite by tractor loads and from the Dharwad dumpsite via an annual auction system managed by the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC), selling waste by the pit load.
The sale and use of urban waste is declining as the waste is increasingly being contaminated by non-compostable waste, particularly plastics. However, there are several other factors which have affected the ability of the HDMC to sell the waste and the farmers' willingness to buy the waste. These include:
- shortages of labour at the dumpsites, making pit preparation difficult;
- farmers are less able to employ labourers to dig up the waste pits, sort the waste and spread it onto the fields. This is largely due to competing employment opportunities, and higher wage levels, in the urban areas; and,
- farmers who do not own tractors are less willing to hire vehicles to purchase urban waste when the quality is so low.
There are, however, some farmers who continue to purchase urban waste. These farmers are relatively wealthy, have their own tractors and are able to hire labour to transport and sometimes sort the waste. Small and marginal farmers do not presently have access to this potentially useful resource to use as a soil ameliorant.
In December 1997, the HDMC advertised for private sector companies to tender for waste disposal and treatment services. The preferred response intends to develop vermicomposting on a commercial basis in both Hubli and Dharwad. This will potentially continue to limit the access of urban waste by small and marginal farmers. HDMC, together with local NGOs, has also initiated trials of source separation and composting within a number of suburban localities within the two cities. The research project will seek to complement and build on the experiences of these trials.
3.0 Literature review
A brief review of literature regarding both solid waste and soil fertility issues is set out in the report. Key points arising from the literature reviews include:
- The informal sector plays a significant role within waste economies of Southern cities. Gender dimensions of waste activities need to be understood and recognised.
- NGOs can play a vital role in linking the formal and informal sectors within waste related activities.
- Source separation of waste appears to be a key factor in producing good quality compost from urban waste.
- There has been little research conducted on the quality of municipal solid waste as a soil amendment.
4.0 Research activities in Phase 1
The report sets out the key research activities being undertaken during the first phase of the research, including analysis of waste, pilot composting trials and observation of farmers' activities and crop development during the kharif (rainy) season. A more extensive understanding of the generation, recovery and treatment of solid waste will be developed, particularly of the roles and interactions of the many stakeholders, including the Corporation, waste pickers, private sector contractors and farmers who have bought urban waste.
The observation of farmers is crucial in developing a more participatory approach to the research, thus generating:
- an in-depth understanding of soil fertility issues and access to, and use of, composts;
- a relationship between the research team and farmers of trust and co-operation;
- assistance in facilitating exchange of knowledge and experience between farmers, and between farmers, NGOs, government agencies and research scientists; and,
- farmer co-operation in the design, development, monitoring and evaluation of on-farm trials during the kharif season of 1999.
It is intended that phase 1 of the research project will conclude at the end of September 1998, to enable a review of the research with a view to planning further stages with more detailed information and objectives.
5.0 Preliminary findings
A number of preliminary findings were derived from the inception visit and associated literature reviews. The key findings include:
- There is a wealth of experience in the use of composts by farmers within the city-region that the research team, with the farmers, must learn from and build-on.
- Wealthy farmers have been the main purchasers of urban waste in the Hubli-Dharwad city-region.
- There are a number of constraints to the use of urban waste by farmers, including transportation and labour costs and deteriorating quality of waste.
- Small and marginal farmers have not had access to urban waste, largely due to significant transportation costs.
- Local compost is used in many areas and is made from household waste, dung and farm waste.
- Composts are often in short supply, and purchasing is difficult.
- Some adaptations to changes in the availability of composts, including urban waste, have been made by farmers, such as tilling the soil earlier than previously.
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