Employing the Disabled with HIV/AIDS through Vermicomposting
Terra Matters is a social enterprise start up that believes building soil & society go hand in hand. Through vermicomposting, we transform organic waste into fertiliser and are able to provide employment to disenfranchised men with HIV/AIDS. Our product is sold as premium ‘plant food’ in upcycled biodegradable packaging. In our next phase, we intend to supply vermicomposting kits (currently in prototyping stage) and training modules to empower consumers to take control of their fresh kitchen waste and turn it into healthy & nutritious edible gardens.
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According to recent statistics, Malaysians generate 15,000 tonnes of organic waste a day, much of it in the form of food waste. This waste ends up in landfills, causing soil pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Sadly underutilised, fresh organic waste – through vermicomposting – has tremendous potential of being transformed into fertility, and thus food. With the correct knowledge and resource, this untapped potential offers an opportunity to consumers. In particular, we are looking at a group of disabled men with HIV/AIDS from Positive Living Community who have been disenfranchised from the working world, and can benefit from adopting ‘serious’ composting as a form of economic empowerment. It is also a means to produce their own healthy, organic food, while empowering others to do the same.
Through vermicomposting, Terra Matters turns fresh organic waste into fertiliser, which can be used to grow nutritious food. We don’t want to stop there! We intend to empower households to do the same. By creating consumer based, closed looped ‘garden to plate’ solutions, we are able to redirect much of our kitchen waste which would otherwise end up in landfills. By doing this, we are providing a three pronged solution to waste, malnutrition and scarcity of food. By working in partnership with disabled men with HIV/AIDS to bring these solutions to consumers, our goal is to transform organic waste into the 3F’s of fertiliser, food, finance, thus creating triple bottom line benefits for our stakeholders.
The following is how our solution translates into action:
STAGE 1: Execute a viable and scalable method of turning waste into fertility, and involve the disabled with HIV. Through vermicomposting, we are generating a viable product called ‘Plant Food’. It is a ‘grade A’organic plant fertiliser made of worm castings (the correct term for worm dung). Biodegradable packaging has been developed, and we have began selling our product to friends and supporters.
STAGE 2: Empower consumers with solutions to turn fresh organic waste into fertility. We are in the midst of prototyping a 100% eco-friendly vermicomposting kit & manual to empower individuals and communities to transform their organic waste into fertiliser. We plan to launch our first viable prototype by the end of 2018.
STAGE 3: Educate consumers on how to maximise fertility into food gardens & ringgit. We will develop theory and practical modules to teach consumers on how to grow their own food, using vermicomposting & best practices in organic gardening and permaculture. In the case of vermicomposting as a method of turning waste into ‘ringgit’, the market price for vermicompost is between RM 5 – RM 10 per kg, while the current price for a kg of composting worms is around the range of RM 400- 500.
Our beneficiary community is a growing group of disabled men with HIV/AIDS from the Positive Living Community Welfare Organisation. We are starting with ten men. Although these men have different types of limitations and varying levels of mobility as a result of contracting opportunistic diseases due to AIDS; they are able to manage daily living without the aid of nursing care. Due to their condition, these men are unemployed and disenfranchised.
The good news however, is that we’ve already trialed a mini vermicomposting project and produced a total of 100 kg of vermicompost with two of the men, both of whom are semi-paralyzed. The others are looking forward to joining the team. For many, this will be the first time in decades, where they can entertain the possibility of earning an income. Initiatives are already underway to introduce mechanization into the processing of the vermicompost, to give these men a good head start. By creating an incentive for these men to work & live together, our aim is to build their sense of resilience and confidence; giving them the choice and avenue to be empowered economically and live independently, creating opportunities to reintegrate back into society and reconnect with estranged family members.
Socioeconomic impact on our employees who are disabled, with HIV/AIDS is measured by:
1. The number of jobs that we are able to create.
2. Saving accounts & savings that we are able to help create for our employees.
2. Improvement of psycho-social health and well-being of our employees.
3. Successful cases of reintegration back into society .
4. Successful cases of reconnecting with estranged families.
Environmental impact is measured by:
1. The volume of organic waste converted into fertilizer.
2. The volume of green house gas emission and soil pollution prevented.
3. Improvement in soil and plant health after introduction of our product.
4. Adoption of product by consumers and quantity of sales.
Positive Living Community Welfare Organisation – Hosting beneficiary community and providing space, facilities and resources to develop pilot project Local cow farms and Positive Living Community Farm – Providing organic waste material as medium for vermicomposting Volunteers from online volunteer recruitment portals – Voluntary support services
Type of help needed
Cost for project as below:
|Description||Price/Unit (RM)||Quantity||Amount (RM)|
|Equipment & Supplies (Phase 1)||RM 4000/month||3||12000|
|R&D (Phase 2 & 3)||RM 1500/unit||6||9000|
|Writing & Design of Kits (Phase 2 & 3)||RM 4200/kit (manual)||2||8400|
|Advertising, Printing & Promo||RM 900/month||12||10800|
|Website & Social Media||RM 3000/ platform||2||6000|
|Payroll (6 contract employees)||RM 1000/month||12||12000|
|Project Management||RM 1400/month||12||16800|
Quarter 1: ( July – Sept) Establishment of additional composting bays & work stations R & D on vermicomposting kits
Quarter 2: (Oct – Dec 2018) Website Development Beta Testing of Vermicompsting Kits First Online Sales of Vermicompost
Quarter 3: (Jan – March 2019) Focus on Marketing & Sales R&D on Food Garden Kits First Online Sales of Vermicomposting Kits
Quarter 4: Beta Testing of Food Garden Kits First Online Sales of Food Garden Kits Social Media Development Continued Focus on Marketing & Sales