Issue - June 2010

June 2010


In this edition Lauren Rutter reviews the UPB's theatre production Dr. 0; CBA students highlight ways to solve the garbage problem in the city; Floriane Guyot discovers how micro financing can help to empower women; Jaime Bassett explains about sustainable development week; Rocio Carranza looks at why richer nations should take responsibility for climate change and Walter Sanchez uncovers the history of band music in the Valle Alto. read more...

June 2010


Cochabamba has a smelly problem and it is only getting worse. Proper garbage disposal is sorely lacking in the city, therefore it is important to look at other alternatives such as composting which can drastically decrease the amount of waste.

Luis Crespo
Mayra Claros
Gabriela Bottani
Carmen Villarroel
Violeta Angulo
CBA - Students
Cochabamba - Bolivia

Garbage in Cochabamba has become an increasing problem..  In January 2010, the landfill of Kara Kara, where all the garbage of this city is deposited, was blocked by the neighbours for four days. This blockage caused the accumulation of close to 2000 tons of garbage. Cochabamba produces daily approximately 400 tons of garbage ( Its accumulation, mainly in the markets and on the streets of the city, is becoming a serious threat to public health. .

What is even more alarming is the fact that the population is gradually increasing and as a result the quantity of garbage is incrementing too.

Analyzing the composition of garbage, it is estimated that at least 60 % of it consists of organic waste (fruit and vegetable shells, leaves, grass and others). In this sense making compost can be a good alternative in order to reduce garbage. Figure 1 illustrates the composition of garbage in Cercado.

Figure 1. Composition of Cercado´s garbage (source: Toledo, C.: Lujan M.; in impression, ACTA NOVA, Vol 4, Nº1. 2009).

Before explaining this environmentally friendly solution, let’s focus on our main problem.

Since 1987 all this garbage has been buried in Kara Kara. Some people who live and work there, voluntarily collect plastic, cans and glass to recycle. This activity is insufficient to meet certain standard requirements.

Overthe last years, the population of this area has quickly grown and the landfill has become an area of contamination that puts thepopulation at risk. In some instances the Garbage contains toxic products, and the degradation of organic compounds releases toxic gases.

Part of the solution is of course teaching people how to classify garbage in different groups: plastic, cans, glass and organic waste. In this article we are going to focus our attention on what can be done with organic residues.

Even though people have many misconceptions about homemade compost it is the most efficient solution to deal with this problem. Bad smell, difficult to make, long and a slow decaying process are just myths.

So if you are willing to make a successful pile of compost you need to follow these steps, called the big 4, which are in fact the ingredients for your compost.

  1. Browns (dried plants and weeds)
  2. Greens (Kitchen scraps, green sources from the garden)
  3. Water and
  4. Air

To keep away bad odours and unwanted visitors from the pile of compost, you should not include  meat,   bones, fish, dairy products, greasy foods, dog, cat, or bird feces or materials that have poisons or chemicals.

Taken into consideration all of the above mentioned aspects, you are ready to begin your pile. If you have a backyard, follow these steps:

  1. Select a dry, shady spot near a water source.
  2. Add your browns and greens in heaps making sure large pieces are chopped
  3. Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  4. Cover your pile with 25 cm of grass clippings and green waste or cover with plastic in order to keep it moist.

The pile will begin to heat up, and if you want to accelerate the process,  mix your compost pile every week or two with a pitch fork to distribute air and moisture. Continue doing this until the pile does not re-heat anymore. Your compost will be ready in one to four months. It is advisable to let the pile sit for two more weeks before actually using it.

If you don´t have enough space or you live in a flat you can use an indoor bin. Drill 1.2 cm diameter holes in the bottom and sides of a plastic garbage can. Place a brick in the bottom of a larger garbage can; surround the brick with a layer of wood chips or soil, and place the smaller can inside on top of the brick. Wrap insulation around the outer can to keep the compost warm and cover the cans with a lid. Fill the bin following the previously mentioned steps.

Making compost has many advantages, not only environmental but also social.

Considering environmental aspects, compost helps pollution remediation by absorbing odours and degrading volatile organic compounds.

It also avoids methane production and leachingin landfills. In agriculture, compost provides a stable organic matter that improves the physical, chemical and biological properties, enhancing the soil quality and crop production.

Moreover it improves the biological properties of the soil, supplying food and suppressing certain plant diseases.

Among the social benefits of composting we can include the following aspects:

  • It extends current landfills longevity and delays the construction of more expensive landfills or incinerators.
  • It creates new jobs for citizens.
  • It provides us with a cheap fertilizer for our garden and plants.
  • It is an economic way to reduce our garbage by 60 % which also implies decreasing current transportation and processing costs.

In conclusion making compost has a lot of benefits not only for people but also for the world.

If everybody in our country starts selecting garbage and using the organic garbage to make compost, many problems will be solved. Landfills will be reduced and gas emissions will be less. Therefore people would also be significantly contributing to the reduction of global warming in general.

Empowering women through microfinance

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. Even if there is not a miraculous remedy to eradicate poverty, microfinance has done a lot to alleviate the plague from several decades. Bolivia has been one of the pioneers in this field since the 80’s.

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