Jacob Swee’s face comes alive as he talks about his job – teaching the first composting class at the Booker Washington Institute, a well‐known agricultural school just north of Monrovia, Liberia. He has been teaching there for nine years, since he finished his own degree, but this is the first time he is using what he calls “technical compost techniques.” Liberians have used traditional compost for years – often people will collect the rich black dirt from the bottom of a trash pit for their gardens. However this year’s class, which fills two sections of 52 students each, is the first to be taught how to effectively design and create compost using inputs from the school farm’s wastes.
The students are enthusiastic, reports Swee. “There are numbers of them asking me to give them a spot to prepare their own compost.” With support from CHF International, Jacob was trained in the stages and creation of compost, which he now teaches his students. They are also establishing a demonstration garden using applied compost, so that neighboring farms will be able to see first‐hand how much more vibrantly crops will grow in healthy, organic soil.
The YES Program at CHF Liberia works to improve youth empowerment and employment opportunities through the solid waste management sector in Monrovia. As part of this initiative, CHF is piloting an urban composting and segregated collection program, the leaders of which recently participated in a study tour to both Jacob Swee’s demonstration site and the Center Songhai, another agricultural school with another, equally inspiring, local compost expert.
Dorcas Smith was trained in composting and agricultural leadership at the Ancient Rural Institute in Japan, and will soon begin teaching composting to urban youth in Monrovia. She speaks proudly of her time abroad, and her plans to create systems in her own country from that model. “You have to change people’s mentality – when they appreciate themselves, we will go farther.” She believes in the power of hard work as much as in the potential of her country: “Liberia can be clean like Japan – the levels used to be reversed [before the Liberian war], but after working hard, they came up. We can do that.”