Tasneem Maimoon is an avid proponent of composting and has been growing plants using home-made compost for the past six years. She lives in Singapore with her husband and three children where she has been an active member of local planting groups and runs a business-venture named ‘Trueroots’. Recently, she was invited to Galiakot, India, to share her experience and expertise with community members during the holy month of Ramadan. In this interview, she shares her experiences as an organic planter and the impact it has had on her life. 

What is composting and how is it done?

Composting is a natural process of recycling organic matter like dried leaves, stems, barks, fruit and vegetable peels etc, into a valuable fertilizer which can enhance and enrich your soil condition and help you grow organic plants without the use of chemicals.

Composting can be done with readily available materials. These include; a pot, organic waste, dried leaves or paper tissue, potting soil and a pair of hand gloves. 

Begin by adding the dry items to a thick layer of soil. Then add the organic waste and top it all off with another layer of soil. The compost should then be left for 15 days, after which it should be stirred thoroughly to steady the mixture. Leave this pile for another month and then use it to grow whatever you want.

When did you come across composting and how were you inspired to take it forward?

I started planting about six years ago. At the time, it was mere curiosity and a gentle nudge from one of my relatives that planted the idea. I started small and used to grow a few vegetables at home. Gradually, I took it up a notch and started to compost organic waste. I found it easy, economical and fun to grow food in the comfort of my home. Over time, the satisfaction of consuming the ‘fruits of my labor’ has kept me going.

Why do you feel that it should be more widely practised? What are its benefits to people and the planet?

It’s a good way to reduce your plants’ maintenance costs. It certainly gives one an incentive to make productive use of organic waste. 

I feel we need to become more sensitive and engaged in the process of composting, where it’s not just about growing organic plants and veggies, but also connecting with nature at an intimate level; by giving time and effort to the process. For people like me, the process itself is therapeutic and stress relieving.

From an environmental standpoint, composting helps reduce the accumulation of waste in landfills, which helps reduce the excretion of methane; a greenhouse gas. I believe we should incentivise this activity in some shape and form in order to make it a common practice across households. Imagine the collective outcome if everyone started to compost at home; the world would be a healthier place to live in.

What perspective have you gained about the environment in these years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Growing food requires care. Nurturing plants at home has made me more conscious of what it really takes to grow food, especially organically. That is why I am heartbroken when I come across news of famine and how entire populations are on the brink of starvation due to abnormal weather phenomena caused by climate change.

The sudden disruption caused by the pandemic gave me time to reflect and appreciate the habit of planting at home. At a time when food commodities are becoming more and more inflated and hard to come by, home-grown food has proved its benefits in more than one way. Not only is it beneficial for the environment, but it is also a cushion against the volatility of prices in local and global markets.

How has the reception been with family and friends?

Well, initially I had meant to create a garden space on our terrace where the family could gather over piping hot evening tea. However, composting led to the space filling up with lots of pots. What had started with 10 plants eventually ended up into a collection of 80! 

Members of my family have been all hands on deck for me and have been very supportive. Initially, the kids were a little disappointed that they would not get a play area, but eventually they began taking part in the composting process. My husband helped start a brand by the name ‘Trueroots’ under which I sell my homegrown plants and other plant-based products, especially hair oil. The income from this helps me keep all 80 of them in good shape.

According to you, what role can women and the younger generation play in developing a greener planet? 

Children get inspired by what their parents do and teach them. I say this as a mother of three beautiful children, that they are very conscious of their home environment and learn a lot from the way their parents act. 

I believe that both women and men can make a lasting impression on their children and the younger generation in general by doing small things for the planet. Little things such as taking a walk instead of driving or using a jute bag instead of a plastic one instills an important message in these young minds. These cues will help shape innovative and path-breaking ideas for a healthier and greener planet tomorrow.

Click here to learn more about how composting can reduce our impact on the planet.

Download the interactive ‘Kitchen Composting’ brochure prepared by Burhani Foundation (India) here