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Composting Excellence with Samuel Mensah #WeAreSafisana

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21/12/2023
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6 min read

About a year ago, we have started a recycling pilot project in Kumasi, together with Clean Team Ghana and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly. Kumasi is one of the largest metropolitan cities located in Ghana's, Ashanti region. Here we treat local food waste and fecal waste from households supplied by Clean Team, to produce our premium organic fertilizer, Asase Gyefo. In this week’s #WeAreSafisana episode, meet Samuel Kwado Mensah Bewakwa (30), the Quality Control Officer at Safisana’s Kumasi plant.

Your educational background is in environmental engineering. Did you always want to become an engineer?

“My love for Engineering started when I was in my second year in the Senior High School. As a kid, I grew up with my grandmother in Togo. I had a rough life growing up, so I never thought of going to school even beyond 6th grade. To think of becoming an engineer was never really a dream to come.  But my grandmother was so determined to see me through school to the highest level. After returning to Ghana in 2008 I started my studies in Environmental Engineering at the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, the capital town of the Bono Region in central Ghana. This year in March, I pursued my master’s degree in Environmental Resources Management at Kumasi Nkrumah Unversity of Science and Technology in Kumasi. Funnily enough, when I was younger I always wanted to move to Japan and become a manufacturing car engineer. Obviously, now I do something completely different, yet I am still in the engineering field with my current job.”

Samuel supervising the bagging of the organic fertilizer at the Kumasi plant.

How did you end up at Safisana?

"Actually my very first job was with the competitor, at the Kumasi Composting and Researching Plant (KCARP), a recycling company focusing on waste treatment. I spent two years in various roles related to waste management and compost. But when I saw an advert from Safisana about the pilot project, I decided to apply for the role. Their commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly aligns with my values. For example, Safisana partners with Clean Team Ghana, a toilet installment company in Ghana. Fecal waste from the toilets, which would otherwise be dumped at landfills, is now safely collected and converted into organic fertilizer by Safisana through this partnership. Whereas at my previous job, the focus was not on sustainability but merely on big amounts of waste treatment for profit. Initially hired on a 5-month contract for the Kumasi Pilot, I emphasized my passion for waste treatment, vowing to ensure the pilot's success. And here we are, one year later, still in business."

Tell us about your role as a Quality Control Officer?

“The composting plant is located nera the Oti Landfill In Kumasi. Here, we have a team of 17 people, 9 in the composting team and 5 members of the waste sourcing team. In my role as a Quality Control Officer, I undertake various responsibilities to ensure the efficiency and quality of waste management processes. This includes overseeing the quality of the waste received to ensure it meets established standards. Further, I am also involved in maintaining health and environmental safety at the site, along with ensuring equipment is properly maintained. Additionally, I play a crucial role in ensuring the high quality of our compost. On a typical workday, I lead the team, remind them of our safety procedures and divide them into smaller teams to work on the field. It is very important that I stay on the field to ensure productivity and efficiency. The current compost production is 3,000 bags per month. After completing the initial 5-month pilot phase of the project, we are now looking for ways to scale the operations.”

In Kumasi, you produce compost without the use of a biodigester, like we do in Ashaiman. How do you ensure the premium quality of the end product, Asase Gyefo?

“We maintain a ratio to ensure that we produce high-quality compost without the use of a biodigester. First of all, we use raw organic waste from the market, combined with a mixture of sawdust and fecal matter. Besides sticking to our ratio, we also make sure that the organic market waste is put beneath the sawdust/fecal waste. This way we ensure the organisms can break down the materials efficiently. It is also important to stick to specific temperatures and time periods in order to ensure high-quality compost.  Moreover, even though we don’t make use of a biodigester, our technique secures an extremely high level of nutrients in our compost compared to other fertilizers.”

Reflecting on the challenges and achievements during the pilot phase, what stands out for you?

“The pilot phase was both challenging and rewarding. The most outstanding moment was when we produced our first quality compost. We were all so excited to see that our hard work had led to a final quality product. However, we also faced some challenges. Because of the rainy season we had to deal with muddy and excess moisture. Luckily, with the support and faith of the team in Ashaiman, we overcame these obstacles and continued our work with motivation. Personally, the project means a lot to me because we contribute to public health and safety by cleaning markets. We prevent the market place from becoming dirty and the spreading of foul odors, which are all beneficial to the community.”

You mentioned your passion for the environment, do you incorporate this passion in your free time?

“My upbringing was closely tied to nature. My dad, a farmer, cultivates maize, plantain, and pepper. This is where my love for the environment and gardening comes from. Even as a child, I was fascinated by anything related to the environment. In my leisure time I like to plant trees, flowers and plants around the house. I plant crops like yam, maize, pepper and lettuce. Our premium organic fertilizer, Asase Gyefo, has been a game changer for me. I can literally see the beneficial effects of the fertilizer as it makes my plants grow healthy and yield more crops.

Samuel at work with the organic fertilizer Asase Gyefo

"When we produced our first batch of fertilizer at the plant, I gave my dad one of the bags. He's very impressed and content with the effects of Asase Gyefo. Watching the crops thrive and yield more, was a visual representation of the benefits of using organic fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizer, which is much more common among farmers in Ghana. I will make sure to bring him more bags next planting season.”

What are your dreams for Safisana?

“I envision Safisana expanding its impact, not only in Ghana but hopefully in other countries. Personally, I aspire to contribute to this growth, if Safisana would ever start a pilot in Ivory Coast I would love to become a part, utilizing my French language skills. Safisana, in my vision, should become a prominent waste management brand in Ghana and across Africa, setting the standard for sustainable waste management practices.”

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