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Composting is an attractive proposition for turning on-farm organic waste materials into a farm resource. However, farmers in many parts of the world, and especially in developing countries, are unable to make the best use of the composting opportunities available to them. This is because they face various constraints, among them a lack of awareness on efficient expeditious labour-saving technology.

Various workers have used a range of approaches to composting technology for different situations. However, the information on recently evolved composting methodologies, especially those suited to small farmers, remains scattered and needs consolidation. In order to address this issue, the Land and Water Development Division (AGL), FAO, organized an electronic conference titled 'Organic recycling: on-farm composting methods' from May 2002 to March 2003. The conference provided a platform for institutions/agencies and scientists to share information and exchange ideas, views and experiences on the subject. A background document reviewing approaches and methodologies was made available to the participants as a starting point for discussions.

This publication is the outcome of an amalgamation of the technical contents of the background paper, the inputs of the electronic conference and its further reinforcement by the literature update and analysis. The publication presents an overview of on-farm composting methodologies with special emphasis on rapid composting processes suited to small farmers in developing countries. It highlights the features of the various approaches and the improvements made to them over time.

The aim of the publication is to provide up-to-date information on compost production methodologies to the scientific community, extension workers, non-governmental organizations, farming communities and other stakeholders concerned with agricultural development. Furthermore, it is intended as an instrument for promoting the wide-scale adoption of efficient, rapid composting technologies, with the ultimate objectives of improving soil productivity in developing countries and protecting the environment from degradation.