Winter 2005-2006

By Jean English

Bocashi is fermented organic material that has been used traditionally in Japan (where it’s spelled ‘bokashi’) as fertilizer. Making bokashi is an ancient art in Japan, with many recipes, often handed down (sometimes along with bokashi starter) through families.

According to the Fall 2004 issue of La Cosecha, the publication of Sustainable Harvest International, more than 50 Honduran farm families have seen their crops improve dramatically after adding homemade bocashi to their soil. These farmers mix manure, coffee pulp or rice hulls, yeast and molasses with healthy soil. The yeast becomes active when it contacts the molasses, and fermentation begins. Bocashi is mixed each morning and night so that it doesn’t become too hot.

“Safe, effective and inexpensive, bocashi is a wonderful alternative to harsh, expensive chemical fertilizers,” says La Cosecha. Jon Hurst, program director for SHI, told The MOF&G that bocashi is used to provide nutrients and to add microbial diversity to the soil. “Each one of our different country groups uses a different formula,” he notes.

Yovany Munguia, country director for SHI’s Honduran affiliate, provided this recipe:

To make 100 pounds of bocashi you need:

1. 30 pounds of rich soil

2. 20 pounds of a nitrogen-rich plant material (such as legume leaves)

3. 20 pounds of sawdust, rice shucks or rotten wood (for ventilation)

4. 20 pounds of some type of manure, such as cow, pig or chicken manure, or fermented coffee grounds. (If you use chicken manure, you will probably want 40 pounds of manure, as this usually contains the sawdust or rice shucks mentioned in #3, above, already.)

5. 1 gallon of molasses, cane juice or cane candy

6. 1 bag (about 25 pounds) of carbon (ash; charcoal dust or small pieces of charcoal; this may be made from corn husks, etc.)

7. 1 pound of a leavening agent (bread yeast)

This mixture is turned twice a day for 15 days, then it’s “ready to feed the earth,” according to SHI field staff.

Thanks to Florence Reed, President, Sustainable Harvest International, for permission to reproduce this information. You can contact SHI at

Thanks also to Jon M. Hurst, Program Director, Sustainable Harvest International, Apartado 6-8591, El Dorado, Panamá City, Panamá, C.A.; and to Yovany Munguia.

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