Getting to Know The Woman Behind Waste4Change’s Organic Waste Management Unit: Khairunnisa Humaam

Her name is Khairunnisa Yusmalina Humaam, also called Khai. This woman, who graduated from Animal Husbandry major from Universitas Gadjah Mada, has a unique job that might break gender stereotypes regarding what kind of jobs that women can do.

That job is none other than the Coordinator of Organic Waste Management Unit at Waste4Change, a startup that provides services for responsible waste management solutions. In performing her daily works of handling waste, Khai does not bother to worry about trivial things such as the foul odor originating from waste and even about the waste itself, which are oftentimes dirty. Khai has big dreams, and she believes that Waste4Change is the right place for her to realize it.

Khairunnisa Yusmalina Humaam, The Organic Waste Coordinator at Waste4Change

Let’s take a closer look at our interview with the amazing woman behind Waste4Change’s Organic Waste Management Unit!

Can you tell us about how you managed to land a job at Waste4Change’s Organic Waste Management Unit? 

Ever since I graduated from college, I aspire to work in a startup company, but at that time I do not yet have specific field preferences. After looking for some information, I found a job vacancy at  Waste4Change  for the organic waste management section. Fortunately, my educational background matches the job qualifications since I’m a graduate of Animal Husbandry.

How long have you been working at Waste4Change? What changes that you underwent through compared to when you first started working?

It’s been almost 3 years, I started working here on 13th November 2017. There used to be only three piles of waste at Waste4Change’s Composting Facility, and at that time the waste piles were so huge that it covered the entrance.

The first breakthrough that we did was to expand the area, since there is so much waste, and the waste processing will also need a big space. We also make the flow of the composting process, for example, the waste segregation and shredding post.

An example of the pile of waste at Waste4Change’s Composting Facility

Moreover, before there were the Black Soldier Flies, the method that was used in making compost was the open windrow method. Besides that, another composting method that was used is Vermicomposting, but that method failed and I need to do some research again.

When you started working, how do you feel? Especially because you were in charge of handling the organic waste, did you feel uncomfortable?

Since my educational background was of Animal Husbandry, during my college years, I was used to handling animals’ waste, so I was no longer disgusted by it. As for the smell, certainly, the smell was different between waste and animal feces, but then again since I was used to it, I just need to familiarize myself with the smell.

How many people were on your team?

My team consists of Waste4Change’s waste management operators, and I directly supervised four operators. Three of them took care of the composting method using the Open Windrow, whereas one other handles the Vermicomposting as well as the Black Soldier Flies. I am pretty happy and satisfied with my team because they are all very cooperative and insightful. They are proactive and often provide ideas and recommendations to further improve our work.

One of the operators that assist Khai at the Composting Facility

What are the ups and downs that you underwent while managing the Composting Unit at Waste4Change? 

For me, the biggest challenge was how to balanced the production and the sales of both the BSF products and the compost. Sometimes I’m confused as to which one that I need to put more focus on. On one hand, I need to increase the sales and revenue, but on the other, the conditions in the field weren’t always ideal, for example, the production was halted due to technical issues.

As for technical matters such as breeding and cultivating the Black Soldier Flies, I can handle it just fine, but the challenge remains on how to maximize the revenue while minimizing the costs. BSF itself is gaining more popularity, and more people started cultivating it. What I need to do was to create something unique that makes our BSF products different from the others. This is why I need to keep on innovating.

Luckily, my supervisor Andre is kind and has an easy-going personality. This might sound trivial but his nature helps put me at ease instead of increasing my workload and make me stressed.

Furthermore, working at the Operational Service (OS) division itself is a lot of fun. I can learn a lot, I have my own laboratory, which becomes a place where I can explore new ideas for the Composting Unit.   

Regarding Black Soldier Flies, why did Waste4Change decided to adopt a composting method using BSF? How was the implementation process?

The idea to adopt Black Soldier Flies was already there even before I joined Waste4Change, and now that they have someone who was in charge of the Composting Unit, they decided to adopt the BSF method to process the organic waste.

Khai is preparing to transfer the Black Soldier Flies from the “Dark Cage” to the “Love Cage”

The Waste4Change’s facility in Sidoarjo that focuses on breeding BSF was originally named Forward, a research facility owned by Switzerland before it was completely taken over by \Waste4Change. At first, Waste4Change was only observing the BSF method, of whether it was strategic enough to be used in processing organic waste. Turns out the BSF is really that good, and so they decided to adopt it in Bekasi, around 2 months after I started working at Waste4Change.

What do you think about the Black Soldier Flies itself? Be it in terms of its potential in reducing organic waste or in handling the BSF itself? 

To be honest, I just found about Black Soldier Flies when I started working at Waste4Change. Strange enough, I was not afraid at all to handle the BSF larvae directly. This was pretty weird since I was the type of person who was afraid to try new things, and back when I was in college, there was even a time when I was afraid and hesitant to touch animal feces.

Perhaps this was because the BSF was a larva that I cultivate myself, and I know where it came from and how it was raised, that’s why I do not feel grossed or disgusted by it. This was different if it was any other maggot or even cockroach. I know that they came from dirty places and that’s why I would feel gross.

Khai is preparing to transfer the Black Soldier Flies from the “Dark Cage” to the “Love Cage”

Anyhow, BSF is the most efficient and energy-wise composting method. The decomposition process was very fast, you just need to leave it a while and the organic waste has decreased dramatically. On top of that, BSF is a very promising business, especially if you have a catfish or livestock farms. This is because BSF can also be used as an animal feed.

What keeps you motivated to not only work but keeps on learning and innovating at Waste4Change?

I see the Composting Unit as home, that even though it has its flaws, that becomes the more reason why I should keep on improving its system. Working at Waste4Change is a valuable learning medium, only this time I can learn while earning money.

I feel challenged you know, the fact that I have a background in Animal Husbandry, I should at least learn to cultivate something so that I can create jobs for others. That way, I will not be the only to enjoy my works, but other people can also feel the benefits.

– KHAI

In addition, the mindset that I always embed in my mind is to always be responsible. I have been given a task here at the Composting Facility, and if my works are delayed or not done, other people will also be affected.

As for BSF, I think what is priceless is the knowledge. So even if in the future I no longer work at Waste4Change, at least I already have valuable lessons and knowledge that will become my investment.

Besides taking care of the Black Soldier Flies, Khai is also an expert in composting. Check out the composting tutorial guided by Khai herself using Waste4Change’s Composting Bag in the following video

1 2