Meru County government has decided to empower her small scale farmers with a venture that many find odd. The county has decided to venture into vermiculture; the rearing of worms in order to use them to convert organic waste into fertilizer, commonly known as vermicompost and vermifluid (worm juice).
Meru County has purchased 1000kg of vermicompost at a price of Ksh. 2500 per kilogram in a bid to catalyse the adoption of organic farming in the county. Before the purchase, the county contacted JKUAT Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR) for capacity building. IBR trained over 150 farmers on the importance and agricultural benefits of vermiculture.
Mr. Ben Momanyi a passionate vermiculturist from IBR, while acknowledging that vermiculture seems odd said that most farmers are warming up to the practice as they embrace organic farming.
“The beauty of rearing worms is that you do not need a large space. With a perforated basin on your balcony and 2kg of vermicompost you can be able to produce up to 15-20kg in a span of 3 months,” said Mr. Momanyi.
According to Mr. Momanyi, farmers can feed the worms any kind of organic waste such as leaves, rotten fruits and vegetables. As the worms feed on the organic matter and microorganisms in the green waste, the ingested material is finely ground to produce manure.
Through research, Mr. Momanyi, said the best worm to use in vermiculture is the Eisenia Fetida commonly known as the red worm. “The advantages of this worm is that a thousand of them can occupy a tiny space; they are good feeders; adapt in any environment; and produce at a high rate.”
Research has also shown that a farmer can predetermine the content of the manure in relation to the nutritional value. For instance, if the worms are fed on coffee pulp, the fertiliser they produce will be rich in phosphorus and potassium. Feeding them on egg shells will give an end product rich in calcium.
Climate change, desertification, the depletion of mineral nutrients and improper use of fertilizer has taken a toll on the soil and Mr. Momanyi attests that vermiculture boosts soil health, which is vital for crops to thrive.
IBR plans to escalate the training of vermiculture to other counties and are confident that the practice will not only boost agriculture but trigger agribusiness among small scale farmers.
“We have always had individual farmers coming for training but when counties such as Meru call us for such trainings we are optimistic that the practice will gain traction in the county,” said Mr. Momanyi.