The idea of rearing earthworms for money might sound bizarre to many, but Consalata Achieng’ from Bukolwe village, Butere, has embraced it despite the stigma.
She was reluctant at first to rear the worms, fearing what people would think about her. Some uninformed would associate the lucrative venture with witchcraft.
“But I gathered the courage and decided to give it a try because several other women with similar ventures were pressing on. I set apart a small chunk of my farm for the business,” Achieng’ says.
When The Smart Harvest visited her farm, she was busy feeding earthworms in a bed-like structure made from a plastic container with an outlet at the bottom to harvest vermin juice from the worms.
In a week, she harvests at least 20 litres of vermin juice from the bed.
A worm bed is a raised structure either made of timber or plastic with an outlet used to collect vermi juice
Worms are fed on kitchen refuse, ripen avocados and bananas and waste.
A farmer must pour water into the worm bed to keep moist.
“Initially, we used to grow sugarcane, but acreage under the crop started reducing due to land subdivision, and we were left with small parcels where we grow vegetables and other early maturing crops,” says Achieng’.
“I started with 1,000 earthworms and whenever they multiply after every four weeks, I sell the surplus to Eshinamwenyuli Youth Community Based Group, within Butere and Khwisero sub-counties.”
Eshinamwenyuli Youth Programme Director, Zablon Indakwa, says one kilogram of the worms costs Sh1, 000.
“Those rearing the worms benefit from selling earthworms’ vermi juice and vermicompost,” says Dr Jared Orembe noting that a 50-kilo bag of vermicompost goes at Sh500.
Rasoa Kayega is also rearing the worms in the area, on her farm located some 600 metres from Achieng’s. Her raised earthworm bed is made of wood and bigger than the plastic beds seen on neighbouring farms.
“It is a cost-effective agribusiness venture because all you need is waste materials which the worms feed on every day,” says Kayega.
She adds: “Usually, I spray the vermi juice from the worms on vegetables and banana crops. I use vermicompost during planting. My crops are healthy and pest free.”
Kayega harvests at least 80 litres of vermi juice from her bed every week.
“You need to dilute the vermi juice with equal amounts of clean water because it might cause crops to wither if applied without diluting,” says Kageya. Kageya and Achieng’ are among many other farmers targeted by the CBO under the United Nations Development Programme Climate Promise Support Intervention seeking to reclaim overused soil and promote environmental conservation to address the challenge of food insecurity and climate change.
The CBO is also encouraging residents of Khwisero and Butere sub-counties to grow their crops organically, develop kitchen gardens in their homes and protect and rehabilitate depleted soils through afforestation.
“We intend to teach farmers why they should not plant eucalyptus trees near water catchment areas and the importance of introducing cover crops such as the Mucuna plant and other legumes,” says Indakwa.
UNDP will spend Sh2 million on a six-month piloting project of the initiative in Khwisero and Butere sub-counties. If it succeeds, the initiative could be extended and expanded to cover other areas.
“Farmers will receive at least 10, 000 indigenous tree seedlings that will be integrated with food crops, our target is to reach 500 farmers who will undergo rigorous training on soil protection and rehabilitation and vermicomposting,” says Indakwa.
The initiative will see the CBO help farmers reclaim depleted land by the construction of gabions where possible and growing of friendly trees, and cover crops, among other interventions.
“Our focus is to mitigate against the effects of climate change and have farmers generate income from the activities we initiate,” he said.
Citing women as change agents in climate action, Eshinamwenyuli Youth Community Based Group director Jared Orembe says through training, they hope to bring more men on board to help with environment conservation.