Reclaiming indigeneity of soils by use of Vermiculture

Reclaiming indigeneity of soils by use of Vermiculture


Continuous use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals for a long time has led to depreciation of soil nutrients which has resulted in poor yields as well as destruction of the soil structures. As a way of amending the lost glory in soils, vermiculture and vermin-composting is coming out handy as one of organic solution toward healing of soils.
Many small holder farmers in Kenya are embracing the process of using compost manure to grow their crops. Flower farms have not been left out either, they have also adopted composting not only to replenish their soils but also to cut short on the ever skyrocketing prices of fertilizers.

In Kagaa location, Lari Sub-County, we meet George Muturi a resilient young man who is making big forays in farming by adopting vermiculture. At the age of 25 years, he is the founder of Agri-Tech Organic Farm and Comfort Worms and Insects. He ventured into vermiculture and vermin-composting six years ago after graduating with a degree from Kenyatta University.
Vermiculture and vermin-composting is the art of rearing earth worms while multiplying them to levels they are able to produce organic fertiliser while producing organic foliar feed known as vermiliquid. Muturi feeds his worms with cow dung which is readily available, rabbit droppings, napier grass and any other kind of organic waste.

As the worms feed on the organic matter and microorganisms in the green waste, the ingested materials are finely grounded to produce organic fertilizer. The micro-organisms decompose the organic matter and stimulate mineralization of complex compounds into simple nutrients, easily absorbed by plants.

“I stumbled on vermiculture six years ago when I was rearing indigenous chicken and had a challenge of chicken feeds because the feeds from the agro-vets were quite expensive. During my research, I came across vermiculture and learnt that it was a system I could incorporate to raise worms to feed my chicken. Nonetheless, after doing it for quite some time, I realized it wasn’t commercially viable but was a good way of raising worms to make organic fertilizer,” he says. He adopted vermiculture to move away from the usual horticulture cultivation which his family and his entire village mates have majored in since childhood.

Vermiculture is done in an enclosed shade to mimic darkness to the worms as they are known to feed heavily and multiply rapidly while in darkness. “Worms prefer to live in darkness because extended exposure to sunlight makes them unproductive. The best way to keep the worms in darkness is to provide a lot of dry grass on top of the beddings. They breathe through their skin; therefore, they must have a moist environment to live in thus watering the beds once per week come in handy,” he advises
He has many different types of beds which are well covered to prevent sunlight rays striking the pits. These beds are made of plastic drums, fiber containers, timber beds and concrete beds depending on the level of composting. The bed should be 10 feet long, three feet wide and two feet high.

“After a period of 45 to 90 days depending on the number of worms, we begin to harvest our fertilizer. We give the beds a grace period of two weeks without watering and avoid adding other feeds to enable the excess moisture to either evaporate or drain to our collection points as vermiliquid and also let the worms grind and excrete what they had earlier ingested on. This helps in harvesting and sieving them without any complication of separating the worms from the finely grounded organic fertiliser,” he said.

Vermiculture is a lucrative venture that one needs to consider. For his case, one bed produces 150 to 200 kilograms which he sells at Ksh 70 per a kilogram. In the same bed, he is able to collect 70 to 100 liters of vermiliquid which retails at Ksh 150 and also he is able to multiply the worms by 15 to 20 kilos which sells at Ksh 2,000.

Dr. Freddie Acosta, is a senior lecturer of technology and innovation management at Strathmore University who has been studying vermiculture for the past few years. He reveals that earthworms are hermaphrodites; each worm contains both male and female sex. They double their number every month. For example; One kilogram of earthworms (approx. 1500 worms) fed well and given the right moisture and protection from predators at the beginning of January, can multiply and increase their number to approximately 4000 kilograms by the end of December.
Acosta states that red wiggler is the best for composing. He further explains that worm casting also improves the physical property of the soil by improving tilt, ferocity and moisture holding capacity of the soil, while helping in fighting insect pests and plant diseases. He is advising Kenyan farmers to use vermicompost as an alternative to inorganic fertilizer, including business people who are interested in making vermiculture a commercial venture.

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