By Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Tens of tiny, red
creatures placed inside a plastic container wriggle as they get
intertwined into each other in a seemingly endless game.
Inside the container at John Karemi’s home in Kajiado, south of
Kenya’s capital Nairobi, there is also kitchen waste, which is
collected and placed there every week.
And under the container holding the worms, there is a can
where waste produced by the creatures is collected.
Karemi then mixes the waste with water to create a
nutrient-rich fertilizer known as ‘worm juice’ that can be used
on any plant, but in particular he uses it on vegetables on his
The above setting is currently common among many small-scale
farmers in Kenya as the practice of rearing worms, technically
known as vermiculture, picks up across the east African as
farmers seek to save cost.
Small farmers, including some who have kitchen gardens, are
rearing the worms and extracting the organic fertilizer.
The ‘worm juice’ is, therefore, helping farmers cut the cost
of production amid rise in prices of fertilizer.
"Not any worm can be used to make fertilizer.
"We specifically use red worms," said James Wafula from
Kitale, western Kenya, who practices vermiculture.
On his farm, he has 200-liter plastic containers in which he
has placed farm waste to act as the worms’ beds.
"I have made the beds from crushed maize cobs, animal manure,
paper, grass and banana stems.
"The beds are technically known as vermi-beddings.
"All these materials are readily available on the farm which
makes vermiculture an inexpensive practice," he noted.
As many other farmers, Wafula feeds his worms on kitchen
waste, and he not only produces fertilizer for his crops but
sells the ‘juice’ and the worms to other farmers.
A kilo of the worms goes for between 1,500 Kenyan shillings
(15 U.S. dollars) and 25 dollars, with the farmer selling the
product and training interested farmers on how to keep them.
"It takes about four months for the worms to produce
"After which one removes the beddings and restarts the
process," he said.
Besides training from farmers like Wafula, who holds a
doctorate in climate change studies, farmers can attend short
courses on vermiculture at agricultural institutions like Jomo
Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Egerton
Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy, noted
that worm juice is a compound fertilizer that has nitrates,
phosphate, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium, minerals that
are not only needed by plants in plenty, but they also help
restore the soil.
She noted that only red earthworms are used in vermi-composting
because they are good in converting waste into fertilizer.
"These worms are even helping farmers and families put into
good use waste from their kitchen which would otherwise have
ended polluting the environment or be thrown and harbor pests
"The worms feed on any food remains, from vegetables to corn
meal but one should avoid meats," she said.
Some 20 liters of the ‘worm juice’ is enough to apply on an
acre, with crops needing only small quantities to thrive.
Farmers with smaller pieces of land therefore need just small
quantities of ‘worm juice’.
Kenyan farmers are currently buying a 50kg bag of Diammonium
Phosphate (DAP) fertilizer for planting or Calcium Ammonium
Nitrate (CAN) for top-dressing for as high as 38 dollars, prices
that are too high for many small-scale produces.