Organic fertilisers, produced using worms, are rated as the best in the world.
This process, commonly referred to as vermicomposting is fast catching up in Uganda.
According to Faisal Wasswa, a project officer at the Agency for Integrated Rural Development (AFIRD), vermicomposting uses earthworms to turn organic wastes into very high quality compost.
AFIRD is now producing and teaching prospective farmers how to process high quality vermin compost.
“It is one of the natural fertilisers. It is a purely natural, organic product but one that is very effective,” Wasswa says.
The process produces largely three products. One is the deep, dark black manure-hard and solid, there is also the crop tea, a brownish water substance that is poured on crops to make them ‘happy’ and then the worms themselves which can be sold to other farmers.
At AFIRD, located just after Wakiso town, the processing uses mainly kitchen rotting matter and fruit left overs.
“We are lucky that we have a jackfruit seller who has a lot of leftovers every day. We asked her to supply us with it,” Wasswa says.
In addition, the agency’s own kitchen also produces substantial amounts of left overs-including food peelings. These are things that can be got by any farmer.
How it is done
At AFIRD, several compost or worm bins were constructed, using ordinary timber.
Each of them is around four x three feet in length and width and about one feet deep.
You can either have each of these independently or put them on stands one above the other.
The inside of the wooden box is filled with an aluminium or strong polythene coating.
And then, an opening is left at one end to allow water sip through the rotting compost. Creating this bin may cost you around sh50,000.
“When you are setting them up on the stands, make sure that they are slightly slanted towards the opening so that water can sip through,” Wasswa says.
After the setup is done, rotting matter is then put in the boxes.
“It should be free of any plastic, none rotting matter including buveera,” Wasswa says.
With this done, worms are then introduced in the matter.
“There are many kinds of worms, however, we are using the red worm type because they eat too much and multiply faster,” Wasswa says.
Worms are basically used because they do not only help in hastening the rotting process, but also produce micro-organisms that enhance crop growth.
In ideal conditions worms can eat at least their own weight of organic matter in a day.
And yet, their droppings contain eight times as many micro-organisms as their feed! And these are the micro-organisms that help healthy plant growth.
Worm droppings also contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil, the main minerals needed for plant growth.
You will need 1,000 worms or at least 500grams to start a worm bin.
According to Wasswa, this should not be a challenge because worms breed very fast in the right conditions, but starting with more will give the system a good start. 100worms can produce 10 times their number in a year.
“If you got two three worms and put them in a bin, they must have multiplied by the end of the month. These worms can be picked from outside in the farm or in any rotting environment,” he says.
He, however, says that centres like his can now sell a kilogram of worms at sh20,000, to farmers who may want to start processing vermin-compost.
With the compost now rotting away and the worms introduced, all that a farmer does is spray water on top of the compost bin at least 3 times a week.
The compost will then start rotting, thanks to the actions of the worms. And as it rots, it turns into the typical, fertile black soil.
“Meanwhile, the water that you pour on top of the compost sieves through and comes out through the pipe at the slanted end of the compost/worm bin,”Wasswa says.
This water is collected in a bucket and sprayed or poured on crops in order to nourish them up.
Wasswa advises that for every 5litres of this liquid collected, you mix it with 3litres of water to create 20litres.
You then put it in a watering can to spray your crops. This mixtures can cover at least 25decimals of crop space.
When the compost is completely fertile black, it is then ready for use. In order to use it, you get around 200grams and put it in a pit for any crop.
It may be oranges or mangoes. However, for heavy feeders like bananas, Wasswa advises that you use at least a basin of the compost, mixed with other black soil for each pit.
At AFIRD, the compost is packed in 5kg packs and sold at sh3,000 each while the crop tea is packed in 5litre jerrycans and sold at sh4,000 each.
In a three by three compost bin, you get around 30kgs of compost per month and 300litre of crop tea per day,” Wasswa says.
Commercially, this gives you around sh215,000 per month from both the solid compost and the crop tea.
“When you use vermin compost, you will not need any other fertilisers for your crop. You will produce a purely organic product at no serious cost,” Wasswa says.
Wasswa says farmers across the country must be encouraged to adopt these systems.