Farmer earns from rearing red worms for organic manure

Peter Kanyagia a former accountant is earning upto Sh100,000 every three month rearing and breeding red worms which are in demand by farmers in organic farming who use them to create manure used to grow organic crops.

The process of putting worms in the farms dubbed vermicomposting involves placing worms in beds with the worms assisting in the fast decomposition of the waste into manure. The worms eat garbage like paper, fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and coffee grind among others. The worms then excrete waste, which is used as a nutrient-rich compost to fertilize plants and vegetables. This well balanced fertiliser contains all the nutrients essential for plant growth including nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.

Five years ago while on his normal quest for knowledge to provide solutions for his clients, Peter Kanyagia bumped into the idea of rearing red worms. “I am an open minded person but always have an eye for detail especially on any business related idea that can offer an extra income to me and any of my clients. I first learnt about the importance of red worms and their contribution towards organic farming through training at Jomo Kenyatta University. At the time, I was just on a mission to help me gather the much needed information to enrich a business plan for a client and little did I ever think that it was to be the turning point for fortunes in my agribusiness ventures,” explained Peter.

Before this, Peter was still doing farming although on a small scale and had not thought of being part of the pioneers that will lead other farmers in their quest for modern farming models. The inspiration that he got from the training and the fact that he had experienced first hand the adverse effects conventional fertilizers were having on soil fertility convinced him to embrace organic farming while rallying more farmers to the cause.

After equipping himself with the pre-requisite knowledge, Peter set out to start putting the theory into practice.  “I bought five kilograms of red worms at a cost of Sh2500 and set the ball rolling for my new venture.” From this humble beginning, Peter has over the last four years developed into a model red-worm breeder whose pool of clientele has surpassed his supply. 

The innovative farmer has built about five beds of breeding the red worms in his farm. He explained that to him, he has ventured into the practice mainly for breeding the worms and supplying thenm to the starter clients although there he also taps vermi liquid (organic foliar) and vermi compost (Organic manure) from the beds which he uses to advance organic farming. In order to start breeding the red worms for either organic foliar organic manure, one first builds a bed that is raised from the ground and the poles treated with pesticides that deter termites and other pests.

Peter’s bed measures 3 feet wide, 10 feet long and 6 feet high. At the base, it’s advisable to use fiber sheets because of their rust free nature and place them in sloping manner to allow the collection of the vermi liquid at the collection tunnel placed at the end. For roofing, normal iron sheets can be used.  

After constructing the beds, introduction of materials that are conducive for the red worms’ survival is key for better results.  “I cut banana stems into smaller pieces and use put them at the base of the bed due to their ability to allow moisture circulation. The pieces occupy about 4 inches high of the bed and then add 2 inches of soil and water to the mixture then introduce the worms and cover the bed with fresh and rotting plants. At this point the rest is left for the red worms as they will find their way to the comfort zones of the mixture.

The plants can be added to the beds to feed the worms and watering of the bed done either thrice or four times a week depending on the humidity conditions of the day. Well managed beds can multiply the number of red worms  twice within two months, a fact Peter noted that can help one to expand or even start breeding for commercial purpose.  In order to start collecting good quality vermi liquid it takes about two months after setting it up as the excrete from the worms form the vital organic manure and foliar. Vermi compost takes a little longer, about six months to be harvested while for the breeders it is advisable to start scooping the worms after four months.

According to Peter, each bed can produce about 20 litres of foliar in a month and with a litre retailing at about Sh100 this translates to Sh2000 per bed. In addition, one can harvest 20kgs of worms although the market price of a kilo is Sh2500 Peter offers his at Sh1000 and his five beds offer him about Sh100,000 after every three months. The earnings that are being offered by the worms is also boosted by the fact that Peter has adopted the now lucrative organic farming using vermi compost harvested from the beds. “Organic foods are on a high demand and fetch higher prices in the market. My organically grown capsicums fetch double the price as I supply them in a local supermarket at about Sh80 per kilo.”

Peter has perfected his trade in vermiculture and has skillfully created a huge following for his products especially the red worms. I am very aggressive in marketing which I conduct both social media and at any other gathering. As a result of his immense skills in the field, he has registered an agro based company specializing in training of farmers on new modes of farming like hydroponics, greenhouse and incorporating them in organic farming.

To Peter, his venture into vermiculture and organic farming is the best experience that has ever happened to him. “I believe that everyone has a calling to accomplish a specific positive assignment in this world and this is why despite my over 30 years in formal employment I never felt the self satisfaction that I now enjoy in my new found venture,” said Peter.