Vermicompost as a new business opportunity for rural womenPublished: Jan 26, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
Almaze Argeta has been a farmer her entire life; living in Ethiopia, she has been chosen as a model farmer by People in Need (PIN) for training in producing vermicompost. This training makes farmers more resilient to the changing environment, which is vital in Ethiopia, where the loss of fertile soil and the ensuing loss of income has become a big problem.
Almaze is a mother-of-six, from southern Ethiopia, in Alta Chiko Woreda, Dibicho Village. Farming is her livelihood. Because she is a skilled farmer, People in Need (PIN) have chosen her to be a model farmer within the project "Participatory Development of Productive Landscape" funded by the Czech Development Agency. Almaze shares her skills and good farming practices with others to help them become skilled farmers too.
The project provided Almaze with training and experience in producing vermicompost–compost made by earthworms–from household waste and crop residuals in her garden. PIN provided her with materials, such as a box for vermicompost processing and feeding vermi worms.
"At first, I thought it was a joke and unbelievable because, rather than using it as something valuable and important, I couldn't even see or touch the worms. I despised worms so much. I only attended the training and sought simple benefits, not expecting to go any further in producing more worms and vermicompost," said Almaze.
Vermicompost is an opportunity for Ethiopian farmers
The process of producing vermicompost begins with the multiplication of vermi worms and the preparation of any plant residuals chopping into a smaller size for continuous feeding of the worm. Vermicompost is a purely organic fertiliser made from the worm's biological excretion. The amount of compost produced is directly proportional to the number of worms and the continuous feeding of the materials.
Almaze noted how it is difficult to adopt such practices, particularly in rural areas, because traditional and cultural barriers are challenging to overcome, complicating the acceptance of such unbelievable practices. Many arguments, confusion, and negative perceptions complicate embedding these practices in the community. Working in such a worm-adverse society provides challenges, such as overcoming destructive beliefs, stigma, and even results in exclusion from social customs.
On various social, political, and economic issues in Ethiopia, women have the least decision-making power in the community; therefore, the challenges in adopting and maintaining such novel practices are more significant for them.
Almaze currently raises worms and their byproduct (vermicompost) for sale and use as an organic fertiliser on her lands. She began to produce a small number of worms (in one box) for her small vegetable and fruit plots, but now she uses vermicompost in all her fields.
Since 2020, Almaze has not used any inorganic fertilisers. By doing so, she ultimately reduced the cost of purchasing fertilisers. Instead, she adopted climate-friendly organic fertiliser to produce organic farming products, mainly pineapple, vegetables, maize, ensete, and coffee, all of which have long-term benefits growing by respecting the cycle of nature. In addition, she sells worms and vermicompost to generate additional income for her family.
Almaze stated that she intends to expand the practice to address more farmers by selling vermicompost products while also sharing her experience as more model farmers join this type of simple business to cope with the challenges of rising inorganic fertiliser prices and reducing climate change effects by replacing with such long-lasting organic fertiliser producing practices.
"Participatory Development of Productive Landscape" project is funded by the Czech Development Agency.