Earthworms are enriching a business that feeds, educates and clothes Mr Peter Chege’s family in Nyeri Township.
Three years ago Mr Chege, an agronomist from Egerton University, visited Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and bought a kilo of earthworms at Sh2,000.
Today, the brownish wigglers produce the compost that he uses in his own gardens; are part of the nutritious feed that he gives his poultry besides selling them to other farmers.
This earthworm-driven farm, on less than an acre of leased land, earns Mr Chege a tidy Sh151,000 per month, enough to pay rent and educate his two children in a private school.
So what is so special about these earthworms? Earthworms are valued in agriculture because of their benefits to soil fertility. Vermicompost, the product of a process of composting that incorporates the worms, is a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser.
“Bottom line is vermin compost and vermin liquid will improve soil fertility and you will always be able to grow food for your poultry. By growing your own products and mixing with earthworm you are able to make high-quality poultry feed cutting the cost of production by over 50 per cent,” says the young farmer.
His poultry farm houses about 250 layers and 25 roosters in a 10- by-10 piece of land. He also keeps roosters for sale. From the layers, the farmer makes a daily collection of 220 eggs, each selling at Sh15— a total sale of Sh3, 300 per day. He says that incorporating the worms into his own poultry feed drastically cuts down costs.
“Earthworms are rich in proteins. I don’t have to buy omena (sardines) or other protein rich supplements to make my poultry feeds,” says the agronomist
His garden, fed by vermicompost, is flourishing with carrots and other vegetables.
Mr Chege, who also works for a local NGO promoting organic agriculture, says farmers who hope to set up their own earthworm farms should identify areas with limited sunlight and well-fenced to keep away birds and termites.
With one kilogramme of well-kept earthworm in a conducive environment, Mr Chege says the earthworms can go up to five kilogrammes in three months, but insists on adequate space. He occasionally sells the earthworms to other farmers at Sh2, 000 per kilo.
For the vermin compost manure, a farmer needs to prepare the plot, soften the soils and add organic matter before introducing the earthworms.
He says when the worms are fed on vegetation with one per cent nitrogen content, they will multiply seven times by the time they are excreted, 17 times for potassium and 12 times for phosphorus.