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Wormville Philippines

By goGreen | February 29, 2012
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Although there are more than 400 earthworm species in the country, only a few are efficient for vermicomposting

Earthworms are beneficial soil invertebrates that play an important role in conserving soil and enhancing its fertility. By digesting organic matter, earthworms produce castings that are rich in humus and friendly microbes.

The culture of earthworms or vermiculture is an old industry that began in the United States for the production of worms as fish baits. Its use for the production of organic fertilizer (vermicompost) and for waste management started only in the 1950s.

In the Philippines, vermiculture was introduced in the late 1970s. Although there are more than 400 earthworm species in the country, only a few are efficient for vermicomposting. The “African night crawler” (ANC), an epigeic species (surface-dwelling) is considered the most suitable for the tropics. It was brought into the country by this author in 1982 through a colleague in Germany. After extensive studies, the ANC is now widely cultured in the Philippines for vermicompost and vermimeal (earthworm meal) production.

With climate change and other environmental issues such as waste pollution, there is urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and properly manage the organic wastes that we generate in our homes and industries. A practical and economical way of dealing with biodegradable wastes is to recycle them. Vermicomposting is one such way for converting agricultural wastes such as animal manures and crop residues into cheap and environmentally-friendly fertilizers that can minimize our heavy use of imported, costly and environmentally-unfriendly chemical fertilizers for our crop production systems. Aside from reducing the pollution in our environment, vermicomposting can also provide livelihood and income-generating activities for our rural communities.

This column will tell how vermicomposting has made a difference in a barangay right in the author’s neighborhood and is now probably the vermi hub in the country.

Barangay Puypuy of Bay, Laguna is one of the more progressive areas of the historic municipality (the old provincial capital) with its many resorts and getaways of the rich and famous. Most of the local residents, however, are low-income families dependent on rice farming and backyard industries for livestock raising and ornamental plant growing.

One such Puypuy native is Michael Cagas, a young professional with enterprising spirit, who ventured into vermiculture with a partner. The two put up “Green Wrigglers Enterprises” in the mid-2000s to cash in on the big demand for ANC breeders needed by the growing vermicomposting industry. He later went on his own and got his neighbors and other barangay residents involved in the mass production of the ANC and vermicompost at the backyard level.

Today, there are 187 residents in Puypuy growing the ANC with each earning at least P2,000 a month from the sale of 10 kilos of the breeders produced in a vermi bed.

Some growers earn P20,000 per monthwith 10 beds. Aside from Puypuy, Cagas also has 70 cooperators in Los Banos, Sta. Cruz, Calauan and Pagsanjan in his network of vermi growers.

Growing the ANC is easy and simple, says Cagas. A vermi bed 2 X 1.5 X 0.2 meter in size and made of laminated sack material only costs P120 and can last for about 2 years. Each bed is stocked with 6 sacks of fresh pig or cattle manure that costs P25 per sack (when delivered), 3 sacks of fresh vermicompost harvested from a previous bed and 3 sacks of chopped banana stalks from the grower’s backyard.

Minimal care is provided by the grower until the breeders are harvested by hand after a month. With the removal of the breeders, the remaining 6 kilos of vermicompost that contains many young worms are restocked in the just harvested bed and a new bed at 3 kilos each. The excess vermicompost is sold to crop and plant farmers at P2.50 per kilo.

Cagas takes care of the marketing of the ANC breeders and vermicompost through contacts made in the Internet and by word of mouth. For each kilo of ANC he sells at P500, P200 goes to the vermi grower. The grower gets an additional income of P2 per kilo of vermicompost that he produces.

There is no problem in selling the ANC breeders and vermicompost, according to Ca-gas. Vermicompost is now a widely accepted natural fertilizer in the country because of its many benefits. Although it is relatively low in the major plants nutrients (NPK) compared to synthetic fertilizers, it contains micronutrients and plant growth and health promoting substances produced by microbes not found in the chemicals. Continuous use of organic fertilizer also restores the vitality and fertility of poor soils that are deficient in organic matter and have become acidic because of too much chemical fertilizer application.

In just the first quarter of this year, Cagas sold 18 tons of ANC breeders to various groups and organizations including local government units, foundations and big companies throughout the country. He was gathering the vermicompost from the mambubulate (vermi growers) of Laguna to meet an order for 15,000 sacks from just one buyer alone at this writing. What a guy and what a worm!


SOURCE: Agri Business Week

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