Meet Kenyans Earning Ksh50,000 a Day From Earthworm Farming

Earthworms pictured in a farm.
Earthworms pictured on a farm.

Mbula Mwendwa, a 26-year-old student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, has embraced the delicate and rewarding field of vermiculture - the raring of earthworms for use in composting and production of organic fertilizer - for the last five years.

Mwendwa, who was recently featured in the Standard newspaper, is one of the few worm farmers who is thriving in vermiculture, where a Kilogramme of earthworms goes for Ksh50.

Given the high rate of reproduction, 1,000kg of worms can produce 1,000kg of vermiculture every day, and with stable access to the market, one is able to make up to Ksh50,000 per day.  Tabulated monthly, this totals at Ksh1.5 million.

Main entrance at JKUAT main campus in Juja

Mbula also harvests worm juice or vermiliquid which she sells in litres. One litre retails at Ksh 380, with the young farmer packaging it in 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100-litre containers.

Having been in the business for at least 5 years, she now also sells the earthworms to other upcoming vermiculture enthusiasts.

A kilogramme of worms goes for Ksh 2,500 in Nairobi and can also be found available at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

Earthworms are hermaphrodites which means that they contain both male and female sex organs meaning they reproduce rapidly, doubling their number in 30 - 45 days. They thrive in decomposed organic material

Given the right moisture and protection from predators, they can multiply and increase their number to approximately 4,000 kilogrammes in 12 months.

Earthworms do not like exposure to direct sunlight, so once the food is depleted they burrow and hide from the sunlight leaving their droppings at the top.

Composted manure and other substrates are digested by the earthworms resulting in a dark, rich fertiliser readily available for plants. 

The worms’ vermicus can be easily harvested as they migrate from a location once the food is depleted to their next source of food.

A mound of earthworms and soil.
A mound of earthworms and soil.

They leave behind their droppings which can then be collected and mixed with water to make liquid fertiliser or mixed directly with soil.

Success stories can be found in Cherangany Sub County where James Wafula, 53, established a unit on his farm initially to use as part of his research on climate change and adaptation under the African Climate Leadership Programme sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

According to Wafula, the earthworms can feed on any foodstuff material except meat, oily substances, fried foodstuff, and citrus fruits.

“But anything else can be chopped up to make the composting process faster and placed in the vermi bedding. A week after you place it, it will no longer be there since the earthworms will have consumed it and excreted worm castings which are your worm compost,” he pointed out during an interview.

According to the farmer, he tests his vermicompost at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to test the composition of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and PH levels.

He also pointed out that the growth of earthworm farming among local farmers is slow-paced due to the requirement for one to be a member of the Kenya Institute of Organic farmers to be certified and allowed to sell compost.

To be a member, one has to show that they are able to produce organic compost that has less harmful pathogens.

Kenya imports 22,000 tonnes of synthetic fertilizer annually to boost food production in the region.

A vermicompost shed.
A vermicompost shed.
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