Creating wealth from waste: Worms are worth the investment

Vermiculture yields significant economic and ecological returns for a small initial investment.

My Loi, Vietnam - In a vermiculture system, worms decompose organic wastes to create a nutrient-rich compost fertilizer. These small but powerful recyclers accelerate the decomposition of organic matter into humus and can be used as poultry feed or sold.

A new brief has been published which assesses the diverse benefits associated with vermiculture, and showcases potential economic returns for farmers in the initial year of vermiculture establishment. The integration of on-farm resource cycling is directly linked to cost savings, diversified income streams, and qualitative soil and crop improvements. Nutrient-rich vermicompost can be generated from waste and used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure, water filtration, and overall farm productivity. Inedible crop residues and livestock waste are recycled back into the system to reduce agricultural waste. The worms function as a supplemental protein and food source for poultry or a valuable product for farmers to sell. Integration of worms into the diets of the birds leads to faster growth, higher hatching rates, and improved overall health. This interconnected network of farm resources is directly linked with soil health, productivity, and system resiliency.

Vermiculture also has the potential to address each of the climate-smart agriculture (CSA) pillars:

  • Food security - increased agricultural productivity results from vermicompost soil enrichment, and worm sales can improve farmers’ livelihoods;
  • Adaptation – vermicompost can improve soil moisture-holding capacity and reduce reliance on external inputs; and
  • Mitigation – vermicompost can serve as a replacement for fossil fuel-based fertilizers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with raw manure application to fields.

With minimal initial investment and maintenance, vermiculture can improve the productivity and resiliency of small-scale farmers. Vermiculture has strong potential for wider adoption and scaling out as a climate-smart practice.

Read the info note:

Tam TL, Smith A. 2017. Creating Wealth from Waste: Resource Use Efficiency in Climate-Smart Agriculture. CCAFS Info Note. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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