AMRIS Promoting the Production of Vermicompost
The use of organic waste in agriculture can be very beneficial. Beyond enriching soil, it reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and thus contributes to the reduction of environmental pollution. The use of vermicompost (fertilizer produced by Eisenia fetida, the red wiggler worm) is being used more and more by people and communities interested in sustainable crops, nurseries, and gardens. This is the case of the Río Isquizal Women’s Association (AMRIS), located in Sebastián, Huehuetenango, which started a sheep manure compost project in September 2020. Sixteen groups of women (with 256 women in total) collaborate on the project, which arose from a conversation about how to use the excrement of these animals. Some of AMRIS’ members had heard about compost made from Eisenia fetida excrement, and the benefits of using this compost as organic fertilizer.
Agricultural expert Carlos Herrara Sajxché, who collaborates with AMRIS on this new project, explains that red wiggler worms are often used in the recycling of organic waste, as they are great ad digesting it. As such, they compost they produce is categorized as high-quality fertilizer. He also says that vermicompost improves soil because it contains high concentrations of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium, while also providing minerals and micronutrients necessary for crops. Carlos says that, though red wiggler worms feed on a variety of organic waste, one of the best substrates for this species is manure (like that of rabbits and livestock such as cows, bulls, horses, sheep, and goats) but not bird and pig waste, as they contain high concentrations of ammonia, which can kill them.
Worm breeding is an alternative that allows for the use of sheep waste (something very common in these parts of the country) when planting to improve local harvest yield. Odilia Gregorio, general coordinator of AMRIS, comments that “replacing chemical fertilizer with 100% organic fertilizer is one of the main goals of AMRIS.” As such, Carlos recently held a small community workshop on the production of this type of compost. Basically, the process begins with the construction of a worm bin. A specially sized wooden box is recommended. Then, manure and household food waste are gathered and added to the box with a bit of soil. Finally, worms are added and, in a month or two, the compost will be ready.
Making vermicompost requires good management and care, so Carlos recommends keeping the worm bin closed and covered, since the worms will not tolerate an excess of water. Also, ants, spiders, and poultry should be kept away as they can be dangerous to the worms. Though managing the composter requires substantial attention and care, the women at AMRIS are excited. They know that in addition to generating fertilizer, they will learn about how to take care of worms and hope to be able to sell them in the future. They also hope to use this fertilizer on their crops and grow enough to be able to sell to their neighbors or in nearby communities.
The members of AMRIS know that like in other projects, this experience will give them new knowledge and will improve their leadership skills, which will ensure the stability, longevity, and sustainability of their group. Without any doubt, the use of vermicompost will have a positive environmental impact, and this project will give the women of AMRIS plenty of good experience. We hope that this small community project will serve as an example for other communities, and that together we can embrace environmentally friendly agricultural practices.
Cover photo by John Lodder available in flickr