Monday, March 30, 2009


By: Afra' Fardillah ZaiMustapar

It is becoming increasingly popular for people these days to opt for anything organic over synthetic. Even when it comes to plant fertilizers, gardeners and farmers are choosing organic fertilizers over chemically processed ones. It is said to have a higher nutrient value, easier application methods and no damaging side effects. An important yet simple form of organic fertilizer is vermicompost; which basically is worm cast produced by earthworms after ingesting and digesting vegetative organic matter. These worm casts are rich in nutrients necessary for plant growth and can be produced domestically at almost no costs.

To initiate a vermicompost bin, a large container or bin is first required. Wooden containers are preferred for vermicomposting as it regulates internal temperatures, keeping it cool and suitable for worms. In the container, shredded paper, dried leaves and cow manure is spread across the base to create worm bedding. Composting worms, namely African Night Crawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) and Red Worms (Eisenia fetida), are placed over the bedding. Periodically, these worms are fed with organic vegetative waste. Such wastes are common in households and can range from fruit peel and vegetable cuttings to used teabags. It is also important that the moisture in the bin be maintained by occasionally sprinkling water onto bedding.

It takes a period of six to eight weeks before the end product, vermicompost, is formed and can be harvested. Harvesting is done by carefully removing worms and their eggs from worm castings. At this end stage, vermicompost resembles loose black soil, and is used by mixing with ordinary soil before planting or repotting garden plants. Vermicompost is not just an organic approach to gardening and farming, but could potentially be the answer to waste management issues of the future. The Economic Planning Unit in the year 2006 had reported that about 58 percent of all the wastes dumped to landfills composed of valuable organic matter. Had this waste been dumped instead into domestic and large scale vermicompost bins, landfills could have been reduced by more than half. At a time when the world is heavy on debate about sustainable development, such a solution to waste management could put a lot of problems at rest. And the result- purely natural nutrient rich fertilizers that could be used even in large scale farms and plantations, contributing towards sustainable agriculture.

As with any case of environmental awareness, the first step is to educate the public. In Malaysia, producing and using vermicompost is still an uncommon practice. To see considerable reductions in the amount of garbage dumped at landfills, we need for every household to separate organic waste and discard it into kitchen compost bins. It could even provide some income for the family, as buyers are wiling to pay RM6 per kilo of vermicompost these days. Several private companies have already dived into this niche, generating income from seemingly inexpensive waste. However, in order to address the mounting problems at landfills, the efforts of such companies alone will not do. Every individual in society should incorporate sustainable living practices into their daily lives. From children in schools to farmers and estate workers, the techniques of vermicomposting should be disseminated, and the importance of going green should be emphasized. It could be the answer for a better tomorrow

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