Worm Castings and the Brown Revolution

Global Worm Weeks Working Together to Fuel Worm Life

credit: NPR

On small farms and in gardens around the world, a legless invertebrate has been quietly helping crops grow — simply by eating and pooping.

That’s vermicomposting — using the power of worms for the good of humanity. A growing number of advocates believe this technique can improve soil quality, produce more food to feed hungry mouths and even increase income for some farmers.

Well, not exactly. For a variety of reasons — more on that later — vermicomposting is unlikely to make a dent in large-scale agribusiness. But for subsistence farmers in rural regions, worm-aided farming can change lives, says Kate Schecter, CEO of World Neighbors, an international development organization that works in 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Nepal and other countries, the organization has helped people save money and invest in worms.

“Vermicomposting is not going to solve the world’s food problems, that’s for sure,” Schecter says. “But I have seen it all over the world now very successfully used by small-scale farmers to create healthier soil and healthier crops.” They grow more food for themselves instead of having to buy food, she says, and they can generate income as well by selling their produce.

Vermicomposting, also called vermiculture, has been around since at least the 1880s and is widespread commercially in many parts of the world, including China, Cuba, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. Interest has been growing steadily, says Rhonda Sherman, a solid waste specialist in the department of biological and agricultural engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and co-founder of the North Carolina Composting Council.